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Extreme heights, dolphins and rum tasting: this is Arvia in the Caribbean

Whether it’s taking on the challenge of a ship-based ropes course or summiting Gros Piton, there are plenty of highs with a P&O Cruises Caribbean voyage P&O Cruises' newest ship Arvia is located in the Caribbean and offers extreme features such as a ship-based ropes course, a retractable roof covering its Sky Dome, a mini-golf and high ropes course. The ship is designed for warm climes and will be powered by liquefied natural gas and features a range of amenities such as hot tubs, sun loungers, and a cruise ship's new swim-up bar. Arvia also offers a variety of onboard activities such as diving, climbing, hiking, and even a shore excursion to the Mount Gay Distillery in Barbados.

Extreme heights, dolphins and rum tasting: this is Arvia in the Caribbean

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Extreme heights, dolphins and rum tasting: this is Arvia in the Caribbean

Whether it’s taking on the challenge of the ship-based ropes course or summiting Gros Piton in Saint Lucia, our writer finds plenty of highs with a Caribbean voyage onboard P&O’s newest launch

I’m surrounded by the blue of the Caribbean Sea, dangling above a cruise ship on a high ropes course, when suddenly I’m frozen by fear. Beneath my feet is a narrow beam which needs to be crossed. The problem is it’s topped by a series of mini see-saws which rise and fall when stepped on – this would be disconcerting enough on land, let alone high at sea, and my legs refuse to budge. This is P&O Cruises’ newest ship Arvia. Like sister ship Iona, which launched in 2021, Arvia carries 5,200 passengers and is powered by liquefied natural gas. Even though Arvia is structurally identical to Iona, it has several standout and exclusive features, which are all firsts for P&O Cruises: a glamorous new swim-up bar; a retractable roof covering its Sky Dome; a mini-golf and high ropes course. After much coaxing I eventually conquer the see-saws and am brave enough to walk the plank, a scary ledge that cantilevers 54m (177 feet) above the ocean. Arvia’s high ropes course – called High Altitude Skywalk – is hands-down the most exciting and extreme that I’ve tried at sea. Arvia, nicknamed the Sunshine ship, is designed for warm climes – it will winter in the Caribbean and summer in the Med. While most guests gravitate towards top decks’ pool areas (good luck finding a seat in the swim-up bar on a sea day) your clients might prefer Deck 8, which offers a quieter alternative. This is the Promenade Deck and has all the same trimmings. Hot tubs and sun loungers are dotted along its length and there’s sustenance available at The Quays, a food court to rival (if not better) Deck 16’s Horizon buffet. If anything there’s more choice: small plates, fish and chips, noodles and a novel new take on the traditional Sunday roast. Instead of dishing it up on a plate, it’s served in a giant Yorkshire pudding.

My cabin is a Conservatory Mini-Suite, a midway cabin option first introduced on Iona – pricier than a regular balcony room, but cheaper than a higher-category suite. As well as a balcony and lounge it has a conservatory, an addition which makes the cabin feel lighter and breezier – it’s a sumptuous spot for a sundowner. Talking of which, Arvia has a distillery on board and the Amber Lounge specialises in rum. For a glass of bittersweet loveliness the Tortuga Cobbler (the ship’s most popular rum cocktail) can’t be beaten. But for the ultimate tipple a shore excursion to the Mount Gay Distillery in Barbados is a must. Arvia overnights in capital Bridgetown during most Caribbean sailings and excursionists can sample a line-up of this local liquor and learn all about its “notes” – some have a hint of toffee, others taste of honey or cinnamon. All are fiery! Beautiful though Arvia is, venturing off the ship is a must. A catamaran excursion around Martinique includes snorkelling and dolphin-watching. Unbelievably, we don’t just spot a couple of small-freckled dolphins, but we’re surrounded by dozens who showboat as they leap out the water. It’s gasp-inducing and magical. Clients with a decent level of fitness might be tempted by P&O Cruises’ “Climb the Pitons” excursion in Saint Lucia. It’s a challenging two-hour rock clamber to the top of Gros Piton (the higher of the two, but conversely, the less steep climb). It’s worth it for the view and bragging rights but I’ve never been so happy to reach a summit and say “I’ve made it!”

Every epic hike deserves a slap-up meal and back onboard Arvia there are a couple of new speciality restaurants that fit the bill. The first is 6th Street Diner. It’s an all-American burger joint with a gourmet, southern twist. From sticky pork ribs to po-boys to a Cajun shrimp Louis salad, the food is superb – better still it’s included and open for a pancake breakfast. Alternatively, there’s the on-trend Green & Co, which caters for vegan and vegetarian dining – sushi platters, crispy fried tofu and the like. While this restaurant is not included, dishes are good value. Top tip: for an inexpensive, spicy treat the £6 Hot and Sour Dashi Ramen is a meal in itself. Glamorous and upbeat, Arvia is attracting a younger demographic as well as lots of newcomers to cruising, Simone Clark, senior vice-president global supply at informs me.

P&O Cruises’ vice-president of sales, marketing and brand, Rob Scott helps explain why: “It’s incredible value for money. Your clients can book an amazing seven-night Caribbean cruise in the region of £1,300pp, full board, including flights, and you know they’ll be very well-looked after.” Walking through the atrium on my last night I stumble upon aerialists somersaulting from the ceiling in an ad hoc, gravity-defying performance. And that’s the beauty of Arvia. Whether it’s dangling yourself on a high ropes course or watching others dangle from the rafters, there’s something surprising to see and enjoy round every corner.

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