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Barbados

A Summer's Birthday

Honeymoon - Barbados

all seasons in one day 29 °C
View Honeymoon on kmmk17's travel map.


Having a birthday in February has never been overly exciting, but spending my 30th in a lockdown, not being allowed to go anywhere or really see anyone was a particular low point. This year things had improved and we had ended up booking our honeymoon over my birthday, and so for the first time in my life I could wear shorts on it!

Today was our last full day on board, and a sea day as we headed back to Barbados. As usual we had breakfast, nabbed ourselves some sun loungers and joined in the quizzes. Sitting in the sun and around the pool, I was able to enjoy a summer's birthday for once!

Shorts in February

Shorts in February

After a lovely last day on deck, when we got back to the room I found a card from the captain wishing me a happy birthday. However the imminent end to the trip was lingering, and as the UK's Passenger Locator forms had not yet been abandoned, we were required to fill one, and given guidance of how to complete them as we were in the middle of nowhere. It was one of the few websites the on board Wi-Fi allowed access to - because of course, even in 2022, free Wi-Fi doesn't exist when cruising - no wonder there so few under 50s on board.

Birthday Cards

Birthday Cards

After having dinner, I decided to go for a wander around the ship for a final exploration. Even after two weeks on board there were still parts of the ship I hadn't seen. I went to the back of the ship, but coming across the Covid Isolation cabins, I made a quick dash.

Isolation Cabins

Isolation Cabins

Walking around the highest parts of the ship, there was a section that looked down on the pools covered in AstroTurf. In the night-time darkness I could see something odd and tried to focus my eyes on what looked like a dog!? Then I heard a noise, and realised to my horror, it was actually a couple trying to enjoy some private time.... I made another quick dash and headed back down towards the cabin. There'd been enough shocks for one night!

Up On Deck

Up On Deck

It had been a nice day, and certainly a lot better than last year, however in hindsight I'm not sure I really enjoyed it. There was no internet so I didn't get any birthday greetings, I had few cards as we'd needed to receive them a fortnight in advance to take them with us, I had no birthday cake, and it quite frankly just didn't feel like my birthday - it was like summer! It had felt like I'd missed it, just as we'd missed Easter 2018 when we'd visited Japan over the whole thing.

For half the ship, this was their last night on board, and so to enable this huge logistical challenge to run smoothly, we were required to leave our suitcases outside the cabin by 10pm that night.

Although the flights were not until the evening, and our pick up was not until 2pm, we had to vacate the cabin by 9am. We were allowed to leave the ship, but as additional Covid testing would be required at a charge, and as we had already seen what we wanted of Barbados on our first day, we decided to remain on board for this last day.

We had our breakfast and then went back to the room to collect our last bits. Then at ten to 9 a knock on the door from the maid - "you need to leave the room, it has been booked out from 9:30!". Well, we have until 9 I thought to myself. The door was propped open and we were being chased to leave.

Why should I care if someone has booked out the room for the day - we have it until 9, and why has an occupied room been booked out when half the ship is empty?! Yet another irritation...

We headed up to the pool to enjoy the last bit of heat. However it was an iffy day, and after three rainstorms we gave up trying to sunbathe. Unlike every other day, today we had not been given the newspaper telling us what was going on during the day, but it appeared there was nothing going on anyway. Quite ridiculous when today is the one day everyone was definitely out on deck.

One of the sunny intervals

One of the sunny intervals

At home, Storm Eunice, one of the strongest storms since 1987 was wreaking havoc, and like the St Jude Storm back in 2013, I was instead sunning myself in the Caribbean. The irony of missing hurricane force winds by being in the Caribbean instead...

However we soon got wind of just how much it would still affect us, as the flights this afternoon were all returns of those leaving the UK this morning, which had been affected. Two of the three flights were delayed, whilst the third (to Bournemouth) had been postponed until tomorrow. They would get a £25 onboard voucher, but would not receive their suitcases back despite the overnight delay - I'd rather have gone home!

As we had a long wait until our dinner on the plane and nothing better to do, we decided to head to the fancy restaurant for a final posh lunch. We were given a seat by the window and ordered a tikka buffet. Next thing a nearby table was occupied by another British couple who started chatting to us. They loved cruising, with her loving the ambience, whilst him liking the variety. Azura was nice, but apparently it was nothing like Cunard, with the white gloves!

