|Pre- or post-cruise stay options range from five-star resorts such as the Sandy Lane to cozy B&Bs.|
When it comes to showing their maritime spirit, cruise lines love Bridgetown, Barbados. Wind Spirit, the sailing ship from Windstar Cruises, has multiple turnaround voyages at Bridgetown, and Silver Spirit by Silversea Cruises will do likewise in 2013. And Seabourn Cruise Line plans a series of 14-day exotic Caribbean voyages on Seabourn Spirit later this year and in early 2013, with port calls at Bridgetown.
Ship names aside, though, the Port of Bridgetown’s total cruise ship calls rose eight percent and passenger arrivals increased 14 percent between 2009 and 2010. For 2011, the island’s cruise business remained stable, with 391 cruise ship calls, the same number as in 2010. Cruise passenger numbers for 2011 were down about 7 percent from 2010, due to the smaller capacity of some ships. Later this year, Oceania Cruises’ new Riviera will sail an 11-day “Idyllic Isles” voyage and a 14-day “Island Holiday” sailing roundtrip from Miami with a Bridgetown call. And the list goes on.
British Flair and Soft Sands
Called “Little England” by some, Barbados’ British heritage is energized with African influences, an appealing cultural draw. In addition, the island straddles the Atlantic Ocean and the southern Caribbean Sea, with many soft sand beaches along the southern and western coasts. Many lines including Holland America Line provide lazy-day beach options; HAL’s guests might opt for a relaxing “Barbados Beach Break” at $29 for adults, $24 for children.
|Arlington House Museum in Speightstown features a “talking” pirate.|
Among star historical sites is the 300-year-old Sunbury Plantation House, with Victorian decor, Barbadian mahogany furniture, and antiques. The 1658-era St. Nicholas Abbey is notable as one of only three genuine Jacobean mansions remaining in the Western Hemisphere. No, this isn’t a religious site. It’s just an estate named for an English abbey. Visitors will view Dutch gables, a Chinese Chippendale staircase, and fine antiques and china. Clients shouldn’t miss the rare, short 1930s film about Barbadian sugar plantation life. Fans of rum punch may simply head behind the mansion for a sample of rum punch concocted from spirits distilled on the estate.
On March 10, 2013, Crystal Cruises offers an “Exotic Amazon” voyage on Crystal Serenity from Rio to Miami. During a Barbados call, Crystal’s new half-day “Highlights of Barbados”motorcoach tour ($76 per person) takes guests to St. Nicholas Abbey, Orchid World and St. John’s Church. This trip is also offered as a private Crystal Adventures option with a private vehicle and driver; cost is $609 for a party of two.
The 1818-era Gun Hill Signal Station, 700 feet above sea level, has panoramic vistas. Built in the pre-telegraph era, the station was used by the British military to signal ships approaching. Norwegian Cruise Line’s half-day “Coast to Coast Scenic Drive” includes a visit; cost is $49 for adults, $34 for children, varying by sailing date.
|Waterfront Café on Bridgetown’s Careenage serves traditional Bajan cuisine.|
Cruisers who wish to capture Barbados’ natural beauty and Bajan culture might consider Princess Cruises’ half-day tour designed by famed local photographer Ronnie Carrington. During a motorcoach tour, passengers will learn from Carrington’s “commentary” while viewing and photographing the Scotland District, sugarcane fields, rural towns, rum shops, chattel houses and Bathsheba with its pounding surf and giant rock formations. Price starts from $59 per person.
It wouldn’t be a visit to Barbados for many cruisers without seeing either gorgeous flowers or a tropical forest. Some lines offer shore excursions to the Andromeda Botanical Gardens, Flower Forest or Welchman Hall Gully; the latter is a tranquil, tropical national park where cruisers might spot and hear chattering green monkeys.
At Harrison’s Cave, a stream cave system with a 50-foot-high Great Hall, cruisers board a tram to see deep pools and towering columns. A commissionable “Best of Barbados-Island Tour and Snorkel with the Turtles” shore trip by ShoreTrips includes stops at Harrison’s Cave and a wildlife reserve before guests snorkel at a shipwreck, swim with turtles and take a glass-bottom boat ride. Cost is $144 for adults, $86 for kids two to 12.
