We are now fully settled into the ship’s routine of entertainment and mealtimes, supplementing it with trips to the cabin, gym and deck etc. Of course we could eat when we wish, skip an activity, or perhaps attend a club/group that we have rejected as being too active (Zumbah), uninteresting (Bridge) or beyond our abilities (dance/choir) to sign up to. However, there are plenty of alternatives but I guess it is human nature to find a way of enjoying your time without too much effort, and we have done that. It is a long cruise though and you never know, we may decide to join the amateur dramatics or even meet Bill W. We have 6 sea days to fill before Barbados!
Today was significant as the Palmer clan added a new family member, Harry the sandy coloured greyhound arrived in Rothwell. It was remarked that he bears the family nose, so shouldn’t have any trouble fitting in!
On our second sea day (13th Jan.) the ocean took its cue from the sun and was on its best behaviour. Warm blue skies emerged from the blustery, grey days of our passage so far from Europe, the surface of the waters gently undulating like a blueberry jelly, without the hint of any random creamy topping to catch the eye. No sign though of any wildlife, neither in the sea or air, just the occasional small amorphous bits of brown flotsam seemingly in a hurry to speed aft. Not even any other shipping. The on-board interactive map show us as following the mid-Atlantic ridge, roughly half way across this great expanse of water. Lemming like, onto the newly appeared sunbeds. One brave lady even entered the pool for a swim, testing the water for the presence of any killer whales, no one followed her. Sue and I kept to our routine of activities, welcoming the extra seating being afforded to those of us not yet eager to ‘tan-up’ quite this early in the adventure.
On the 15th I spoke to Sarah through the miracle of the internet, she had some bad news regarding their house move which should have taken place last Monday, it appears that their vendor is selling two properties in order to fund their onward move, but the other property unfortunately has a limited title deed which needs to be removed before the sale can take place. The buyer of Sarah and Lee’s house has sold with an exchange of contracts to his own house, therefore leaving him potentially homeless if the issue of the limited title deed is not solved a.s.a.p. Last minute problems in house moves are to be expected but can still be quite traumatic for all involved, I have every confidence that the solicitors will rise to the occasion and sort out a mess that they should have seen and sorted a month ago. They have a week to do so.
Back on board, the daily temperature has risen to 20 degrees and we had our first BBQ on deck. Sue tucked in with gusto but I had just returned hot from the gym and satisfied myself with my usual fayre from the salad buffet. Despite all the same activities going on, sunbathing appears to be the most popular pastime with passengers, most seemingly to be asleep. Sue and I soldier on with our daily selected list of ‘things to do’ except we now play scrabble up on deck rather than in the air-conditioned games room. As an elderly gentlemen mentioned to me at the coffee machine, “Life can be tough at times.” I agreed, “There aren’t many of us that can cope with such hardship!”
Oddly, our mornings activities on the 17th were interrupted by a second life-boat drill. We have never had two of these on board a ship before and neither have any of our fellow mariners standing dutifully on deck roasting under a searing sun. Though the sea we are skimming through does look rather calm, blue and inviting, plus according to the ship’s newspaper, it is now also quite warm, I hope our captain is just being over cautious and the crew aren’t secretly fighting an iceberg strike below the water line, I have no wish to check the editors’ accuracy on the sea conditions in person.
“Land Ahoy!’ was the cry Columbus heard as the island (later named Barbados) was sighted 400 years ago and on the 18th the cruise ship Columbus slipped quietly into Bridgetown (previously James Town) and took its place alongside the dock among four other cruise ships already moored up. Laying opposite the P&O ‘Britannia’, we seemed dwarfed in comparison, but to our rear was the much smaller Fred Olsen ‘Braemar’, ensuring that we had bragging rights over at least one set of cruisers’ that we may meet on shore.
The day was ideal with little puffs of cloud sliding across a blue backcloth, occasionally dimming what at first appeared to be a warming, friendly yellow disc, but would as the day progressed prove to be a not quite so friendly open oven door. After breakfast we left the ship and joined the thin line of rucksack carrying evacuees filtering into a crammed dock terminal, mostly seemingly bent on logging onto the WiFi, we joined them. Charlotte was online so we chatted for a while catching up on family news before again joining the line of escapees, first passing through a throng of eager taxi drivers keen to ferry us off to one sight or another, we declined.
