It’s a simple conversation that ensures our family holiday gets off to the best possible start.
“Eliza, we are going to the Caribbean so that mummy and daddy can have a nice rest.”
“Well, what am I going to do?”
“You, my little love, are going to learn how to become a ninja.”
On arrival at St James’s Club, Morgan Bay in St Lucia, after a 90-minute drive from the airport, we have barely stepped out of the taxi before we’re handed a rum punch, while the children receive an alcohol-free version and a kid’s pack outlining their week ahead with the author Chris Bradford, who is running a series of “boot camps” based on his bestselling Young Samurai and Bodyguard series.So far, so jolly great.
Bradford is the latest Puffin artist in residence for Elite Island Resorts in the Caribbean, where Rachel Bright, author of “My Sister Is An Alien!” and Curtis Jobling, the original creator of Bob The Builder, have also run two-week holiday workshops at some of the group’s kids’ clubs as part of the all-inclusive package.
Aided by props that include a real samurai sword (which can take a little explaining at customs, I’m told) and a can of cold sweat (don’t ask), Bradford has the children literally sprinting to boot camp as soon as they’ve finished their breakfast.
It’s a high-octane, energetic series of mornings that teaches all the essential skills required to become a holiday ninja - silent creeping, self-defence techniques, a dash of origami and the correct pronunciation of konnichiwa and sayonara - amid some great lessons about the importance of perseverance and individuality.
The workshops are punctuated with good old-fashioned storytelling and sneak previews of Bradford’s upcoming books.
It’s all pretty exciting stuff, and while mum and dad are quietly sunning themselves on the beach, it’s probably best they don’t know that a (highly-controlled and safety assessed) demonstration of the samurai sword, involving holding a piece of paper at close quarters, has the resort manager Mark turning slightly pale and walking away with his head in his hands.
The workshops also make use of the resort’s stunning setting amid 25 acres of tropical gardens overlooking its own stretch of sandy beach.
The older children are taken on a tour of the grounds to test their newfound stealth skills (although sneaking up on a dozing dad with his third rum cocktail in hand is no great feat, even for an eight-year-old) and later try out their bodyguard abilities on a “pop star” who urgently requires their assistance during her stay.
Safe in the knowledge that the children are under the watchful eyes of not only Bradford, but a full complement of dedicated child carers, we spend our mornings gliding gently between the swim-up bar (it opens well before lunch, which is hardly our fault) and the lovely beach, where a vast range of water sports are on offer.
But by this time, we’re actually starting to miss the little ones, and it’s lovely to collect them for a lunch date at the ever-popular family pool with its bar and grill. We spend almost every lunchtime here, as it enjoys a slightly elevated position on the site where breezes take the edge off the heat of the afternoon and the children make new friends as they play.
Dinner is run on a reservations system, easily made up to three days in advance at guest services. Particular favourites are the Tree Tops pizza and pasta restaurant, which serves a jerk chicken pizza - the likes of which I’ve never tasted before, in the best possible way - and Morgan’s Pier, where we eat freshly-caught seafood to the sound of lapping water as the sunset fills the sky with every shade of red.
But despite the many delights of the resort, there comes a point when the sea beckons and we decide to venture out to explore the island.
Joy’s Cruises run from the resort’s beach and we set off down the coast, headed for the mighty Pitons, which we had tantalisingly glimpsed as we flew in. They are a truly extraordinary sight and capture everyone’s attention - until a pod of dolphins appears about a metre from the bow. We slow down and they play a great game of hide and seek as we approach the town of Soufriere, where we leave the boat for a minibus that takes us to the Sulphur Springs, or the “Caribbean’s only drive in volcano”.
It’s here that our day’s adventure steps up a notch as we slap on mineral-infused mud before sinking into the pleasantly hot sulphuric pools, emerging with beautifully soft skin and smelling like old eggs, before taking a short drive to a waterfall where we swim in its warm waters.
Then it’s back to the boat and off to a deserted beach with crystal clear water, where a barbecue lunch is waiting for us, showcasing delicious Caribbean spiced fish and fresh fruit and vegetables.
As we cruise out past the headland, the dolphins reappear and we hang about with them for a while, before cutting the engines to dive into the deep blue, both children joining us, such is their newfound love of the sea.
And as the holiday draws to a close, our daughter, now a fully-fledged ninja warrior, declares herself satisfied with how mummy and daddy’s restful holiday has played out.