Friday, 6 February 2009

Winter Cruising by Anthony Nicholas

Let’s face it, winter is the pits. Colder than an Eskimo’s fridge and often darker than the entire Clive Barker back catalogue, it hasn’t got an awful lot going for it in the appeal department really, has it?

Not that I have a problem with watching snow fall, mind you. Just as long as I’m watching it on a television screen in Antigua, thank you very much. The only ice I want to see is in my margarita.

I have this very simple theory; winter in England is God’s way of telling you to go to the Caribbean, and so I make this annual pilgrimage. And my word, the islands in winter are oh, so good for the soul as well as the sun tan.

So you’re on the plane in January as it swoops skywards from some rain lashed English runway, emerging ten hours later into twenty-nine degrees of balmy Miami heat. You’re already grinning like an idiot, and that’s before you even hit the strip….

Then there’s the ship. White. Endless. Wonderful. Fifteen storeys of fun and excitement washed by glorious winter sun. The adrenaline flows like tap water; a siren roars, and you’re off down that palm lined cut. Reggae on deck, drinks in the hot tub, and a sparkling carpet of warm ocean opens out in front of you…

Now the hard decisions have to be taken, and no shirkers at the back, please. Do I want to eat Italian or French tonight? Disco, show or casino? Early night or last one out of the piano bar? Nightcap on the balcony (or is that a dawn cap?) or one last nibble at the midnight buffet? No-one said it would be all fun and games.

Ah yes, the islands… Saint Maarten today. Shopping, sightseeing, beach? All three? Fine, you can do it but remember, you’re on holiday. I’ll just chill out in this hammock, thanks.

Chilling? In the Caribbean? That’s one of those great oxy morons, like ‘civil war’ really, isn’t it? Chill- I’ve never felt warmer in my life thanks and yes, I will have a daiquiri. That’s very kind of you.

Sunset. Subtle, fiery orange. The ocean looking like a sea of blazing straw. The subtle tinkle of a piano from somewhere that kisses the warm breeze. Champagne on ice. Did I mention Barbados tomorrow?

Fine, watch the cricket. Afternoon tea? Traditional and elegant- do enjoy. Water sports? Take your pick. Shop till you drop- why not? I’ll just stretch out in this hammock for a while… Winter? What’s that?

A string of pretty islands smile at you and disappear each sunset, only for another to arrive next day. A string of emerald stepping stones flung across a welcoming turquoise carpet. Nice sun tan, by the way. And that hat is simply wicked!

It’s a carousel, and you’ll be sad when it stops. But it always starts again, so climb back on and get back out there. Get out of this weather and go back to the islands.

It would be rude not to, really….