Barbados (Photo:Filip Fuxa/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Barbados

Barbados -- or B'dos, as the locals abbreviate the name -- was a British territory until 1966 and remains greatly influenced by the United Kingdom. Brits on holiday make up the largest number of visitors to the island. Driving is on the left-hand side of the road, and afternoon tea is a respected ritual. Anglican churches are the anchor of all 11 parishes, although, in recent years, more evangelical churches have become the choice of many Bajuns.

About Barbados


Pro

Between its friendly locals and general affordability, it's easy to explore Barbados independently

Con

Beware of the toxic Manchineel trees found on most Barbados beaches

Bottom Line

This cruise port showcases its culture well, amid all the trappings of a modern Caribbean destination


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But those of all nationalities will feel at ease there. The Bajuns are open, friendly people, proud to share their home with visitors. There's little crime and a general sense of safety and well-being.

The easternmost of the Caribbean islands, Barbados is technically in the Atlantic Ocean. An excursion to Bathsheba on the rugged eastern shore leaves no doubt about the vast forces of the Atlantic, unchecked for nearly 3,000 miles between there and the coast of Cape Verde, Africa. Some say the freshest air on the planet blows there. The surf looks gentle, but don't be fooled -- the undertow is something to be wary of, even for the best swimmers.

Despite heavy development along the western and southern coasts, the rest of the island is full of sweeping natural vistas, from rippling fields of sugar cane in the interior to the Atlantic surf pounding against the cliffs at the island's northernmost tip. The island rewards independent exploration; rent a car or hire a driver to see its unspoiled side.

Though today the sugarcane fields speak more to the island's past than its present (tourism, not agriculture, now drives the Barbadian economy), visitors can still experience the island's heritage at a number of plantation houses and rum distilleries. If you'd rather skip the history lesson, there are plenty of places to just get away from it all, from Bridgetown's duty-free department stores to the soft, white beaches of the south coast.

Where You're Docked

Ships dock at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal, about a mile west of downtown Bridgetown.

Good to Know

Manchineel trees, found on many Barbados beaches, are beautiful and leafy green, appearing to be a great place to escape from the sun or the occasional rain shower. Don't do it. The leaves and fruit are both toxic and can create a serious rash on your skin. Most of the trees in public areas are marked with warning signs or red X's painted on the trunks.

Also, note that, in Barbados, honking car horns do not convey a negative message as they do in many parts of the world. The Bajuns tap their horns dozens of times a day in greeting to other drivers, whether or not they are acquainted. It's just the friendly way of life there.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the Barbadian dollar. Check the most current exchange rates at www.xe.com or www.oanda.com. American bills (but not coins) are commonly accepted, though you may get change in local currency. ATM's are plentiful in Bridgetown, the capital city, and in other smaller towns throughout the island.

Language

English is the official language of Barbados, and everyone speaks it. The locals have their own dialect, but you'll have no trouble understanding conversations.

Shopping

Islanders are quite proud of their local, family-owned pottery business, Earthworks. Although the studio itself, located mid-island, requires a taxi or shore excursion to visit, it is worth your time. In addition to watching the potters at work and finding a functional clay treasure of your own, you can browse the work of artists in other mediums at the adjacent studio. (Edgehill Heights, St. Thomas Parish; closed Sundays)

If you don't make it to the Earthworks Studio, look for a selection at several gift shops around the island, including any of the Best of Barbados boutiques and the Cave Shepherd department store in Bridgetown.

Another great little gift for those back home is a bag of Barbados brown sugar. It's harvested and processed right on the island. A cute canvas bag tied in red ribbon holds about 1.5 cups and costs just a few dollars. These, too, are found in several gift shops, including the Best of Barbados.

Best Cocktail

Try anything with Mount Gay Rum. That's the local label, the oldest existing rum distillery in the world, and Bajuns are quite proud of it. A basic Rum Punch or Rum Runner is served at every restaurant and bar on the island. The local beer is Banks. Tours of the brewery and Mount Gay distillery are fun times.