Two things I love about Barbados: beaches and shopping.
This former British colony, independent since 1966, is an important center of commerce in the Caribbean, most of it centered in the capital, Bridgetown. The cruise terminal sits just a little over a mile from the heart of the city. As soon as we make our way through the maze of shops inside the terminal we emerge into sunlight and walk a short distance to a well-organized taxi stand. Shared vans are the norm here, and prices are per person, not per vehicle. Most people are headed to one of two places: the shops in Bridgetown or the beaches. I opt for sand over duty-free diamonds, at least for the time being.
Carlisle Beach is one of the closest to the cruise terminal and among the most popular, so we follow the crowd to Harbour Lights, a bar, grill, nightclub and beach facility where daytime visitors can rent umbrellas and beach chairs, book tours to snorkel and swim with turtles, and order bottles of the local Banks beer by the bucket. We settled in for a session of sunbathing, laughing at a pair of dogs stretched out on the sand in the cool shadows below the chaise lounges. What a life, I thought. Then it occurred to me: Aren’t we the same? But at least the dogs had the good sense to stay out of the sun while we roasted.
After a dip in the ocean and a stroll along the beach’s arc of clean, white sand, I found a seat by the grill and took advantage of Harbour Lights’ free Wi-Fi to catch up on some work. The cost of connecting to the Internet on cruise ships can add up and the signal can be weak at sea, so this was a perk I appreciated.
Cruise lines sell a few hours at Harbour Lights as a shore excursion. Insignia’s was priced at $69 per person including round-trip transport, beach chair with umbrella and a welcome drink. It departed from the ship at 8:40 a.m. We spent $20 apiece for the same, minus the drink, and came and went when we pleased.
Back at the cruise terminal, Bill boarded the ship while I browsed the shops, looking for gifts for the grandbabies and the neighbors watching our house while we are away. I also needed to replace the sunhat that blew off when a sudden gust of wind took me by surprise as I exited on the gangway. Somewhere a sea turtle is sporting a new look.
Along with the usual souvenir shops, post office and convenience store, the cruise terminal has duty-free outlets of The Royal Shop, Colombian Emeralds, Best of Barbados, Diamonds International and Harley Davidson. Downtown Bridgetown has more shops in addition to these, including Little Switzerland, Milano Diamond Gallery and Cave Shepherd selling perfume, jewelry, watches and leather goods. Shoppers looking for handmade items head to Pelican Craft Village and Chattel Village.
You can shop right on Insignia in two shops, one selling fine jewelry, the other Oceania logo items, resort wear, perfume, costume jewelry and sundries. The Currents daily newsletter advertises specials and jewelry presentations. I looked over the Tara collection of Tahitian pearls, the Longines watches, earrings from Tashka by Beatrice and a Roberto Coin bracelet. As his personal signature, Coin places a ruby hidden inside each of his pieces, inspired by an Egyptian legend that says a ruby worn close to the skin promotes long life, health and happiness. Tomorrow we celebrate New Year’s Eve on the Insignia. What more could one wish for in the New Year?