Barbados is very accessible for land and sea vacationers. Barbados has numerous non-stop flights, especially from Europe. If you are cruising, it's a good island to extend your vacation either before or after you sail. Many cruise lines embark or disembark in Barbados for just this reason. The island features some of the Caribbean's most famous and expensive hotels. Many Europeans and North Americans flock to Barbados in the winter time, returning to the same hotels or cottages they have visited for years. Barbados also has trendy, fashionable restaurants and exciting nightlife accompanying the many hotels lining the calm Caribbean western coast of the island. Winter is definitely "high" season in Barbados, with one or more cruise ships visiting each day. However, since the island has a well-developed infrastructure of hotels, restaurants, cottages, and shops, the ships don't impact Bajan's everyday life as much as on other islands.
Barbados is relatively easy to tour independently. Cruise ships dock at the Bridgetown pier about 2 km (1 mile) from downtown Bridgetown. Cruise ships usually have several shore excursion options, but you might want to either rent a car and explore on your own, hire a taxi, or just go into Bridgetown. There are car rental agencies located right outside the terminal. We rented a mini-moke with open sides, which was perfect for exploring (and getting lost), at least until it rained!
Driving is on the left, and the car rental agency will sell you a driver's permit for about $5. The car rental will run about $75/day. My husband did a wonderful job of getting us around the island, even navigating the numerous roundabout traffic circles while driving on the left. The roads are winding, unmarked, and sometimes uneven; therefore, no one drives very fast, so we just laughed as we sometimes went around the circles more than once trying to figure out which road to take and how to exit! Fortunately, Barbados is only 21 miles long, so it is difficult to get too lost.
If you are driving around Barbados, be sure to stop in at Harrison's Cave. This small cave is filled with colorful stalagtites and stalagmites. It would be a good place to take kids if the weather is bad.
If you don't wish to drive, there are taxis at the cruise ship terminal that will take you to Bridgetown or one of the beaches. Downtown will cost about $4-$5, most other fares to the beaches or tourist sites run less than $20. You can also hire a taxi with a guide/driver for the day for $125 or more, depending on the number of hours. We used Mr. St. Clair on our last trip to Barbados. He was an excellent driver, and his perspective of Barbados from a native's point of view was very interesting.
If you want to stay close to Bridgetown, the city has some pretty walks along the harbor. Bridgetown also has plenty of shops along Broad Street, the main shopping center. Local artisans work at the Pelican Craft Centre on Princess Alice Highway, which is between Bridgetown and the cruise ship terminal. Bajan souvenirs such as mahogany wood carvings can be found at the Best of Barbados gift shops, one of which is at the cruise ship terminal.
Barbados has the Caribbean on its west coast and the Atlantic on its east coast. This location makes the two sides of the island have a completely different look. Snorkeling and swimming are good along the calmer west coast of Barbados, and the Folkestone Marine Reserve has an underwater snorkel trail. Mullins Beach, just north of Folkestone, also has good snorkeling and swimming. With a car, there will be time to drive across the island and see the beautiful coastal scenery on the wind swept eastern coast near Bathsheba, and still have time to take a swim in the safer waters of the western coast.
Most cruise ships offer many organized shore excursion activities. Our cruise on the Seven Seas Mariner had 11 choices for a one-day stopover! With the exploring, swimming, snorkeling, shopping, and sightseeing, Barbados' reputation as a cruise passenger favorite is certainly well deserved.