The first encounter the disabled cruiser will have in visiting Bridgetown will be the cruise port and welcome center which offers good accessibility. The dock area is flat and smooth with no steps or steep inclines to reach your ship. In the welcome center there is an accessible restroom available, and most of the shops have entrance ramps. Since none of the top attractions in Barbados are close to the dock, you will need to book private transportation as there are no accessible public transportation options available. Fortunately, Barbados has more than 1 accessible wheelchair van on the island, a rarity in the Caribbeans.
The island is small and you can drive around it in a one day shore excursion if you desire. You can easily visit historical churches, relax at an accessible beach and explore the unique, breathtaking Harrison Cave, all in one day. Unfortunately, most of the tourism activity is centered around water activities, and very few of them are wheelchair accessible. Harrison Cave is beautiful and a wonderful place to visit. The grounds are fully accessible with a flat, smooth welcome center, elevators down to the cave site, a flat, paved waiting area with a botanical garden and small vendor shops. The tram has a ramp that makes it easy for wheelchair users to board.
Barbados is not ideal for walking tours. A lack of adequate roads and sidewalks makes walking/rolling a challenge. The vantage points in Barbados do not have great accessibility. Many of them have lips or small steps, and the few flat ones are on steep hills or with uneven ground, there are still some easily accessible ones to see, including Cherry Hill Top. Furthermore, steep hills, lack of accessible restrooms, and rough terrain are a few of challenges that disabled visitors will need to overcome in Barbados.
Barbados is the most easterly of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean, Bridgetown is it’s capital.
Near to the port is the Pelican Craft Center which offers local arts and crafts and the chance to watch the artists at work. Broad Street in Bridgetown is the main shopping area.
Popular places to visit include Garrison Savannah on the south coast, which is packed with historic interest, forts and monuments. The Barbados Museum is located here too.
The restored 17th Century Arlington House can be found on the west coast, in Speightstown.
The heart of the island offers nature lovers the chance to visit places such as The Flower Forest, Welchman Hall Gully and Harrison’s Cave.
Other pastimes available on the island include golf, horse riding, hiking trails and biking.
Brighton Beach is right next to the port, in an industrial area but there are plenty beaches in the west and south of the island.
Where You’re Docked
The Cruise Terminal is located in Bridgetown at the Deep Water Harbor dock. It is about 5 minutes journey by taxi and around 15-20 minutes walk into Bridgetown center.
Taxis, bike hire and tours are available at the port and the bus station is around 10 minutes walk away.
The cruise terminal has the usual duty-free shopping options, complete with jewelry, clothing, souvenirs and crafts. There’s also a tourist information desk and a telecommunications center with phone, Internet and postal services.
About two blocks down the road are the bright pink shops of Pelican Village (Princess Alice Highway), housing artisan boutiques, a working cigar factory and a few restaurants. It’s closed on Sundays.
The Bridgetown Public Fish Market is just across the street. No, you’ll not be buying fish to bring back to the ship, but it’s an energetic place to watch while local chefs and heads of household haggle and bargain over the freshest catch.
The route from the cruise terminal into downtown traverses through a lovely park with a stone seawall, a great place to just relax and get some fresh air off the boat without getting into the commotion of downtown.
Good to Know
Manchineel trees, found on many Barbados beaches, are beautiful and leafy green, appearing to be a great place to escape from the sun or the occasional rain shower. Don’t do it. The leaves and fruit are both toxic and can create a serious rash on your skin. Most of the trees in public areas are marked with warning signs or red X’s painted on the trunks.
Also, note that, in Barbados, honking car horns do not convey a negative message as they do in many parts of the world. The Bajuns tap their horns dozens of times a day in greeting to other drivers, whether or not they are acquainted. It’s just the friendly way of life there.
On Foot: The capital city of Bridgetown is a one-mile stroll from the cruise port, and its downtown area is pedestrian-friendly.
By Taxi: Cabs line up outside the port terminal. You can arrange informal driving tours of the island with a cab driver, giving you a local’s insight without having to do your own driving. Negotiate the rate before you start, and be sure you know which currency is being quoted. For the Disabled Cruiser there are taxis that are fully accessible for wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility. The accessible vans have a wheelchair lift and capacity for two wheelchair passengers and six other passengers. It is best to reserve the accessible taxis prior to arriving in port.
By Bus: The bus terminal is about two blocks from the cruise terminal, just behind the Pelican Village. From there you can hop a bus to Holetown, Bathsheba, St. Lawrence Gap and elsewhere on the island all for the same price. Note that you must have exact change or purchase tokens in advance at the terminal. Barbados has two bus systems — the blue government-owned and-operated buses and the bright yellow “reggae” buses, which are known for playing loud music. For the Disabled Cruiser there are currently only 5 wheelchair friendly buses in a fleet of more than 300. These five buses can be adapted to accommodate a maximum of 3 wheelchairs at a time. To take advantage of this public service, requests must be made 3 days in advance.
The currency is the Barbadian dollar. American bills (but not coins) are commonly accepted, though you may get change in local currency. ATM’s are plentiful in Bridgetown, the capital city, and in other smaller towns throughout the island.
The official language of Barbados is English. The locals have their own dialect, but you’ll have no trouble understanding conversations.
Islanders are quite proud of their local, family-owned pottery business, Earthworks. Although the studio itself, located mid-island, requires a taxi or shore excursion to visit, it is worth your time. In addition to watching the potters at work and finding a functional clay treasure of your own, you can browse the work of artists in other mediums at the adjacent studio.
