Barbados was very hot and humid, but that was good – sun and heat always work well when there are beaches involved! Barbados was also where Balmoral would meet her sister, Braemar, for a few hours. Braemar was the first Fred. Olsen ship I cruised on (back in 2014) and we’d only ever passed each other from a distance since. It was nice to be within arms length this time, even if I couldn’t get onboard and reminisce for an hour or two.
Before leaving on the cruise, I had pre-booked an evening excursion which included dinner and a show on a local beach, but because our itinerary had changed, the tour was subsequently cancelled. As soon as we found out that the tour had been cancelled, we made our way towards the onboard tours desk and booked something else: the newly added beach hop option. I didn’t get to see a great deal of Barbados the last time I was there, so at least this way I could sample a few tropical beaches and enjoy the scenery on the journey between them!
We left the port on the Bajan bus – an open-air jitney bus that was used on the sugar plantations in bygone days – and what a way to start the day it was! We drove through historic Bridgetown before heading for 3 different beaches: Accra Beach, Dover Beach and Pebbles Beach. I think Pebbles Beach was my favourite. The tour changed my perception of Barbados and I’m incredibly glad that it did! If you like the idea of beaches, rum punch and a lot of laughing, then this is the tour for you! It was only 4 hours in duration, so if you had a full day in Barbados, you’d still have time to explore Bridgetown on foot. Our driver and guide (Deon and Dre) were fantastic, a real breath of fresh Barbadian air, and they truly did make our day a memorable one! Thanks to that tour, I can say that I’m looking forward to returning to the island at some point in the future. It’s so vibrant and alive, but I didn’t see that during my previous visit.
Our next stop was St Lucia and we had a day at Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa to look forward to. My friend and I were picked up from the port and whisked away to a tropical paradise in Rodney Bay. We introduced ourselves to the friendly reception staff and were promptly shown around the grounds. We’d only been there a few minutes before we had a prime spot on the beach and a soft drink in hand.
The resort is picture perfect from all angles and it is much-less crowded than the rest of Reduit Beach – sun lovers were packed in like sardines further down the golden sand, but my friend and I lounged like queens, with several feet of space between us and the next duo of sun loungers. We relaxed and soaked up the atmosphere for several hours – I even hired a jet ski for a while a little further down the beach – before heading to the resort’s Hi Tide Restaurant, which offers views across Reduit Beach. The food on the menu was varied and everything sounded good. I decided I’d have calamari to start and followed that with a chicken roti and fries – both dishes were tasty and the roti was huge.
I would absolutely recommend a day pass for Bay Gardens if you are visiting on a cruise. Our passes offered a delicious two-course lunch, four beverages per person (including house brand alcoholic drinks), a courtesy hotel room for the day (subject to availability) and a choice of a 20-minute massage, two non-motorized watersport activities or a complimentary half-day pass to Splash Island Park. Day passes are available for Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa and Bay Gardens Hotel & Bay Gardens Inn – all of which are in Rodney Bay village. If you’d prefer, the hotel will also arrange your transportation to and from Castries – my friend and I went with this option and the transfers were seamless. We left Bay Gardens with smiles on our faces, and should I find myself in St Lucia again, you can look for me on the beach at Bay Gardens.
I used my beach day in St Lucia as an opportunity to try out a new pair of flip-flops from ItBeach. They are incredibly comfortable (made from a silicon PVC material) and because of the design, it feels like you are walking on cool gel – there are breathable vents underfoot for air circulation and you really can feel it. They aren’t cheap to buy, but they are absolutely worth it. You can browse the full range of sandals, shoes and boots on the ItBeach website.
The following morning, we arrived in Antigua and I was desperate to get ashore. Antigua was my first introduction to the Caribbean, back in 2013, and I’ve had a huge soft spot for the island ever since. As soon as the ship was cleared, we were off down the dock and into a taxi. Our destination: Dickenson Bay Beach. Again, this was my beach of choice during my first visit, but this time I’d arranged for my friend and I to spend the day at Coconut Grove: a restaurant and bar located in its own picturesque slice of heaven a little further down Dickenson Bay.
First impressions were fabulous. My friend and I were promptly greeted by Delroy and given the choice of where we would like to sit on the beach. It was early, so still quiet, and it truly felt like we had stumbled across our own section of paradise – even later in the day when it became busy, the small beach that Coconut Grove occupies never felt crowded. It was perfect! The service was very good, the drinks were fruity and cold, and lunch, well, lunch was the icing on the cake! I ordered coconut shrimp and sweet potato fries and I’m still thinking about the shrimps! They were bursting with flavour – I can honestly say that they were the best coconut shrimps I have ever had. If you’re visiting Antigua, then add Coconut Grove to your list, I’ll certainly be going back there in the future. You can get a taxi to the beach from the port for just $6 per person. Alternatively, Fred. Olsen also offered Coconut Grove as a 4 hour beach break excursion, so if you aren’t confident travelling there on your own, you might be able to book it through the onboard tours desk.
We sailed from Antigua and as the weather was glorious, my friend and I decided to dine in The Grill that evening. I had expected to be able to dine al-fresco – it seemed like the perfect evening to do so and would have given The Grill an added touch of something special – but this wasn’t the case. The food and service, however, were both superb. I ordered shrimp to start, followed by an 8oz fillet of beef. I couldn’t move by the end of the meal. I was very happy and very full! I spoke to several people onboard who had also relished in the culinary delights offered at the back of The Palms and I have nothing negative to report – give it a try on your next Fred. Olsen cruise!
The rest of the evening was spent out on the open deck, beneath the glow of the night sky. I don’t like to be cooped up inside when the air is warm and the sky is clear, I like to make the most of being able to sit outside before courses change and the weather, once again, turns cold. We spent several hours that evening sitting with friends, chatting and enjoying a few drinks. I think it was also that night we established that the incredibly bright star we had been discussing for the previous few days was in fact Venus!
We would spend the following 2 days at sea before reaching our next port of call, Trujillo, but it wouldn’t go as planned…