Howzat for a classic cruise? Cricket legend David Gower travels to the Caribbean for fun, games and a bit of bowling on the beach
- Former England cricket captain sets sail from the sunshine island of Antigua
- Voyage takes in major Caribbean outcrops such as St Lucia and Barbados
- Gower shows his skill in a game of beach cricket on the little isle of Mayreau
There is always that fear about cruising. Who else will be on board? Will jumping into the sea be the only option when cornered by a double-glazing salesman struggling to meet his target?
The solution is to pick a ship full of enthusiasts bound by a common and familiar theme.
Better still, let the ship pick you.
Now and then: David with wife Thorunn (left), and in his halcyon days captaining the England cricket team (right)
That is what happened to my wife, Thorunn, and me.
ITC Sports has been running cricket cruises in the Caribbean for some years, and we have drifted in and out of most of them. This time, we were on for the duration – two weeks on Sea Dream 1, which sits at the boutique end of cruising (or ‘yachting’, as they like to call it).
We were some 80 guests in total, including Daily Mail columnist David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd – and Paul Allott, with whom I played cricket through the Eighties.
In those days, our accommodation on overseas tours lacked something compared to the luxuries and services of Sea Dream – where we were never far from a rum punch.
A little slice of paradise: David sailed aboard the Sea Dream 1 – a small ship perfect for the Caribbean
My task as one of the hosts was simple.
I had to be convivial with a mixed bunch of cricket lovers from all walks of life.
When I was pretending to captain England in the mid-Eighties, the Kensington Oval in Barbados was a different beast. The ground was rebuilt for the 2007 World Cup, and is now an excellent stadium.
When the great Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge were blasting my bowlers to the boundary, the main stand looked like a long chicken shed.
On this trip, three days of T20 cricket were more of an interlude to the rest of the voyage. The itinerary had us picking up the ship in Antigua – from where we headed to St Barths, Barbados, Canouan, Mayreau, the Tobago Cays (the setting for some of the Pirates Of The Caribbean films), Petit St Vincent, St Lucia and Martinique.
A place you might find difficult to leave: The cruise set sail from the sunshine island of Antigua
Although Barbados has been a building site for the past 30 years, it is still a favourite of mine.
My advice it to head north towards Speightstown, where the pace is slower and the prices lower.
This was a day off from our duties on board, and we lingered until we realised we were due to host a table back on Sea Dream for dinner – something that is always an occasion.
Afterwards, those with unquenchable thirsts head to the top deck and the open-air bar for further refreshment. Or, if the weather was not so fair, to the piano bar a deck below.
Either way, there’s always someone with a cocktail shaker at the ready.
Our most outrageous meal was on Mayreau — at Robert Righteous and De Youths Seafood Restaurant and Bar. What a day that was.
Mayreau is not much larger than the big cruise liners so common in the Caribbean.
A different side of the Caribbean: David is especially fond of Speightstown, in the north-west of Barbados
We anchored off the beach, and were ferried ashore. The first treat was caviar and prosecco in the shallows just off the beach – with the crew, some still in uniform, and Franck, the ever-handy head sommelier, in his floral beach shirt, dispensing Beluga caviar and blinis off a surfboard.
No sooner had the big pot of Beluga been emptied than it was time for a barbecue lunch, with the ship’s chefs in full cry.
This was a meal that needed working off, so in the afternoon it was time for beach cricket.
I survived at the crease for an unusually long time, thanks to half the bowling not reaching my end, and because LBW was ruled out.
Now you must believe me when I say such a voyage isn’t just about the eating and drinking. The itinerary was structured so that a lot of the sailing between islands was done overnight.
Day job: David on commentary duties with fellow England cricket legend Ian Botham (left)
On several mornings, we were already anchored in the next gorgeous little bay by the time the alarm roused me from my slumbers. There were sun-loungers on the top deck (and on the pool deck for those in need of Vitamin D) – and even indoor golf for those who have not, like me, sworn off the dreaded game. There were also quiet areas, a library with more than enough books for even the most anti-social traveller – and charts to show you where you’d been – and were going next.
Inevitably, our two weeks disappeared all too quickly.
But in that time, we renewed our friendships with those loyal ITC customers with whom we had travelled before – and we enjoyed the company of new faces.
I hope to be invited back. This sort of cricket tour is one that I can take in my stride.
Caribbean dream: Plan your own sunshine escape
ITC Sports (01244 355 527; www.itcsports.co.uk) offers a Caribbean package based around England’s tour of the West Indies in April 2015.
Prices from £2,995 per person for eight nights in Barbados, including economy flights, welcome drinks, farewell dinner, ITC Tour manager and match-day stadium transfers.
ITC Luxury Travel also offers a selection of cruises. More details: www.itcluxurytravel.co.uk.