Barbados remains a firm favourite of the Brits. Credit: Shutterstock

An expert cruise port guide to Barbados

Author: Sarah Baxter

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In a region of incredible islands, Barbados still stands out from the crowd. Come for its dazzling beaches, superb seas, rich history and easy access to the wider Caribbean, says Sarah Baxter

If countries had jobs, Barbados would be a supermodel. Striking a seductive pose in the Lesser Antilles, this easternmost Caribbean island is seriously good-looking.

Some of the world’s best beaches are found here – fantastic stretches of brilliant-white sand, lapped by turquoise waters and tickled by swaying palm trees.

But Barbados is so much more than a pretty face. It’s an island of surprises, with a universal appeal. A-listers, authors, sunbathers, history buffs, families, and fun-seekers will all find something to pique their interest here.

Whether you want laidback living, Unesco world heritage sites, ziplining thrills, turtle encounters or a glass of the world’s oldest rum, you’ve come to the right place.

For a start, Barbados has a fascinating history. First inhabited by Amerindians around 3,600 years ago, then home to indigenous Arawak and Kalinago peoples, it was discovered by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 16th century.

The British arrived in 1625 and the island remained in their hands, rather than being passed back and forth between different European overlords. This legacy can be seen most clearly in the historic heart of the capital, Bridgetown, which is listed by Unesco for its exemplary colonial architecture, built between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Here you can take a walking tour with a guide or stroll around old garrison buildings – including the only place outside the USA in which the first US president, George Washington, ever lived.

Barbados gained independence in 1966 but retains some distinctly British traditions. Cars drive on the left, towns have names such as Brighton and Dover, and everyone’s mad for cricket.There’s no more electrifying local experience than catching a match at the Kensington Oval, where stumps have been set up since 1882.

The island also offers a distinctive menu. Local chef Ashley Thorpe said: “Barbados is the culinary capital of the Caribbean. You can really experience forth between different European Bajan culture through its food.”

Tasting the island’s array of spices, tropical fruit, feisty scotch bonnet peppers, oh-so-fresh fish and other homegrown ingredients – cooked up by grandmas in kitchens and a new wave of talented chefs – is the best way to understand what makes Bajans tick.

Potential shore excursions include guided Bajan food walks with Lickrish Food Tours and intoxicating day trips to Mount Gay Rum Distillery. Established in 1703,mit is now the world’s oldest commercial rum company.

Scenically, Barbados is one of the Caribbean’s most diverse isles. The east coast, which faces the full force of the Atlantic Ocean, is wild and ruggedly beautiful, scattered with rocks eroded by waves and blessed with great surf, especially around the laidback town of Bathsheba.

The west is pure glamour, with exquisite sands and high-end resorts. This is where you might spot a celeb or two sashaying along the shore.

Beautiful Barbados offers a classic Caribbean getaway. Credit: Shutterstock

The south, a little less elite, has super sands and seas too. From Carlisle Bay you can snorkel or dive with a wealth of marine life. Andre Miller, a Bajan marine biologist who owns the dive shop Barbados Blue, told us: “The Caribbean is such a good place to learn to dive; our reefs are close to shore, we have 365 days a year of warm, clear water, and we can essentially guarantee you’ll see turtles on our morning dives.”

Dover and Miami are a little further round the coast. Here you can paddle in calm waters, find shade under casuarina trees, and order fishcakes and rum punch from Mr Delicious Snack Bar. You’ll also find the most happening nightlife in this area, not least at Oistins Fish Fry. A Bajan institution, it’s held every Friday night.

Flying fish, tuna and mahi-mahi are served up with sides such as macaroni pie and rice-and-peas from simple stalls to a backbeat of live steelpan, calypso and reggae tunes.

The rum-drenched island of Barbados never disappoints. Credit: Shutterstock

In contrast, the island’s north and interior are calm and quiet. Here you’ll find St Nicholas Abbey, a Jacobean house that’s open to visitors. This working estate and rum distillery has its own steam railway, as well as Hunte’s Gardens – a wonderland of plants such as blue lotus and ‘pride of Barbados’, the fiery orange national flower that blooms year-round.

With its rolling hills, old sugar plantations and botanically rich ravines, the whole area feels like a step back in time. Life here is wonderfully slow – unless you don’t want it to be.

There are also opportunities, if you choose, to delve into caves, zipline over gulleys in Harrison’s Cave Eco- Adventure Park and hike up Mount Hillaby, the island’s tallest peak.

Barbados isn’t only fun to explore. Easy to reach by air, it makes a great starting or finishing point for cruises around the wider southern Caribbean. From here you can sail in and around the surrounding Antilles – to isles such as St Lucia, Dominica and St Kitts & Nevis – allowing yourself an even richer taste of this patch of paradise.

There is so much to explore in Bridgetown, Barbados. Credit: Shutterstock


1. For the food
Bajan cuisine is a revelation. Flying fish and cou-cou is the island’s national dish; other favourites include rice-and-peas and souse, a pickled pork broth served chilled. Wash it all down with a tot of Mount Gay rum.

2. To slow down
The Bajan attitude to life is laidback and fun-loving. The people are open, friendly and relaxed – expect a warm welcome and any stress to waft away on the balmy breeze.

3. For an injection of colour
With blue sea, deep-red hibiscus, iridescent green hummingbirds and orange rum punch, Barbados is a rainbow of a destination.

4. To sightsee or not
Barbados has historic sites aplenty if you want them, or you can simply spend your time lounging on beaches as soft as icing sugar.

Cruise lines such as Atlas Ocean Voyages, Celebrity, Disney, Princess, and Royal Caribbean offer Caribbean cruises calling at Barbados.

Many start or end on the island, making it easy to add extra time on land. Other voyages begin in Europe and include a transatlantic crossing as part of the trip.

Cruises explore the region year-round, though the best time to visit is outside of hurricane season, which runs from July to November.

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