Hello, everyone! This is (hopefully!) the first in a series of blog posts highlighting the cruise-stop ports in the Caribbean. In my opinion, this region is incredibly stunning and offers some of the most beautiful destinations in the Caribbean and wonderful people. In this blog post, we’re going to focus on the enchanting island of Barbados. Cruising is my favorite way to travel – my wife, Erika, and I are avid cruise ship travelers and I always emphasize the importance of selecting cruises based on itineraries that truly interest you. Many people tend to visit the same old ports due to their loyalty to a specific cruise line, and that’s perfectly fine. However, with loyalty programs these days, the perks and benefits might not outweigh the experience of exploring new and exciting places outside the confines of a cruise line package. So, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and embark on an itinerary that your favorite cruise line may not offer. Cruising, regardless of the cruise line, shares many similarities – if you enjoy being on cruise ships and relish the cruise experience, you’re bound to have a fantastic time. The world is full of amazing destinations waiting to be discovered, so why not embark on a new adventure?
Babysitting Facilities on Cruise Ships (aka Going Cruising with Your Kids)
As a family with young kids, finding the right cruise line can be challenging. One of the reasons why we keep coming back to Carnival for all our cruises are their child-care facilities. I’ve been on about 40 cruises with 10 different cruise lines and none of them hold a candle to Carnival’s Night Owls program – it is a game-changer for families with young kids on a cruise ship. If your child is at least six months old, they can stay at the kids’ club from 10 pm until 1 or 1:30 in the morning. That gives us, the parents, three or more hours every evening to go out and have some fun. The babysitting fee is around $7.50 per hour, which is reasonable considering the peace of mind it provides. Most other cruise lines only offer late-night babysitting options for older kids, typically two or three years old and potty-trained. That’s why we’ll continue to cruise with Carnival for the next few years, at least until the kids are a bit older. But we’re always open to trying new cruise lines and experiences in the future.
Disclaimer About This Blog and Our YouTube Channel
Lately I’ve been seeing this regrettable trend of prominent travel vloggers on YouTube review ports, excursions and activities they haven’t participated in themselves. I want to emphasize that when we discuss our favorite things to do in Barbados, it’s always based on our personal experiences. We believe in sharing only what we have genuinely enjoyed and found worthwhile. When you’re planning a cruise and looking for activities to do in each port, it’s crucial to invest time, do some research, and perhaps allocate a little extra money to make the most of your limited time ashore. That’s why it’s essential to maximize your experience and ensure you get the most bang for your buck. As avid cruisers, we understand the importance of making every moment count. So, when we recommend something, it’s because we’ve personally been there, experienced it, and found it to be truly remarkable.
Currency & Safety in Barbados
When it comes to currency in Barbados, American dollars are widely accepted everywhere. If you need to obtain cash, using the ATM on the cruise ship is usually the recommended option. However, if you must use a local ATM, make sure it’s a reputable brick and mortar location. Freestanding ATMs can sometimes be questionable when it comes to your personal information and card security. In terms of safety, Barbados is generally a safe destination. The local people, known as Bayans, are friendly and laid-back. Just remember to be respectful and use common sense as you would back home. Don’t take part in any activities you wouldn’t do in your own country and you’ll have a great time on the island.
Exploring Bridgetown on a Budget
Barbados, being an embarkation port, will see a regular flow of cruise ship passengers may be starting or ending their cruise there. Upon your arrival at Barbados and exiting the ship, you’ll notice that the cruise terminal and port are relatively new. If you’re not interested in exploring Barbados extensively, you can simply stroll around the terminal, which houses various stores, a few restaurants, and souvenir shops. However, I highly recommend going ashore and immersing yourself in the fun and adventure the island has to offer.
For those on a budget, the most a cost-effective option is to walk into Bridgetown. Alternatively, the terminal offers a shuttle service for around two dollars per person, taking you directly to downtown. Some cruise lines may provide a free shuttle, although this is not common. Exploring Bridgetown allows you to discover local Asian cuisine, shop for souvenirs, and experience the vibrant atmosphere of Barbados. Even though a lot of people frown on bringing their phones on vacation, having internet access while traveling can be hugely beneficial. You can utilize your phone to check reviews and recommendations for restaurants and establishments. It’s helpful to rely on reviews from multiple reliable sources, ensuring that the accounts providing feedback appear genuine. By leveraging this resource, you can identify excellent restaurants, local bars, and other hidden gems in the Bridgetown area.
Please note that I don’t have specific recommendations for eateries at the moment, as it has been a while since our last visit, and some places may have undergone changes due to the impact of COVID-19. However, rest assured that there are fantastic dining options available. Use your phone, hit up the review sites, and you’ll quickly discover the most recommended restaurants in Bridgetown.
