As a seasoned cruiser, I always plan to arrive in port a few days before sailing. It gives me a chance to acclimate to a different time zone, it’s an added opportunity to sightsee and, if there is a travel glitch, it is still possible to get to the ship on time. Accordingly, my wife and I arrived for an early holiday in Barbados. We stayed at the 150-room Amaryllis Beach Resort. Its beautiful sandy beach, all 500 feet of it, is complemented by lush tropical landscaping. Hotel amenities include three pools (one for children), an outdoor Jacuzzi and a fitness center.
Amaryllis Beach Resort
The rooms are well appointed and comfortable, many with ocean views. The staff is pleasant and helpful. There are two restaurants. The Almond Tree is open for breakfast and offers nightly dinner specials; its terrace is an idyllic spot to dine. The Turtle Nest Beach Bar is open-air, on the sand and perfect for a casual lunch. Both are quite good and reasonably priced. The resort is conveniently located within walking distance to shopping and other sights via a scenic oceanfront boardwalk.
Turtle Nest Beach Bar
After a relaxing first day on the beach, we headed out for a tour of Harrison’s Cave and St. Nicholas Abbey. Harrison’s Cave is Barbados’ #1 tourist attraction. A tram ride allows visitors to see most of its geological features, including streams, oddly shaped stalactites and stalagmites and “The Great Hall,” which is 100 feet high.
St. Nicholas Abbey was built in 1660 and has been completely restored. It is one of three genuine Jacobean mansions in the western hemisphere and a working plantation that continues to distill rum in the traditional manner.
St. Nicholas Abbey
Harvesting Sugar Cane
During our outing, we stopped in Little Good Harbor for lunch at the Fishpot. This picturesque, oceanfront restaurant features a sophisticated menu of international and local fare. We shared the marinated flying fish, chili shrimp and coconut fried soft-shelled crab; definitely worth a stop.
View From The Fishpot at Little Good Harbor
Oistins Fish-fry on Friday and Saturday nights has become Barbados’ #2 tourist attraction. Oistins is a major fishing community and, on weekends, dozens of vendors grill freshly caught fish and serve local specialties like macaroni pie and sweet potatoes. Try the local beer, Banks, and the fried flying fish. There are booths with crafts and souvenirs. The lively music and energetic crowds make this a not-to-be-missed happening.
Booth at Oistin’s Fish-fry
On sailing day, we dropped off our luggage at the dock and then walked into the capital city, Bridgetown. There we visited the Jewish Synagogue. First built in 1654, it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1831, rebuilt, fell into disrepair and, in 1983, was purchased and restored by the island’s Jewish community. It is now an active house of prayer. Our last stop was the Farmers Market, where we wandered among the stalls of fresh fruits, food and crafts. Late afternoon, we boarded the Royal Clipper, unpacked and explored the ship.
At Sea With Royal Clipper
We had chosen back-to-back seven day cruises. Our itinerary included the Grenada, Tobago Cays, St. Vincent, Bequia, Martinique, Marigot and Soufriere Bays, St. Lucia, Rodney Bay, Dominica, Nevis, St. Kitts, Iles des Saintes and, of course, Barbados. One highlight of the trip was the opportunity to snorkel daily with the on-board oceanographic expert, Mariano Peruzzo. He guided us into the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean, sometimes disappearing underwater, then bringing to the surface denizens of the sea floor. We saw needlefish, flying gunnard, parrotfish, octopi, lizardfish and even a conch eating a starfish. Mariano’s joy of the sea was contagious. We took two excursions (port tours can be purchased aboard the ship). First, we swam and snorkeled with hawksbill and leatherback turtles in Barbados; it was an amazing experience. When the waters were chummed, we were immediately surrounded by hundreds of fish. We held out bits of bread and they ate from our hands. It was like swimming in an aquarium. The second trip was to the Malibu Beach Club on departure day. It was a lazy day on the sand in comfortable surroundings that included lunch, showers and transportation to the airport.