Lunch Time

Lunch Time

She was lovely, but very very chatty. They asked where we were from, and when we said Luton, she told us she was originally from Hemel Hempstead - coincidently the town where I work. It all now started to make sense... she then proceeded to tell me all about Hemel in the 80s before she had left, like the Butcher's on The Ramp and asked me if I was in "the Hemel FB group". Of course I wasn't - I just work there.

After a lovely last meal on board, we headed back to the pool for a last bit of sun, and dipped our feet in the pool. We said goodbye to our Quiz friend, and then headed down to the other restaurant where everyone on our flight was waiting for the airport transfer.

Before long we were leaving the ship, getting on coaches and making our way across the island to the airport. Only this time we'd actually be heading inside the terminal building. After being wished that my birthday yesterday was nice at passport control, we were soon inside the terminal and before long sitting at the gate waiting to board. By now it was exhausting. It had been a long day, and our flight was still a few hours from leaving.

Goodbye Summer

Goodbye Summer

After a change in gate, we eventually managed to board the plane, and with many Grannies on board, for the first time ever we ended up being the first people to board the plane. After the drama of the flight tickets, we found our new seats were actually Premium Economy, and were reclining seats! When boarding was finished, surprise surprise, there were tonnes of free seats, including the entire row behind us, and several others in the vicinity. An absolute joke considering the aggro we'd been through a few days ago.

Annoyingly, the first round of service on board was for a glass of champagne, and so by the time the actual dinner came round I was too exhausted to eat. They asked if I as ok, to which Chris responded, "he's just shattered". The flight was only 8 hours and so overnight was tough going. It was now midnight Barbados time, and so 4am UK time.

I don't do well on overnight flights, struggling to sleep, and so by the time the 'breakfast' came round a few hours later, I was awake and ended up being one of the few on board who actually took it - at last my jet lag was sorted! Not long later we were landing at Gatwick, and after two weeks of acclimatised Caribbean heat it was freezing! We collected our suitcases and noticed that if we hurried, we could make the next fast train back to Luton.

We ran with the suitcases, made the next shuttle to the other terminal and arrived at the train station with a few minutes to spare before the next train. And then we waited... with there being a lot of damage from yesterday's storm there were knock on effects still, including our train being late. When it eventually did turn up it was decided that the train would in fact now stop at most of the stations it was planning to whizz through. In the end, we eventually arrived back in Luton around 45 minutes later than planned, and so by the time we got back home I only just about made it to bed for a nap before I collapsed... what a long journey...

It had been amazing to finally get on our honeymoon, and amazingly it had all gone to plan. I wasn't a cruise convert - I would go on one again, but equally I'd also go on a normal fly/hotel holiday too. It's just a shame that P&O were unable to provide a good quality holiday for us. I'm sure it was mostly because of Covid, but equally we had paid a lot of money and not received as good service as we should have. Maybe in a year or so when things are more settled they'd provide a better service.

Posted by kmmk17 16:47 Archived in Barbados Tagged airport sun caribbean birthday plane covid Comments (0)

Cruising the Caribbean

Honeymoon Cruise - London to Barbados

sunny 28 °C
View Honeymoon on kmmk17's travel map.


After every wedding, there's a honeymoon. Back in November 2019, we had booked ours. We would marry in July 2020, and four months later (avoiding the hurricane season) in the November, we would head off on a Caribbean Cruise. Then as we all know, a few months later it all went to pot. Covid came, and lingered. The stag do to Riga got cancelled, then the wedding was pushed back a year, and so I postponed the cruise by a further year, to November 2021.

The situation did not improve very quickly, and we had no idea whether the wedding would even take place. In the end it did, and we were fortunate to have delayed as much as we had, as little did we know the previous year, we were just 12 days from having to uninvite most of our guests! However, 6 weeks before our special day, we had been informed that the phased restart to the cruises would mean all on our ship up to and including ours would be cancelled.

Our wedding gift list revolved around our honeymoon, and people had lovingly bought us excursions for trips that were no longer happening! We had to make a decision on what to do about the honeymoon. We had spent a lot of time back in 2019 choosing the right one for us - visiting the places at the time we wanted to go. Either we rebook for a third time to the same cruise and ship, or we do something else entirely - the ship was not returning to the Caribbean for the next two winters, and other P&O cruises would not be visiting Grand Turk, one of the places we had wanted to visit most, but equally we were sick of continually rebooking things only for them to not happen at all.