The cave is also featured in a “Harrison’s Cave and Arlington House” excursion offered by Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Navigator, which departs November 25 for a 24-night “Amazon Adventure” roundtrip from Miami. The shore tour cost is included in the cruise fare. The relatively new, interactive Arlington House Museum in Speightstown reveals the lives of early settlers, insights about the sugar and slave trades, and maritime tales by a “talking” pirate.
On February 12, 2013, Azamara Club Cruises sails on voyages that visit Barbados. That line’s handy online port guide outlines such Bridgetown highlights as National Heroes Square and Victorian-styled Parliament buildings with stained glass windows depicting British monarchs from James I to Victoria. Other Bridgetown points of interest include Independence Arch and Square, Chamberlain Bridge, Queen’s Park, a cathedral, historical synagogue and the Barbados National Museum housed in the 1815-era British Military Prison.
|The 1658-era St. Nicholas Abbey is one of only three genuine Jacobean mansions remaining in the Western Hemisphere.|
One surprise for most Americans: The George Washington House is where the 19-year-old future president and his ailing brother Lawrence lived for two months in 1751; Barbados was the only foreign destination George Washington ever visited.
For traditional Bajan cuisine, clients might dine at the casual Waterfront Café, situated on Bridgetown’s Careenage (marina). “Tapas for Two” is a good sampler of six Barbadian starters with sauces. The café also serves the island’s traditional dish, Flying Fish with Cou-Cou (a cornmeal and okra mixture) and fried plantain.
For active guests, Celebrity Cruises offers a “4 X 4 Safari and Beach Break” excursion. Participants head out on specially designed vehicles to Fisherpond Sugar Cane Estate, the East Coast and Bathsheba before motoring to the Caribbean side for relaxation or swimming. Cost is $78 per adult, $58 per child. Or, Shore Excursions Group will arrange a commissionable zipline adventure over a 1,000-foot-long course; cost is $118.
Alternatively, scuba enthusiasts might dive to view flat coral reefs, shipwrecks and 50 varieties of fish. PortPromotions.com offers a commissionable “Discover Barbados with Turtle Swim,” which includes a glass bottom boat cruise, a chance to swim with sea turtles and snorkeling at a local reef. The 5.5 hour trip costs $102 per person including taxes.
Family cruisers and those not fond of water may dive a different way via Atlantis Submarines. Royal Caribbean International is among the lines offering this submarine dive to 150 feet in search of colorful corals and fish. Royal’s charge is $109 for adults, $68 for children.
Queen Mary 2 by Cunard Line departs December 22 for a 19-day New York-Barbados-Southampton voyage. Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper ends its October 27, 28-night transatlantic sailing in Bridgetown. And a slew of European-based cruise lines offer Barbados calls. Golfers onboard those lines and others might tee off at the public, 18-hole Barbados Golf Club course or the ritzier Country Club at Sandy Lane for play on the resort’s 18-hole, Tom Fazio-designed Country Club course.
Shoppers may browse designer apparel, shoes, watches, jewelry, kitchen wares and luggage at more than 100 designer shops at the upscale Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Holetown. Separately, duty-free shopping is found along Bridgetown’s Broad Street, in Holetown and at Bridgetown’s cruise ship terminal, a mile west of downtown. Cruise guests can also enjoy rum distillery tours and tastings.
Pre- or post-cruise stays? Choices for accommodations range from B&Bs to five-star resorts. On a late 2011 Silver Spirit post-cruise stay, we stayed at the Colony Club, an Elegant Hotels property. Other Silversea guests did the same. The upscale resort has pampering service and lush, tropical grounds. Highlights include sunsets from the casual beachside bar and café and the weekly lobster feast.
Heading home, cruisers who check in early for their flight might walk from the airport terminal to the adjacent Barbados Concorde Experience to see a British Airways Concorde and even fly the plane in a high-tech simulator. At $139 per person, Silversea’s “Bye-Bye Barbados” post-cruise shore excursion includes a tour of Harrison’s Cave, buffet lunch, entry to the Concorde Experience and airport transport.
Want more information? Visit the Barbados Tourism Authority at www.visitbarbados.org.