Barbados was our last stop on the cruise, and we were feeling the combination of too many late nights, too much sun, and the double-bonus sickness. We were supposed to go snorkel with sea turtles, but my seasickness and Matt’s killer sunburn made that seem like a terrible idea. We were totally happy just going to wander around Bridgetown and see the land of rum, though.
The cruise port is a ways from town, and they encourage you to take cabs. That’s not our style unless it’s absolutely necessary, though. We took the path along the harbor and walked. Some other people were going that way, too, but surprisingly few, considering there were five cruise ships in port.
Barbados is a very British island, the kind of place where they still have tea at 4pm every day. Compared to the other places we’d been, it was the biggest city, and by far the cleanest. It was also very busy, hot, and insanely humid. We wandered into a few shops on our way to the Careenage, which was very cute:
Souvenirs in hand, we decided to catch a cab to the Mount Gay Distillery. It was our #1 priority, in terms of things to see in Barbados! On the way, we passed Kensington Oval, the famous cricket grounds.
Mount Gay was a little ways north of town, on a smaller piece of property than I’d expected. Granted, most of their operations occur at other locations.
We got tickets for the tour, and the first stop was the little museum, where they went over the history of Mount Gay. We saw a ton of old bottles (Matt was maybe drooling a little), and even saw one of the oldest pot stills in the world. That was way too exciting.
We then toured the bottling plant, but weren’t allowed to take photographs. The tour guide introduced us to a bottle known as “the one-legged man“: it’s the size of a 12-oz beer bottle, with the same kind of bottle cap. Which means you have to drink it all in one sitting, hence the name. Of course we had to get one of those.
After the tour, they led us to the bar for the rum tasting. We tried the Eclipse and the Extra Old. They showed us the really expensive 1703 as well, but there were no free tastes for that one. It was funny how shocked some of the visitors were at drinking rum straight.
After the tasting, Matt and I shopped like crazy people. We got a bottle of the 1703 (it was $80, but that’s about half the price it sells for in the US), a one-legged man, and various other souvenirs for ourselves and other people. It was by far my favorite souvenir-shopping of the trip. We got a couple of rum punches at the bar, and sat around watching Chelsea-Pompey on TV.
Post-distillery, we decided to walk back to the cruise port and get our stuff for the beach. That may not have been the best decision, though, because it was a lot farther than we expected. And a lot hotter. And it wasn’t very clear how to get there. We managed to find it eventually, though.
By the time we got near the port, we realized that we wouldn’t have much time at the beach before having to turn around and come back, so we decided to hop a cab into town for lunch instead. We got a couple of Banks beers at the port, then caught a cab. Matt asked the driver his name, and he introduced himself as Christopher.
He avoided the traffic on the main streets and instead drove through the neighborhood, where everyone waved and said hi to him. It was apparent that Christopher probably knew 90% of the people in Bridgetown. He told us he’d lived there 40 years, and answered all our questions about hurricanes (they tend to blow right over Barbados, because it’s a reef island instead of a mountainous volcanic one). That’s apparently what also makes for the excellent beer and rum.
Christopher dropped us off at Big John’s, a local fast food restaurant serving all Caribbean food. I was wary til I saw that amongst the many roti options, they had mock duck. WIN. We ordered food and brought it upstairs to eat.
I went for my camera to get a picture of our Barbadian fast food feast, but it wasn’t in its case. In fact, it wasn’t anywhere with me. It was, in fact, in the back of Christopher’s cab. Suddenly, I had zero interest in eating, and I wanted to cry. If there’s one thing (besides Matt) that I never want to lose on vacation, it’s my camera. Especially after having taken hundreds of photos.
We bundled everything up and ran outside to the nearest cab stand. It was ridiculous to ask about a cab driver about whom we only knew his first name, especially in a city with hundreds of taxis, but we had to try. We asked a couple of drivers about him, and they told us that there was more than one Christopher, obviously. We described him and his car, and for some reason they seemed to think they knew the guy. One of them asked, “was it 334?” (Referring to the cab number.) We had absolutely no idea, but it seemed like a lead. They said that his home cab stand was the one down a couple of blocks nearer the city center, and that we should go there and wait.
Despairing, we walked over to that cab stand. At least ten different cabbies asked if we needed a ride, so we told each of them the situation. I didn’t care if they thought I was a stupid tourist, I was willing to do anything to get my camera back. Everyone we talked to knew Christopher, and assured us that at some point he’d be back in that area. They also all made sure to inform us that someone could’ve gotten into the cab in the meantime, and may have stolen the camera. I was well aware of that, unfortunately.
The cab stand was at the center of a triangle, the intersection of at least three main streets. We picked a vantage point where we could watch all of them, and looked for similar cars matching that number. After standing there for 20 minutes or so, we were approached by another cabbie, so I explained again what was going on. He told us he knew Christopher personally, and asked, “did you tip?” That was the most critical part of the equation, it seemed, both as far as Christopher’s willingness to return, and whether or not the camera might be found. Not that we would consider not tipping a cab driver… but we were extra-glad that we had.
Rodney introduced himself, and said he might know someone who had Christopher’s cell number. He got two phones at once, and took down the number from his friend. It wasn’t til he actually got Christopher on the phone that we knew whether or not it was even the right driver. He told us that my camera was still in the backseat, and I started crying.
