Barbados Cruise Port Offers Great Beaches and Much More
The Barbados cruise port at Bridgetown gave us beaches galore, a surprising first impression and a series of good second impressions.
Maybe we were spoiled by the beautiful harbor at Castries, St. Lucia, which was surrounded by hillsides filled with flowers and lush greenery. We saw St. Lucia on an eastern Caribbean cruise just before our visit to Barbados.
The Bridgetown harbor was a startling change because of the freighters, commercial docks and other signs of a bustling economy. It didn’t have the natural beauty of the St. Lucia harbor. No matter. We soon had a good time anyway.
Cruise Port Terminal
Cruise ships dock at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal, which is about one mile west of the city center. Disembarking passengers can find plenty to see at and near the terminal.
The terminal itself has more than 60 duty-free shops that sell the usual souvenirs and other items at large Caribbean ports: clothing, leather goods, crystal, jewellery and liquor. It also has open-air vendors that sell Bajan cuisine and local beers.
Chattel House is a shopping area just outside the terminal, and the Bridgetown Public Fish Market is right across the street. Cruise passengers go there to watch locals cook, peddle and haggle over purchases.
Anyone with enough energy to walk one mile downtown can stop halfway at Pelican Craft Centre on Princess Alice Highway. “The Centre boasts 25 retail shops, 14 workshops, a gallery and annex, a wine bar and bistro, a restaurant and an impressive artist wall,” Barbados Tourism Marketing says. The agency also claims the center is the largest of its kind in the Caribbean dedicated to local arts and crafts.
Beaches Near the Cruise Port
Some of us love Caribbean beaches even more than shopping. Barbados has several beaches near the cruise port: Brownes Beach to the south and Brandons, Brighton and Batts Rock to the north. None are within easy walking distances except for anyone who is willing to walk at least a mile. Hot suns will make the walk more uncomfortable.
Anyone who signs up for a beach excursion from a cruise line will likely end up at Brownes Beach. This large stretch of beach is south of the city center at about 1.5 miles from the cruise terminal. It begins just below the Constitution River, which cuts through the middle of the city. A bit oddly, it begins with the name of Brownes Beach and then changes to Bayshore Beach, Pebbles Beach and back again to Brownes Beach.
People who take a taxi to the city center could just cross over Constitution River and walk a half mile to Brownes Beach.
A typical cruise line excursion to just the beach costs about $40 per person with discounts for children. Note that some beach excursions include a chair and umbrella while others may not. Some also include a complimentary drink or snack. These excursions usually last about four hours including transportation time.
Have you gone to Barbados? Would you recommend it or go back again?
Anyone who wants to go on their own away from the crowds at Brownes Beach may have a little more elbow room going north.
Brandons Beach is closest to the cruise terminal and starts about one mile to the north. It eventually merges with Brighton Beach. They offer a long stretch of soft white sand. Chairs and umbrellas are available for rent.
Brandons Beach is the best option for anyone on a budget who is willing to walk there and doesn’t want to pay shore excursion prices. If the walk back is too hot in the afternoon, taxis are sometimes available.
Beach and Resort Combinations
Cruise lines and other shore excursion operators will take visitors to beaches next to resorts and include resort amenities as part of a package. Amenities include chairs, towels, pool access and sometimes a complimentary drink. These excursions usually cost between $50 and $100 per person with discounts for children.
Beach and Swimming with Sea Turtles
We chose a three-hour excursion that includes both a brief beach visit and swimming with sea turtles at Turtle Bay. This combination costs about $75 per person. More about the sea turtles below.
Other Great Things to Do
Walking Around Attractions
While in Bridgetown, consider some of the historical attractions worth a look. They include St. Mary's Anglican Church, built in 1825; the Barbados Parliament Building, which has a beautiful clock tower and vaulted windows; and St. Michael's Cathedral, which was built in the mid-17th century.
People who walk or take taxis into the city center will usually travel along Princess Alice Highway. It eventually ends at Constitution River. Take a left on The Wharf Road to Lord Nelson Statue and National Heroes Square. (Note the nearby taxi stand for a return trip.) Walk over Chamberlain Bridge for nice views of the river or enjoy food and beverages at riverside restaurants.
On the way back, take note of Broad Street just beyond the Lord Nelson Statue. It is a major Bridgetown shopping district.
The highlight of our day at the Bridgetown cruise port remains one of our favorite memories of all our Caribbean vacations: swimming with sea turtles.
We took a catamaran from Bridgetown to snorkel around a sunken ship. We then went on to a spot near the shore where sea turtles gather and have become comfortable swimming with humans. They have learned to like people in part because the tour guides feed them.
Visitors jump into the water with snorkeling gear and float on the surface as the giant turtles glide back and forth only a few feet underneath. Afterward, we spent a brief time on a nearby beach to enjoy the sun. It was a great family excursion.
Don't want to swim with sea turtles? No problem.
Harrison’s Cave is a popular Barbados shore excursion in part because it Caribbean caves are rare. The cave has stalactites and stalagmites, crystal clear subterranean streams, and a waterfall that drops into a deep emerald pool. This three-hour excursion costs about $80 with discounts for children. (Prices are subject to change at any time.)
Other shore excursions include tours of the restored 17th century plantation of St. Nicholas Abbey and an underwater ride on the Atlantis submarine. Both excursions cost just under $100 for adults.
The island offers plenty of other recreational activities, especially golf at Barbados Golf Club, Rockley Golf Club, Sandy Lane, Apes Hill Club and Almond Beach Village.
Getting Around / Transportation
Getting around this big island with a population of 300,000 people requires a taxi, excursion bus, car rental or public transportation.
If you take a taxi, be sure to ask for rates before getting into it. Rates may be cheaper farther away from the cruise dock.
We walked the mile from the cruise port to the city center on our first visit and took a taxi on the second one. Moderately fit people should feel comfortable walking three to five miles in a Caribbean cruise port if temperatures aren't too hot-- if they like walking like wo do.
Weather / Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Barbados cruise port is mid spring to early summer for a combination of warm temperatures and low risk of rain.
Barbados stays warm throughout the year, but the rainfall patterns make a big difference between when to go and when to stay away.
Fall months are the worst times to go. The Caribbean hurricane season officially takes place between June 1 and November 30. The peak months for heavy rains and the potential for a nearby hurricane usually take place in September and October.
The summer months are popular despite being in the hurricane season, but bad weather is much less likely than during the fall.
© 2019 Scott S Bateman