In the end after weighing it all up, we decided we would risk it again, as we really wanted to go on this cruise, and things were improving! We therefore had to pick some new dates, and in the end we opted for the start of February - where we could get flights for London, and as an extra bonus we would be away for my birthday (making up for the Lockdown 30th the year before).

Then Omicron hit, the red-lists and hotel quarantines retuned and Christmas plans were once again ruined. The run up to the cruise was not fun - there was no excitement, just anxiety as to whether a) the cruise would even run, and b) whether we would be able to dodge Covid to be allowed to go. As the cruise neared, we received more information on the protocols we would need to follow. Barbados is one of the strictest places to visit in the Covid world - not only would we need a Covid test, but it needed to be a PCR undertaken by a medical professional, three days prior to the flight. We would also need to undertake a further lateral flow test at the airport 3-5 hours before our flight. Only if these were both negative would we be allowed to go. Fortunately P&O had been good throughout. They had let us rebook back in 2020, and had either of us been positive in these tests before the trip we would be able to reschedule the whole thing. But with everything scheduled and really not wanting to rebook for a fourth time, we were anxious!

We stayed at home for the last part of Jan, invested in some KN95 masks, and managed to test negatively in our PCR (despite the sore throats we had caused by the repeated lateral flows we'd undertaken all week in paranoia). Our flight was scheduled to leave at at 11:20am, but as we would need to go to an offsite car park for a lateral flow test at 7am, and Gatwick is already two hours from home, we decided to stay over at Gatwick the night before the flight.

Seeing the London sights en route to Gatwick

Seeing the London sights en route to Gatwick

We took the train from Luton on Thursday evening, masked up and seeing some sights as we passed Blackfriars Bridge, before checking in to a Premier Inn outside the North Terminal.

Getting a pretty appalling nights sleep, the next morning after leaving our luggage in our room, we took the bus to get our Lateral Flows. On board we met other hopeful passengers and discussed the mountain of paperwork we had had to fill in over the last few days (with a lack of guidance from P&O) to be allowed to go. Arriving at a marquee in an airport car park we went inside and took our tests. "Are you looking forward to your holiday?" they asked. "Until this comes back negative and I'm on that plane, I don't believe it's happening" I thought.

Thankfully 15 minutes later, no positive line had appeared, and we were finally off on our trip - thank God for that! Could you imagine if at this final hurdle it all went to pot? - later we would hear that for some, it had!

Negative!

Negative!

We then boarded the bus and headed back to the airport terminal - finally being able to get excited about going on this trip! We picked up the luggage we had left in the hotel, and went to check in for our flight. This was the first time I'd ever been on a cruise and P&O had chartered the flight. Therefore when we arrived we headed to a section of desks just for our cruise's passengers. After the pages and pages of documentation had been checked, we were handed our flight tickets and made our way into the departure lounge.

Our plane in rainy England!

Our plane in rainy England!

After a few hours, we were boarding the plane. Leaving a rainy and cold England, for the next two weeks we would be enjoying a brief bit of summer. Looking at the other passengers, the demographics were as expected - lots of grey hair, and no kids (as they couldn't be doubly vaccinated, they wouldn't be able to join). We managed to get the whole row to ourselves and after taking off and enjoying some on board movies, the trolley service came around a little later. Did we want any drinks? Well as we had finally allowed ourselves to be excited about the trip, lets have some alcohol! After hearing what they had on offer we settled on a white wine - two please. We were then given two white wines - each! Having skipped much of breakfast so as not to invalidate my LFT, this went straight to my head, and in the end I only had one, which was a good job as when they came around to give us some lunch, Chis knocked his over and it leaked over our trousers and the floor! He could finish my other wine, as we tucked into some food and sobered us up.

The flight to Barbados was around 8 hours, but as they were four hours behind we would be landing in the late afternoon, and so our later food offering was a light snack, so not as to ruin our dinners.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Eventually we landed in a lovely warm Barbados, where after disembarking the aircraft, we immediately boarded the plane, not even entering the terminal building. We would be driven across the island straight to the port, where we would show our final bits of paperwork, go through a security check and then finally board the ship.

