Beautiful calm waters.
Yeah, I can’t back that up… I don’t think I have ever written anything in 25 words or less, so here’s the rest of it:
We found ourselves on a full day catamaran tour of Payne’s Bay in Barbados*, with three stops scheduled – one for snorkelling with sea turtles, another stop with an opportunity for snorkelling on a shipwreck, and a final stop at a lovely white sand beach for a swim or a bit of a wander. Lunch was included, and (in spite of people’s enquiries about the possibility of sharks in the area), the most dangerous thing I saw all day, was the open bar! Seriously – as much free grog as people could put away. After the snorkelling of course…
The catamaran was a lovely modern boat with plenty of space for up to 85 passengers – I think we were closer, in numbers, to about 60 (in age demographics too, come to think of it). It was BCDs all ’round unfortunately, and because Barbados is so closely aligned with the US and so accustomed to US tourists, the BCDs were mandatory. Not so impressed at that, I have enough trouble diving down, without a bloody bouncy device. But c’est la vie! Aunty Mary and I had our own snorkels and face masks, but we hadn’t packed our fins. As it turned out there were no fins allowed, and we could quickly see why. Most of these people were not frequent snorkellers and I must have been kicked by persons with various situational awareness challenges, about four times.
The turtles were completely oblivious of the sudden influx of well-fed cruise ship tourists and were swimming in among us just floating on the current and doing turtle type things. They were quite happy to swim up close to us. Hint for new players, if the turtle swims away from you – don’t chase it… They’ll come back, but not if they think they’re being chased. These guys were about 3’ long, so not as big as the turtles we swam with in the Whitsundays, but they were a lot more comfortable around people I think.
After our little turtle swim, we moved the boat about a kilometre or so and were directed towards a dark shadow underwater to explore a recent shipwreck. The boat itself had been a famous party boat (the name of which escapes me right now), and it had sunk in about 2002, so it didn’t have lots of established corals on it, but it was a nice haven for lots of fishes. It was a bit of a struggle to swim the 50m or so against the current to get to the shipwreck, but because I was the first to jump in off the catamaran deck rather than wait for the steps, I managed to have a paddle around and a look about before the rest of the group caught up. Once the rest of the group got out there, all my photos have dog paddling OAPs in them! lol. One of the boat crew who was supervising in case anyone got into trouble in the water had bought out some food to feed the fishes and when he suddenly threw it all in the water, the fishes came up out of the wreck and I found myself surrounded by these little stripey little guys. It was very cool.
After this, we had lunch of BBQ chicken, fried fish, cheesy macaroni, salads and ALL the rum punch. The bar was fully stocked with just about every spirit and mixer you could think of, as well as wines and a local keg of beer. Ever seen an Australian knock back free grog? No, me neither, and it was flowing strong and plentiful, so much so that no one even complained when Bob Marley’s, ‘Buffalo Soldier’ came on for the fourth time!
What a beautiful day… after lunch, we hoisted sail and went down to some beautiful sandy beaches for another dip – those that weren’t too busy enjoying the boat and the booze that is. The crew were busy telling us of famous local residents – Rhiannon owns this large white house up on the beach, Paul Simon often zooms past on his jet ski to say ‘hello’ (actually, they told us that Paul Simon came past once to say g’day to James the captain of our little boat, and they had an English high school cricket team on the boat… the crew told the cricketers that Paul Simon was coming to say ‘hi’, the teens, having very little idea of who that was said hello to the famous singer, and then promptly all down trowed and mooned him!). I guess if you had a choice and could live in Barbados or LA, I know which one I’d be choosing.
After our beach stop, it was back to the docks. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day and would highly recommend Tiami Catamaran Cruises if you’re ever in Barbados and want a lovely day out on the water. The only downside of doing a tour like when you are only in town for one day is that we didn’t get to see anything of the island – its villages, the town or anything else. We had originally planned a half day snorkel tour, and then a few hours to check out the town, but things didn’t go to plan… instead we still had a marvellous day, but to be honest, the things we saw and did – we could have been off Airlie Beach or Townsville or Cairns. Yep, we are just that spoiled living in Australia, that I thought sailing around Barbados for the day was just like home!
EPILOGUE (or maybe it should have been the prologue…?!):
*We had a tour booked through the ship today to go snorkelling with some turtles or something (more evidence of my getting fed up searching shore activities), only we ran into some unexpected hiccoughs with the logistics of getting ashore. And by ‘we’, I mean, the entire fucking ship. I woke up at 0530 and we were not moving. This is not normally a bad sign, sometimes it means we are ahead of schedule or the local pilot is embarking… but when we were still not moving at 0630, I was mentally doing a little ‘uh-oh’.
Turns out there was a dirty big P&O ship – the Azura – in dock already in Barbados, and they were doing an overnight stop, so naturally they had snivelled the best spot at the dock. No problem ordinarily, but they had roped off a secure area around their ship (this is SOP for all ships), and we were not able to traverse through that secure area. This is a problem, as they were between us and the port terminal. So at the last moment, our ship of nearly 2000 passengers was advised that we were going to have to use the port’s shuttle system to drive us the, what? 300m from our ship to the port terminal. And the problem with this is… their shuttles only seated approximately 25 people.
No shit. OMG, I felt so sorry for all the customer service facing staff involved in this mess, but they had to hand out tender tickets to call numbers to get people off the ship for a 300m drive. All the people with ship tours were meeting at the cruise terminal – normally not a problem when you can just walk straight off, but this? We got to the dining room to collect a ticket at 0750 and were given tickets numbered 744 and 745… which was not great when we were supposed to meet our tour group at 0820 at the terminal. We took up a seat in the dining room and patiently waited for some numbers to be called. The first batch I heard were number 32 to 57 or something, and it was, ‘Oh dear’. People got really cranky really quickly, but there was nothing the staff could do about it. It’s just one of those things. I was determined that nothing was going to wind me up today – after Iguazu, I am just accepting that some things are beyond our control and there is no point in getting all wound up about something. So we waited. And unfortunately were forced to listen to the griping of the people around us who were very vocal in their displeasure.
Eventually, we got called and processed off the ship. Got into our shuttle, drove the 300m and ta-da! We were at the cruise terminal. It was now about 0930. We ran into a very harried looking Ilena, the ship’s Shore Tours Director, who informed us that our tour had left, that they couldn’t hold it any longer for us. There was about six of us there who had missed it. I shrugged, and thought, ‘Oh well, we will cab into town and find something else to do, and they will refund us for the tour cost. No biggie, there are turtles to snorkel with back home.’ Instead, Ilena said she had two different tour options she could put us on – they both went to the turtles and one was leaving at 10 am, and the other leaving at noon. We went, ‘Sure. We will join the group leaving now.’ She scribbled a different code on our tickets and off we went to join a different bus.
We climbed on the bus with some others who had missed our 0820 group, and we were asking each other if anyone knew what this tour was actually doing… at which point the uptight old biddy behind me said (quite loudly), that, “*Those* people were on a cheaper tour, they shouldn’t be coming with us on our expensive tour!” Oh FFS. The ship is doing what they can to ameliorate the losses of people who, through no fault of their own, were unable to make their scheduled tours. We didn’t care which tour we were thrown on… well, I didn’t – especially if it meant I didn’t have to replan our day on the fly! If we had been a bit later we might have found ourselves shanghaied onto a rum distillery tour or something. But seriously? Some people will find complaint with anything. I am getting a bit tired of these world-weary constant cruisers who know everything, have no patience, and who are all too happy to bitch and moan about ANYTHING.