Our walk into the town centre and its most popular tourist spot, “Broad Street’ took about 30 minutes with occasional stops, the longest being at the fish market where we saw the boats being unloaded of their catch, this seemed to be mostly tuna, one fish in particular was easily 2m long.
It was very hot, so ducking into shops to look at the merchandise was more an issue of survival rather than purchase, air conditioning can be a life-saver at times. Saint Mary’s church was at the end of this crowded street so we decided to investigate its cool interior. The front and side gates were locked and chained, but on further circumnavigation we found the rear gates slightly ajar and a gardener busy about his business, he said nothing as we walked past him and finding the church door open, we entered. It is a pleasant enough church, not fussy with decoration, obviously well used but not that well maintained. After a few photos, a wander around and a sit down to rest hot feet we emerged into the furnace to find and photograph the towns two central bridges, hence the name: Bridgetown.
This location is the centre of tourist activity as lying at the end of Broad Street it attracts those bent on shopping, plus being just a few hundred metres away from a local beach of white coral sand, those cruisers keen on sunnier activities pass through gripping towels and suncream. To take advantage of the passing trade are bars, gift shops and traders selling art etc. from stalls located on the bridge itself. We had a brief mosey around to see what was on offer, before purchasing tickets to the very impressive English style Barbados Parliament.
We began by working our way though the Museum of Parliament outlining the history of democracy on the island, it is the third oldest Parliament in the Commonwealth. From there we proceeded to the National Heroes Gallery of which according to the displays there are 10 of them, I found Garfield Sobers the most interesting (I have gone off politicians!) Next, we had a conducted tour of the debating chamber and then the Senate. Knowing the history of the island, unsurprisingly they are exact replicas of the British Parliament, I just hope that their representatives are not as self interested and deceitful as ours.
Fully politicised we set off in search of Saint Michael’s Cathedral. It wasn’t far, just a few (hotfooted) minutes walk away. As with St. Mary’s, all the usual gated entrances were barred against entry but after another circumnavigation we found an open entrance, but were stopped from entering by a sign indicating that the building was locked due to repair. It invited us to visit the grounds but we wanted the shade and cool of inside, not the heat of gravestones and concrete.
We returned to Broad Street and purchased a Christmas bauble that Sue had spotted earlier, before revisiting the area around the bridges and checking out the rather sad and dilapidated main outdoor market area. Apart from fruit and vegetable stalls there only appeared to be rather seedy local bar shacks, all in poor condition as was their local customers. We hurried back to the touristy gift shops along the little harbour on the other side of the bridge, very much a barrier between the the haves and the have nots. I bought a T-shirt and then guiltily dropped my change into the out held cup of a beggar crouched patiently on the bridge.
The beach was just a short walk away and that is where we went next. It was busy, yet there were plenty of sunbeds and umbrellas available. We could tell which beachlovers were from the Columbus as they had their distinctive blue and white striped bath towels with them. The brilliant white coral sand besides being the trademark of the Carribbean and cool underfoot is a great reflector of the sun’s heat and it wasn’t long before our slow amble along the beach, around beached jet-skis and toasting bathers had its affect. Wading through the surf had some cooling influence, but without getting fully immersed it was a battle we could not win as we had neglected to bring either swim-wear or towels. After around 40 minutes or so we left the beach to those much better prepared and made our way along the board walk towards the sanctuary of our metal home for the next couple of months. We stopped to purchase drinks at a supermarket before visiting the Pelican Art Centre located just out side the cruise terminal.
We hurried back to our cabin for cooling drinks and drop off the bags we had managed to fill in our foray into Bridgetown, than disembarking for a second time we returned to the WiFi inside the Cruise Terminal along with many passengers from the other ships to pick up emails etc. etc.
The Columbus left port at 5.30pm.
Many of our fellow cruisers had taken tours to various parts of the island, others who had visited before had used local transport to revisit favourite spots. We had chosen to see its capital and make up our own minds on Barbados by experiencing its culture on our own. Would we visit it again? Yes.