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December 23rd 2017
Published: December 31st 2017
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Barbados is a single island on the eastern fringes of the Windward Islands and more specifically is situated directly east of the Grenadines. The island is considered by many to be the closest thing to England in the Caribbean. The Bajans, as the islanders call themselves, tend to appropriate rather than adapt English customs, and like to think of themselves as their own people, but there are old stone Anglican churches in every parish, horse races on Saturdays, and portraits of the Queen hanging on plenty of walls. Its most famous inhabitant is still the great Sir Garfield Sobers, for whom a large poster peers over the Immigration Hall in the capital, Bridgetown.

We in fact had three different visits to Barbados - pre-cruise, where we stayed overnight at the Radisson and signed on for the first cruise next day, and which was reported on in my first blog of this series; mid-cruise, ie the Saturday between the two cruises, in which we stayed mainly on board reading, swimming, eating, drinking and sleeping, which doesn't bear any further narrative; and post-cruise, in which we did our final organized excursion which I will discuss below.

To bridge the time gap between leaving the cruise boat in the morning and our late afternoon flight to the US, we decided to do the five hour ‘Flavour of Barbados - Island Discovery Tour’. This had the added benefit of delivering our suitcases to the airport so we didn’t have to lug them around Bridgetown all day.

The tour started by taking us up the west coast, giving us a glimpse of some of the villas owned by the rich and famous. We passed through Holetown and Speightstown before moving inland to check out Farley Hill National Park and a great view down to the East Coast. We then had a stop at Bathsheba, a well known surfing spot in Barbados, where the large rocks beside the sea were more impressive than the surf. Following that we visited St John’s Parish Church and graveyard before proceeding to lunch at the Sunbury Plantation. We had a brief tour of this historical house, viewing clothes and implements that must have been familiar to our grandparents. From there it was a short drive to the airport to pick up our cases and start the move to the US. I would have to offer this as an example of an overpriced tour at AUD130 each, with the main benefit being that it killed the day until our late afternoon flight and delivered our heavy cases to the airport for us.

Our departure from Bridgetown Airport was hardly more streamlined than our arrival there two weeks ago. We arrived to find the American Airlines line over 100 metres long and they hadn’t even opened the check-in at that time. Fortunately we were there over 3 hours before our flight, as the queue got to over 150 metres before they started to process the flights. Having checked in the bags, there was yet another 100 metre line for the oh so friendly baggage security check and personal X-ray, but we finally made it to our first flight in good time. However I won’t be distressed if I never see Bridgetown Airport again in my lifetime!

The fun didn’t stop there. On arrival at our interim AA airport hub in Charlotte NC, after touchdown on the tarmac we were held there for 25 minutes before reaching our gate due to a dozen or so earlier arriving aircraft. On reaching our gate, we then had to wait a further 20 minutes for the engineers to get the bridge to operate. Thus our 2 hour transit time in Charlotte was reduced to just over an hour, and in this time we had to clear US Immigration and Customs. And you guessed it - the Immigration hall was chockablock due to all the incoming flights that had held us up on the tarmac. The only consolation was that most of the incoming passengers were Americans, so we hit the Visitors line and got through in about half an hour. With another half hour before our flight, we thought we were laughing. Not so! It took us all this time to line up and pass through another ever so friendly security screening, finally emerging 5 minutes before our flight to DC was scheduled to leave, with the indicator advising departure ‘On time’. And guess whose flight was leaving from the most distant gate in the whole terminal? After giving our respective crook knees a solid workout, we finally reached our gate to find they had kindly held the flight for us for an extra 5 minutes or so. An hour later, we finally reached Washington National Airport just before midnight, to be greeted by a temperature of minus 6 degC, and with my suitcase once again broken by US Customs (irretrievably this time!), but anything felt good after this 12 hours of travel time.

My final blog of this series will wrap up the trip and offer my reflections on the Caribbean as a destination and the 'Royal Clipper' as a way to see it.

Additional photos below
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6th January 2018

We got married in Barbados in 1994
You've brought back some wonderful memories. Love the Bathsheba coast. Loved your story of airport check in..... Caribbean style.
6th January 2018

Per my initial blog, the exit from Bridgetown was actually easier than the entry, but after 42 hours duration travelling time, I think 10 minutes would have felt too long processing us on arrival. But that is the price you pay these days to travel, and I suspect I could almost write a full book on Immigration and Customs experiences around the world as I worked out I’ve crossed over 1,000 country borders between my business and personal travels, and I’ve experienced some classics. I wish you could do something about your weather over here - I’m sick of staying indoors!

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