Malibu Beach Club
As one would expect, with over a dozen stops during a two week period, the ports and beaches ranged from middling to excellent, including a nice surprise: Dominica. There, the high annual rainfall feeds its many rivers, lakes, streams and waterfalls; tropical forests cover two-thirds of the island. Its Morne Trois Pitons National Park was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the eastern Caribbean. Interestingly, Dominica is one of only a couple of islands in the region with indigenous pre-Columbian Carib Indians. We toured with a local character, “The Bushman,” Peter Green. He was engaging, knowledgeable and very proud of Dominica.
Peter Green, “The Bushman,” with the Travel Writer and His Editor
Along the way, we swung on vines, ate bananas growing in the wild and learned about the flora and fauna. As we headed back, a refreshing tropical rain shower cooled us. We then drove to Titiou Gorge, a narrow canyon, leading to another waterfall. We also stopped at several viewpoints for camera ops and picked up roasted plantains from a roadside vendor. Dominica deserves a return visit.
More About Royal Clipper
Royal Clipper is the first five-masted, full-rigged sailing ship to be built since 1902. It is a dazzling vessel with 42 sails, gleaming brass and polished wood everywhere. When under full sail, it is a thrilling experience and the stuff of travel dreams (its twin diesel engines are used mainly for docking and inclement weather). The ship is 439 feet long and accommodates 227 passengers and 105 crew members. There are three swimming pools, piano and deck bars, library, retail shops, spa, fitness center, hair salon and a three-level atrium with a spiral staircase leading to the dining room. The cabins are spacious, cleverly laid out and comfortable.
The entire crew is well-trained, friendly and always ready to help. The sports staff ably assists with scuba diving, snorkeling, banana boating, sunfish sailing, water skiing and windsurfing. Onboard activities include aerobics classes, talent night, fashion shows, music, folkloric dancing and, when in port, local entertainment.
Local Musicians in Grenada
The food is tasty, nicely varied and plentiful, with excellent presentation. There is an early-riser continental breakfast, as well as bountiful buffets for breakfasts and themed lunches, including on-island barbecues. Dinner is international in flavor. There is an extensive, wine menu (by the glass or bottle) and we particularly liked the house red with the Star Clippers label. We loved the open seating and casual wear policy.
Early-riser Continental Breakfast
Cruise Travel Tips
Pack lightly; quick-dry clothes and a good hat for shade are a must. Royal Robbins is the place to shop online for travel clothes and accessories (www.royalrobbins.com). Their pants and shirts are durable, comfortable and look good. Watch for sale items online.
Tilley hats set the standard for headgear (www.tilley.com). They pack easily, have a cult-like following and my wife and I always travel with them.
When in port, head to the local library if you need to go online. Take small bills for tips, etc. Don’t forget your camera, battery charger and adapter. Finally, pictures may be worth a thousand words but keep a daily journal.
Information & Websites
Barbados – As the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles, it is positioned away from Hurricane Alley and a short distance from the Grenadines and Windward Islands. There is an international airport with abundant flights. Logon to www.barbados.org for information. Note: Delwyn Layne was our tour guide in Barbados. He is knowledgeable, friendly and a wonderful travel host. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amaryllis Beach Resort – Find specials and reservations online at www.amaryllisbeachresort.com. The hotel is 10 minutes from Bridgetown and 20 minutes from the airport.
Harrison’s Cave – www.harrisonscave.com.
St. Nicholas Abbey – www.st.nicholasabbey.com.
Fishpot Restaurant – www.littlegoodharbour.com.
Dominica – Destination details can be found at www.discoverdominica.com. Our official tour guide was Peter Green of Bushman Tours. This guy is terrific, knows his stuff and takes joy in his ambassadorship role. Contact him at email@example.com.
Star Clippers – Mega yachts, the cruise industry term for small ships, are able to visit islands and ports often inaccessible by larger vessels. Star Clipper, Star Flyer and Royal Clipper, the crown jewel of the fleet, are in that category and even more distinctive because they are sailing ships. Go to www.starclippers.com for reservations, schedules and information or call 1-800-442-0551.
Safe travels and enjoy the journey…
Thanks to the various websites for information and photos. Before you go please check details, dates, rates, hours and availability. Some restrictions may apply.