Continued.......Barbados, with its blend of white sand beaches, plush hotels and sophisticated restaurants, is the traditional tropical retreat for well-heeled travellers escaping the European winter. In recent years, it has also become popular in summer and is a perennial favourite among movie stars and Premiership footballers – as well as former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has holidayed here with his family.
The west coast, known appropriately as the Platinum Coast, is where you’ll find expensive, swanky hotels such as Sandy Lane, while the untamed east coast, on the Atlantic side of the island, is a rugged stretch of coastline famous for its rolling waves and unspoilt beaches.
The south coast is home to some of the island’s best beaches and the liveliest atmosphere, with St Lawrence Gap’s bars, cafés and shops at the centre of the action.
Barbados’s capital, Bridgetown, is a lively, cosmopolitan hub with some of the best shopping of any Caribbean island – but don’t expect a Caribbean alternative to Oxford Street or Fifth Avenue.
It is also worth exploring the pretty countryside, dotted with old plantation houses, traditional churches and cricket pitches, or grabbing your golf clubs and heading for the island’s four highly-rated courses. For the more active, there is an excellent choice of water sports, as well as hiking or cycling in the interior.
Barbados has a modern, spacious cruise terminal which opened at Barbados Port in 1994. It houses more than 20 duty-free shops, craft stalls, a post office, communications centre with internet links and a Barbados Tourism Authority information office where you can find details of tours, taxis and bus services.
The two restaurants at the port are Coconuts and Millie’s Snack Bar. The former is the more formal of the two, where the average meal is about £6.50, while at Millie’s lunch costs about £4.
A few minutes’ walk from the main building is the Pelican Village Craft Centre, made up of stalls built in the style of traditional Bajan chattel houses and said to be the largest arts and crafts centre in the Caribbean. It houses 25 shops, a gallery, and a small cafe.
The cruise terminal is one mile from Bridgetown – about a 20-minute walk. Alternatively, there are plenty of taxis and the fare into the capital is around £1.
Due to security reasons, local tour companies are not allowed to hawk for business at the terminal and are only allowed in to pick up customers who have pre-booked tours. Independently-minded passengers wanting to arrange their own tours – as opposed to ship excursions – need to make arrangements in advance.
What to see/excursions
Bridgetown is worth visiting for a morning to browse in the shops and stop for a coffee by the waterfront to watch the boats sailing by. However, there isn't really much else to hold visitors' attention for long - Barbados's main attractions lie outside its capital.
The best way to get a feel for the island is through an island tour, preferably in a Jeep or a 4x4 vehicle. This allows tourists to see the luxury villas and hotels of the Platinum Coast, before cutting inland to drive through pretty villages and admire the old churches and undulating countryside of the hilly Scotland region.
Cherry Tree Hill, at 850ft above sea level, offers fabulous views of Scotland and the untamed east coast. From here it is easy to explore the relatively untouched region and watch the Atlantic rollers crash on to the sands.
One of the more famous parts of this coastline is Bathsheba, with its huge boulders and shallow inshore pools that are perfect for bathing in – unlike the rest of this coastline with its dangerous rip tides and currents.
Once past Bathsheba, tours usually continue on to the south coast, the liveliest part of the island with buzzing hubs such as St Lawrence Gap and familiar-sounding places such as Hastings, Brighton and Worthing. There’s also the fishing village of Oistins, famed for its weekly Friday fish fry-ups.