As it’s currently the end of November, and the weather here in Britain is as grim and clammy as a hangman’s handshake, my thoughts have almost inevitably been drifting towards much warmer climes. From the depths of a icy European winter, almost anywhere looks good right now.
Though naturally, some places look so very much better than others.
And, right now, the beaches of the sunny Caribbean are looking especially peachy to me. I know many of the islands in that part of the world quite well and, when I go there these days, I tend to do very little in the way of actual sightseeing. Like thousands of others seduced by the indolent, sun and fun lifestyle of the islands, I just sag with almost pathetic gratitude into a routine of whiling away my hours on what are still some of the best beaches anywhere on the planet.
And the beauty of a winter Caribbean cruise is that it will usually serve up a conga line of stunning new landfalls each day, allowing you to personally drift from one dreamy destination to another. And, though each and every one of those islands is as distinct and individual as a human fingerprint, there’s enough of a glorious, technicolor uniformity across the board to affect you on quite a deep, almost indescribable level.
Whatever your pleasure- whether you’re a snorkeller, a sky jockey or, like me, simply a terminally indolent sun worshipper- you will find more than enough to occupy your day on any Caribbean beach.
I’ve heard scuba diving in the Caribbean described as being akin to frolicking in some fantastic underwater theme park, and I can well believe it, too. Just consider the amazing, engaging riot of rich, gorgeous coral and the vibrant, dazzling, dreamy shoals of fish flitting skittishly in all directions; it must be such a huge adrenaline surge. What a way to start a morning in mid winter!
And, of course, what’s to stop you doing a spot of paragliding, if you’ve got the notion? Kissed by a warm breeze as you are lifted gently above what looks like a sinuous white strip of snow white sand, sprinkled with palm trees, I think the sense of exhilaration and detachment would be almost olympian, and certainly not something easily forgotten, either.
All well and good, too. From my hammock, I love watching those para gliders drifting across the skies like so many languid, brightly coloured butterflies. Even the roar of jet skis that tear up the sparkling azure hue of the sea is like music to my ears. And the sails of those sassy little small boats that skip across the briny are as pretty as postcards.
Ah, but the only ice I want to see is in the frosty finery of a perfectly crafted margarita as my hammock swings idly between a pair of sprawling, spindly date palms, a movement so lethargic as to be borderline comatose. I love the pungent, feisty aroma of freshly cooked jerk chicken, and the subtle, all pervasive lilt of reggae- surely the ultimate soul food.
And the sight of enormous, plump, pillow white clouds, drifting across a petrol blue canvas backdrop like an endless armada of ghostly galleons, is another feast for the senses. The whole experience is like being awake in some sublime, wonderfully vivid dream.
On other days, I might drag myself out my routine and stroll the beach, with an ice cold beer in my hand, and warm, welcoming swathes of honey hued sand between my toes. And, if you’ve never sat on the edge of a Caribbean beach and let the warm, rolling surf kiss your feet, then you seriously need to try it.
A day spent like this is special, magical and totally life affirming. Intense, in a way that is impossible to calculate, and priceless beyond words. It stays with you too, long after you actually leave it behind.
And then imagine doing it for a week or so, perhaps even more, as you saunter around four or five or more of these sun splashed little strips of nirvana. Days seem to merge into each other in what eventually becomes one long, smiley blur. You find yourself grinning like an idiot, without even realising that you’re doing it. With winter shrugged off like some damp, unwelcome overcoat, you actually do feel lighter, both in the heart and the wardrobe department. And Mother Sun will never, ever, feel so welcome. Just don’t forget your sun block.
And the talismanic power of those same islands should never be underestimated. Just writing this article has made me feel a little warmer, made the winter seem just that little bit shorter, and less cold. Food for thought, indeed.
Best of all is the knowledge that, come January, all of this will be back on my personal menu. Thanks to Carnival Cruises, I’ll be smartly sidestepping the stygian British January gloom for a quartet of benign, peachy beach days, some indolent, Riviera style sun, dazzle and sizzle aboard one of the most commodious and well equipped cruise ships in the world, and some fine, fun fuelled nights under the Caribbean’s canopy of dazzling, dreamy stars.
Oh lord, bring it on….