Christopher returned shortly afterwards, and I gave both him and Rodney $20 and thanked them profusely. Rodney told us he’d give us a ride back to the cruise port for free. I’m sure he was just in a hurry to get the hapless tourists out of his town, but I didn’t care: I had my camera back, and Barbadians had earned my love permanently.
Matt and I went to the bar at the cruise port, got a table and a couple of Banks beers, and finally ate our long-overdue lunch. I could not have been happier about life at that moment. Here’s the first photo from my recovered camera, the one I’d been intending to take in the first place:
Other people were having an equally great, if different, time in Barbados. We suspected these guys didn’t even leave the port!
After eating, we shopped at various very-crowded shops in the cruise port complex. There were many ships docked there that day, and everyone seemed to be leaving within an hour of one another. We all scrambled to shop, and Matt and I managed to find some really great stuff: a straw purse for his mom, Banks dominoes for his dad, some Angostura orange bitters from the duty-free shop, and then the next greatest thing to happen to me that day: I FOUND GO AHEAD IN THE GROCERY STORE. (It’s hard to explain why I love them so much, but I’ve only ever found them in one specific shop in the Bahamas, and I obsess about them constantly.) I bought six packages, and we hauled our many shopping bags out to the shuttle bus stop.
We crammed onto the bus, rode to the ship, and had to dig several bottles of rum out of our bags so security could bundle them up for us. It was pretty funny. It seemed we were some of the last people boarding, too.
We showered and sat on the balcony to watch the sunset in Barbados. I kept dozing off in my chair, so we went to take a quick nap once we were at sea.
We awoke at 6:30 and went up to the pool deck to take advantage of that day’s $5 drink special. We hung out on deck for a while, during which time I scribbled in this very travel journal. Well, the paper version. There was another sushi boat, too!
We headed down to the coffee bar, but Velika wasn’t working. Matt was embarrassed to order a French Kiss from a male bartender, so he got something else instead. We played a fast game of Scrabble, then went to the room to change for formal night. We had reservations at the Normandie at 9pm!
The Normandie is the very fancy restaurant on the ship, and is decorated with objects from the original SS Normandie. It costs an additional $35 per person, and it’s worth it, especially on formal night. We ordered champagne and were brought the bread basket, then an amuse-bouche of mango soup in a tiny tureen. (I would’ve taken pictures of everything, but I didn’t want to be tacky!) After that, a goat cheese bechamel souffle in a puff pastry cage for me and scallops Wellington for Matt. Then anjou pear in phyllo with a tiny salad, and for Matt a salad containing all the ingredients in an Egg McMuffin, but way better.
The entree was vegetables primavera for me, and steak and lobster for Matt. The service was formal, which always makes me feel a little uncomfortable, but the waiters were very friendly. They even removed the lobster from the shell for Matt. After dinner, they brought us Manhattans from the bar in fancy crystal glasses, and wouldn’t let us refuse to order a dessert, so we chose the miniature dessert sampler to share, figuring it would be the smallest.
They brought a tiered tray of tiny desserts, and we thought that was perfect: we could each have a bite of every item, and not be stuffed to the point of having to vomit in buckets. Then they informed us that wasn’t our dessert, that was the dessert appetizer. Seriously.
The dessert sampler was fantastic, though. And the Normandie is worth it, but you’d probably be better off starving yourself for three days before you go.
After dinner, we went to Revelations for the formal night dance party. The place was packed for once, which was fantastic. There was a huge buffet in the back with desserts and breads (we wanted to die a little), and amazing ice sculptures. We recognized most of the servers and bartenders from other locations on the ship, and Winston from Jamaica was our waiter.
We got a little table, ordered cocktails, and did some hardcore people-watching. I noticed a stir in the middle of the room, and realized it was our bartender, Mehmet, from the bar where we’d had Manhattans a few nights ago. He had what was essentially a fancy ice luge set up for martinis: he’d put everything in the shaker, toss it around over his head with a lot of flair (to the intense delight of every lady who passed), then pour it down the ice luge into a waiting glass below. He was absolutely loving the attention, so I decided to go over there for my next drink.
I ordered a Grey Goose l’Orange martini, and we ended up talking about favorite drinks. He asked about mine, so I told him about the Manhattan I’d had at dinner. It turned out he’d made it to be sent to the restaurant, so we discussed favorite bourbons and such. I told him I preferred Maker’s, so he said we should stop down to his bar the next night and he would make one special for us. Mehmet instantly became my favorite bartender on the ship, and that’s saying something.
I headed back to our table with the world’s largest martini, and it took all I had to not spill it. Walking with a martini glass in heels on a rocking ship? Not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I found Matt there drinking Patron on the rocks. BIG PIMPIN’.
The band finished up around midnight, and a DJ who was not Ron Hollywood took over. We were just thrilled to be able to stay up late and dance again, because it was the first night of the entire cruise where we wouldn’t be in port at 7am. Hooray for sea days!
The crowd thinned out pretty quickly after the DJ started, but a group of Americans stuck around to dance. We requested ‘Rompe’, and got a bunch more reggaeton. I ended up on the dance floor barefoot in my dress. It was awesome, and everyone protested loudly when the DJ had to shut down at 2am. Regardless, we had a great time.