Our Cabin

Our Cabin

We headed to our cabin, which we had selected in advance - a partially obstructed non-balcony room, giving us a view outside without costing us a bomb! We met the housekeeper who let us know about where to find our life jackets etc, and waited for our suitcases. In the meantime we went for a walk around the ship. Sussing out where we are, what's what, and where we needed to go. It was still a large ship, but others in the fleet are larger. Nevertheless there were 17 decks, four pools, various pubs, bars and restaurants. However it was clear that the planned refurb in April 2020 had not yet been carried out, particularly in the cabins.

The Atrium

The Atrium

We headed down to the reception to ask about the Covid protocols in port. We had prebooked some excursions already but wanted to know what the deal was. We wanted to explore every port, but were unsure where there were restrictions how much would we be able to see? Would we be able to explore the ports, or would we need to book excursions to even get off the boat? Every fortnight P&O produced a Covid guide on their website, advising of the current protocols. However when asking at both reception and the shore excursions desk we got conflicting information - there are no restrictions other than Grenada... right that's not what the website said. What about testing? Some ports needed us to Lateral Flow before we could explore... "well, if you need a test, go to the medical centre" - that's not the same, surely that little room isn't going to be testing the majority of the ship at once? It seemed the actual situation was completely different. Of course changeable, but generally we wouldn't need to test and would be free to wander around the port, and most of the landside too each day. I guess we will see what happens, but in the meantime, if there's tours we want let's book as it'll be easier!

In light of the Covid world, an online web portal had been developed, in which we could sign in, and book tours, activities and dinner slots. We booked some bits for our trip and then went off to grab some dinner in one of the buffet restaurants. Things (I guess) were different from usual - hand sanitizer stations everywhere and the buffet food being served to your plate

By now it was getting pretty late on a very long and busy day, so we headed back to our cabin for the night and finally received our suitcases a short time later. Normally we tend to live out the suitcase rather than unpack, however as we would be here for 2 weeks, and had a lot of stuff with us we actually did for once!

The following day, unsurprisingly we woke a little earlier than planned due to the jet lag, and after enjoying our first buffet breakfast on board, got ready to head out for our first day of exploration.

We headed down to Deck 4 to disembark, using our cruise ID cards to check out of the ship, and then walked alongside it towards the cruise terminal.

The Ship

The Ship

As we had undertaken a PCR and Lateral Flow to fly into Barbados, we did not need to do a test to get out of the port, however we did need to do a temperature check. Scanning our foreheads and getting a normal result, we then walked past all the shops and eventually made our way out of the port. We then took a left turn around the back of the huge port towards an unassuming residential street.

Rihanna's house

Rihanna's house

It used to be called Westbury New Road, however in 2017 it was renamed Rihanna Drive. We wouldn't see Rihanna, but we would get to see her childhood home.

Rihanna Drive

Rihanna Drive

We then made our way into the centre of town. It wasn't particularly big, but Bridgetown did have a few sights around National Heroes Square, with the parliament buildings, the bridge the town is named after, and the Independence Square.

Bridgetown

Bridgetown

After a little look around, we then headed towards the beach, which was absolutely beautiful! White sand and turquoise water, it was just as you imagine the Caribbean to be.

Brownes Beach

Brownes Beach

We spent some time swimming in the warm water and doing a bit of sunbathing, staying for around an hour or so before heading back. It was only 11am, but we were already feeling tired! The early start, jetlag, and lack of outside exercise for weeks at home meant this was exhausting!!

In the Sea in February!

In the Sea in February!

After stopping at the nearby supermarket to get some soft drinks, we headed back to the cruise ship. Temperature and security checks again, then in the cruise terminal we bought ourselves some souvenirs, before checking ourselves back onto the ship.

We then went and grabbed some lunch from the buffet, before heading outside to sit by the pools, and enjoy a Piña Colada. It didn't take long to overheat in the burning sun, so after around an hour or so we headed back to the cabin to cool off.

Piña Colada time

Piña Colada time

That afternoon we went for another explore of the ship, watching the other half of the ship's new passengers arrive from their afternoon flights, before we headed for a dinner in one of the A La Carte restaurants. Later that night we went to join in the pub quiz (no, we didn't win), as the ship left the harbour and began it's two week journey sailing around the Eastern Caribbean.

Posted by kmmk17 17:53 Archived in Barbados Tagged honeymoon beach caribbean swim covid Comments (0)

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