If you don’t make it to the Earthworks Studio, look for a selection at several gift shops around the island, including any of the Best of Barbados boutiques and the Cave Shepherd department store in Bridgetown.
Another great little gift for those back home is a bag of Barbados brown sugar. It’s harvested and processed right on the island. A cute canvas bag tied in red ribbon holds about 1.5 cups and costs just a few dollars. These, too, are found in several gift shops, including the Best of Barbados.
Bajuns love their buffets, especially for lunch. You’ll often find a selection of rice dishes, macaroni pie and vegetables, usually a little over-cooked or mushy for many tastes. A good Bajun buffet will always include a couple of kinds of chicken and seafood, too. A flying fish sandwich is a must while visiting the island, and most lunch spots will offer one on the menu. One thing you won’t find often is a hamburger or red meat. The Bajuns just don’t like it much.
Points of Interest
- Harrison’s Cave – One of the wonders of Barbados, this massive cave system features 50-foot high caverns, rushing streams, glassy pools and a thunderous 40-foot waterfall that cascades into an emerald lake. The Disabled Cruiser can travel deep beneath the earth’s surface in wheelchair fitted trams and experienced staff will guide you through the maze of stalactites and stalagmites.
- Andromeda Botanical Gardens – Nestled on a cliff overlooking the ocean, this six-acre botanical garden is renowned for its excellent collection of tropical flora including many varieties of ferns, orchids, and one of the world’s largest palm trees. For the Disabled Cruiser there are shorter, less steep routes with fewer steps that are suitable for the less able visitor.
- St. Michael’s Cathedral – located two blocks away from the National Heroes Square, direction East. It dates from 1789 and replaced the 1665 wooden building. The church is made of coral stone and got its cathedral status when Bishop William Harte Coleridge arrived in 1825.
- Parliament Buildings – They were constructed in the period 1870-1874 of coral limestone in neo-gothic style. They house the Barbados Parliament. The Senate and House of Assembly are housed in the east wing. The Parliament Museum and the National Gallery are housed in the west wing. There also is the clock tower. For the Disabled Cruiser, a handicap ramp is provided for entrance into the complex.
- Gun Hill Signal – Built in 1818 to warn the island about approaching ships, this restored signal station features sweeping 360-degree views of the island as well as a fascinating collection of military memorabilia. For the Disabled Cruiser there are no steps going up to the Signal Station, but all the rooms have steps. The viewing platform is accessible for wheelchairs.
- Sunbury Plantation – Built in 1650, this beautifully renovated and maintained sugar estate house is a superb example of plantation life of a bygone era and features an amazing collection of antique carriages and memorabilia. For the Disabled Cruiser only the ground floor is accessible.
- Beaches – visit the beautiful Gold Coats beaches. Great for watersports is Payne’s bay. The Brighton Beach, Brandon’s Beach and Paradise Beach are located in the Fresh Water Bay, next to Payne’s bay. There are a few special beach wheelchairs available on the island, which means a beach excursion for the Disabled Cruiser is possible for those who are able to transfer to it.
- Underwater Adventure – The clear waters of Barbados offer exciting submarine tours and snorkeling encounters with gentle sea turtles, dainty seahorses and a brilliant array of colorful fish. While the Disabled Cruiser may be able to go on a boat tour, the famous swim with turtles and catamaran excursions are generally not accessible.
Bridgetown Accessible Excursions
Bridgetown is the southernmost port on the island of Barbados and its capital. The beaches are plentiful, as is the seafood. Enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and diving in the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean.
Highlights of Barbados Accessible Shore Excursion
This 5 hour accessible Highlights of Barbados Accessible Shore Excursion begins at a designated meeting point near the Barbados cruise dock where you will meet your driver in a private, fully air-conditioned, wheelchair accessible van.
First, you’ll enjoy a scenic drive to Cherry Tree Hill for an excellent view of the “Scotland District”. After spending some time taking in the picturesque view here, your Accessible Barbados shore excursion continues to the East Coast Road to explore the quaint village of Bathsheba, a small fishermen’s village and the Atlantic Ocean.
Next, you will visit the amazing St. John’s Paris Church. This classic Gothic church was built to replace a previous structure which had been destroyed by a hurricane. Lastly you will stop at the accessible South Coast Boardwalk. At this new boardwalk, you will enjoy comfortable walk/stroll along the shoreline, and enjoy the view and sea breeze from the beautiful blue water. After a great time exploring the beautiful island, this accessible shore excursion of Barbados will return you to the cruise dock in the comfort of your air conditioned, wheelchair accessible van.
Accessible Barbados Cave Experience
The Accessible 3 hour Barbados Cave Experience begins at the Barbados cruise dock where your driver will load you into your private air-conditioned accessible van for your trip to the central uplands of the island, where Harrison’s Cave is located. When you arrive at Harrison’s Cave, your driver will guide you to the accessible entrance and access the wheelchair adapted tram.
The accessible tram will take you on a 45-minute journey deep beneath the earth’s surface to explore one of Barbados’ natural treasures on this Accessible Barbados Cave. On board the tram, you will be escorted by a friendly knowledgeable tour guide providing commentary along the ride.
When you finish your tram tour, you will have time to visit the information center of the cave and stroll around the shop or enjoy a snack. At the end of the tour, your driver will return to escort you back to the cruise dock.
The Harrison’s Cave Site has been adapted to easily accommodate wheelchair users. The common areas are mostly flat and smooth, and there is a lift available on site as well. The special tram has a ramp that allows wheelchair users to access it.