Hitting the Beach in Barbados
Once you’ve explored Bridgetown and want to relax by a Caribbean beach, grab your cruise ship towel and head south towards Pebbles Beach. It’s one of the most popular beach areas in Barbados and can be reached directly from the cruise ship by a 15-to-20-minute walk. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, which costs around five dollars per person, and they’ll drop you off right at Pebbles Beach. Remember that all beaches in Barbados are public, so you can enjoy the stunning shoreline without any restrictions.
At Pebbles Beach, you’ll find restaurants and bars that may offer chairs, umbrellas, and access to their facilities if you make a purchase. It’s up to you to decide whether you’d like to take advantage of these amenities based on your budget and preferences. Unlike St. Lucia, where I strongly recommended taking a guided tour to explore the island, Barbados is much more flexible and budget-friendly destination that allows you to enjoy the beauty of the island at your own pace by simply walking or taking a taxi.
Paid Guided Tour Options in Barbados
If you’re willing to spend a bit more, I highly recommend exploring Barbados through a taxi tour after disembarking. You’ll find taxis readily available at the port, and you can negotiate a one, two, or three-hour tour of the island. This will allow you to visit some of the most popular attractions, such as St. James Church, which is believed to be the oldest church on the island. Barbados is also the birthplace of Rihanna, so you can even see her childhood home and where she grew up—a popular activity among visitors. During the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the beautiful landscapes, including rainforests and mountains, which showcase the island’s natural beauty. The taxis in Barbados are usually minivans, offering comfortable seating for four to six people, and potentially even more, depending on the vehicle’s configuration. In our case, we comfortably fit six people in the van, with room for a couple more.
After the tour, you can ask the taxi driver to drop you off at Pebbles Beach, where you can spend the afternoon enjoying everything this beach has to offer. It’s a perfect way to unwind and make the most of your time in Barbados. This option allows you to combine the excitement of exploring the island with a relaxing beach experience, providing a well-rounded and memorable day in Barbados.
The Boatyard – Our Favorite Spot in Barbados
A personal favorite spot of ours when in Barbados is the Boatyard, a beach bar located near Pebbles Beach. What makes the Boatyard special is that it has access to various facilities, including a restaurant, a bar, changing facilities, and bathrooms—everything you need for a comfortable beach day. The amenities at the Boatyard are, in my opinion, fantastic. There is a dock with a rope swing and a platform for jumping into the water, which is always fun for me and the kids. There’s also a large floating trampoline in the ocean and a big slide you can climb up for an exhilarating splash. Along the beach, you could find umbrellas and lounge chairs available for use, creating a perfect setting for relaxation.
The Boatyard has an entry fee of $35 per adult (slightly less for kids). However, considering the access and use of facilities, we found it to be a worthwhile expense. We treated ourselves to appetizers, snacks, and a couple of local beers while spending the afternoon at the Boatyard. They also offer a free shuttle service starting at 1 pm, running every 15 minutes throughout the afternoon, ensuring a hassle-free return to the ship. Alternatively, you can opt for a taxi if you prefer to explore other places before heading back to the ship.
Another cool thing about the Boatyard is that they offer a snorkeling tour. They have a boat that takes you to Carlisle Bay, specifically Pebbles Beach, where there’s a sunken ship and other interesting areas for snorkeling. It’s a stunning location, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot sea turtles, especially during certain times of the year. Don’t forget to bring your camera or GoPro to capture the underwater beauty. Keep in mind that you may need to swim down a bit to get a closer look at the shipwreck, which is a few meters below the surface.
Private Resort Options in Barbados
I wanted to highlight a website called resortpass.com, which I think you might find quite useful. It provides options for accessing resort facilities without staying overnight. Although we haven’t tried it ourselves, our friends attended a wedding at the Barbados Hilton Resort through this website and had an amazing time. When I checked the website, the Hilton was the only available hotel listed at the moment. If you read our blog post about Puerto Vallarta, you’ll know that we’ve used resort passes there. The price typically ranges around $60 per adult. Another option to consider is a day bed, which costs around $200 and accommodates up to four people. This includes a $60 food credit, which is a nice perk. If you’re looking for a resort experience with a pool and swim-up bar, resort passes could be a good choice. However, if you’re content with the beach and facilities, including the snorkeling tour, I personally recommend leaning towards the Boatyard. It’s an option we’ve personally enjoyed and found to be exceptional.
Our Favorite Caribbean Cruise Stop
During our cruise a couple of years ago, Barbados, Antigua, and St. Thomas stood out as our favorite ports. Barbados was particularly enjoyable, and I highly recommend making the most of your time there by planning ahead and researching activities. If you’ve been to Barbados or have any feedback, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Feel free to leave your comments, and I’ll be sure to interact with you. Have a fantastic cruise, and stay tuned for another blog post on a new cruise stop. Take care!