I NEVER thought I’d see the day but I’ve changed, and in a way that I didn’t think was possible.

Yes, I’ve been converted – to cruising.

After spending almost 30 years of my working life based in the UK’s cruising capital I had never had the urge to holiday at sea.

But now I am reflecting on years of wasted time, when I could have been looking at the world in a completely different way – from the deck of a ship.

And what has brought about this huge personal enlightenment to a once confirmed landlubber?

That’s easy – eight days of much needed winter sun on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, sailing the eastern Caribbean.


Okay, so if you are going to fall in love with cruising then spending more than a week on one of the biggest cruise ships in the world sailing around idyllic sun-kissed islands is probably not a bad place to start.

But this trip from Fort Lauderdale taking in St Thomas, St Kitts, Puerto Rico and Haiti was eight days packed with once in a lifetime experiences and incredible memories.

Swimming off one of the world’s top beaches; snorkelling from a catamaran into tropical waters surrounded by turtles; strolling round the cobbled streets of one of the Caribbean’s most historic cities and zip wiring at 50 miles an hour across the sea from 500ft above, are just a few of the highlights.

ABOVE: A free-runner is let loose on Harmony of the Seas

All this while based aboard a floating town packed with fun and entertainment where all your whims are catered for, to a standard and level of service you would only expect from some of the top five star hotels

Harmony of the Seas is huge – the second biggest cruise ship in the world – and its vital statistics speak for themselves.

Sixteen decks, 6,870 passengers, 2,100 crew and weighing 85,000 tons. It dwarfs any other vessels in port.


It has more paintings than the Louvre and boasts a giant 10-storey slide at the rear of the ship that is taller than Buckingham Palace.

It even has its own ice rink, surf simulators and zipwire.

In this case size really does matter. So much to do, so much choice and so many different holiday experiences all on the one massive floating pleasure dome.

Eight days just wasn’t enough to experience everything it has to offer.

In fact, you could be having a leisurely Americano in a coffee shop among the 12,000 plants in the calming Central Park-style area (yes we are still on the ship) in the heart of the vessel completely oblivious that those on the top deck are going totally crazy at a hilarious belly-flop competition in the swimming pool, while a few decks below the more refined passengers are taking part in a fine art auction.

Elsewhere the healthy among us are in the spa or giant high-tech gym, while others are rock climbing, line dancing or taking part in a puzzles class.

There is literally something for everyone on here morning, noon and night.

Families, couples, grandparents, honeymooners or solo travellers - all enjoying the countless leisure options on board, eating in the 15 different dining options, from pizza parlours, to buffets to high-end restaurants, or just enjoying a sunset and a cocktail in a quiet relaxing corner.

Daily Echo:


In the evenings it’s no different.

There was a performance of Grease in the main theatre that wouldn’t have been out of place in the West End, there was an ice show, a comedy club, a casino and, my favourite spot, a jazz bar – where a 10-piece band would be blasting out Stevie Wonder’s hits one night while the next, a trio chilled us out with some Irving Berlin classics.

Alternatively, there’s the English pub, the Latin bar and a karaoke bar and after that you can even get two robots to mix you up a couple of drinks to take back to the cabin at the end the night.

One night we even bumped into Shrek (as if things couldn’t get any more diverse) as he made his way back to his cabin after he had joined in the entertainment for the youngsters.

Following our first three days at sea it was time to disembark at our first stop – St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. After being greeted by the resident lizards, who made the port their home, we took a 10-minute taxi ride to Magens Bay.

It has been named by National Geographic as one of the best beaches in the world and it didn’t disappoint. Warm clear water, white sand, palm trees and beautiful views. It was how every Tuesday afternoon was meant to be.


Next morning, after an overnight sail, we woke as we pulled into Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts. From there we joined a crowd of fellow cruisers on a catamaran trip across the Caribbean Sea to the neighbouring smaller island of Nevis.

We stopped in a bay for lunch on board and a spot of snorkelling surrounded by turtles and an array of brightly coloured fish, before pulling up on the beach at Nevis for a beer in a nearby bar in the shadow of the 3,232ft cloud-covered peak that dominates the tiny island.

Destination three was Puerto Rico and its 16th Century capital San Juan where a two-hour minibus tour of picturesque blue cobbled streets and forts gave an intriguing insight into its Spanish and Caribbean roots.

Our final stop after another night at sea was Royal Caribbean's own luxury destination of Labadee in northern Haiti. Within yards of stepping off the ship you are in a beach lovers paradise.

Daily Echo:

It's a place to either chill with Caribbean bands, bars, sun loungers and gentle waves or embrace the water sports which include a jet ski tour of the coastline or taking on the challenge of a Total Wipeout-style waterpark.

Alternatively, you could soar from up to 500 feet above the beach at speeds of up 50 miles an hour on a zip wire, which is definitely worth a go, even if it's just for the breathtaking view from the top.


It was then back on ship for a final day at sea returning to Fort Lauderdale where we took full advantage of the eight hours before our flight home with some cut price designer shopping at the nearby giant Sawgrass Mills shopping outlet.

After this eight-day cruising experience I was left chilled, refreshed and ready to take on whatever the UK winter had in store for us.

But I was also wanting more - we'd only just scratched the surface of what this great ship had to offer.

So long before my sea legs had worn off, plans were already being discussed for next year. And this time we'll try to persuade our own crew, all four generations of them, that a holiday at sea could be the answer to the ideal family holiday.


PANEL: A seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise, cost from £783 per person/£1566 for two people, which sails from Fort Lauderdale (Florida), on January 6 , January 20, February 3 and February 17. Or alternatively a seven-night Northern European Cityscapes cruise, sailing from Southampton costs from from £619 per person/£1,238 for two people on May 18.