If you are planning a Caribbean cruise, it is worth checking to ensure that your ship calls at Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. The beaches alone are worth the trip. Better still, the island does not yet seem to be on the itineraries of the vast floating resorts that American cruise ships, in particular, have become.
These vessels queue up to call at the neighbouring American Virgin Islands, where duty-free shopping is as frenetic as the winter sales in Oxford Street. But sunny, sandy, laid-back Tortola is virtually ignored – as is the half-French, half-Dutch island of St Maarten, which probably offers the biggest and best duty-free shopping bargains in the entire Caribbean.
Everyone has their own favourite islands, of course. Besides Tortola and St Maarten, I’d pick Grenada and Martinique for their beaches, Grenada again for spice shopping, Antigua for its proud history, and Trinidad for its music.
Barbados, meanwhile, is little-England-in-the-sun: a cultured island of fine hotels, glorious beaches, and happy, friendly, well-educated people (did you know that Barbados has one of the highest literacy rates in the world?). Everyone loves Barbados.
The problem, with such a place, is that it is prohibitively expensive to take a winter holiday there. Cruise fans know the answer: take a cruise. Relatively few people seem to have caught on to the fact that cruises are by far the cheapest way of visiting the Caribbean. And that applies whether you take a two-week fly-cruise or settle for a longer round trip cruise to the Caribbean from Southampton, Portsmouth or Dover.