Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Barbados: Shore Excursion tours edition. Barbados is definitely one of the most beautiful and fascinating islands in the Caribbean. (I feel like I say this about every island I visited in the Caribbean. But they really all are that beautiful and fascinating! It’s not like I’m raving about Secaucus.)
24 Hours in Barbados is definitely not enough to see everything the country has to offer. But when you’re visiting as part of a Royal Caribbean cruise, 24 hours on Barbados shore excursion tours will have to do.
I suggest spending the morning exploring the historic capital of Bridgetown on your own. That will leave plenty of time in the afternoon for a shore excursion to the Mount Gay Rum distillery. History and rum in one day! What more could a pirate nerd ask for?
24 Hours in Barbados: Shore Excursion Tours
What to Pack and Where to Stay
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
The Caribbean can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
If you’re not visiting Barbados on a cruise and you’d like to find great deals on over a hundred hotels in Barbados, just click here.
24 Hours in Barbados: Shore Excursion Tours
Morning: Explore Bridgetown
You should definitely start your 24 hours in Barbados in its capital, Bridgetown. Bridgetown is arguably the most historic city in the Caribbean. It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s such an excellent example of a British colonial city. That’s right, the entire city is historically protected. Can you say the same, Secaucus, New Jersey?
I had initially wanted to explore Bridgetown on a walking tour Shore Excursion. Unfortunately the excursion was canceled because I am literally the only person in the world who both wants to go on a cruise and go for a walk at the same time. Not a problem though because I am more than capable of finding the wonders of Bridgetown on my own! I present to you…
Approximately top 5: bridgetown edition
1) Chamberlain Bridge
What would a city called Bridgetown be without its bridges? The most notable is the Chamberlain Bridge, which is home to the Independence Arch. Barbados was a British colony for many years, finally gaining independence in 1966. The Arch was erected in 1987 on the 21st anniversary of Barbados’s independence. If you look closely, you can see the arch is decorated with symbols of Barbados, like the Pelican. (Remember the Pelican. He’ll be important later.)
Don’t miss this painting of Errol Walton Barrow on the arch. He was the first Prime Minister of Barbados and he helped lead the country to independence from the United Kingdom. He’s basically the George Washington of Barbados. Barrow’s birthday on January 21st is a national holiday in Barbados as well.
2) National Heroes Square
No 24 hours in Barbados is complete without a stop in National Heroes Square. National Heroes Square holds many of the main monuments of Bridgetown. Many of these are reminders of Barbados’s time as part of the British Empire. (In fact National Heroes Square used to be named Trafalgar Square.)
In the distance in the photo above, you can see the Cenotaph War Memorial. It is in memory of those Barbadians who were killed fighting for England in World War I and World War II. A Remembrance Day Parade is held here every year, if you happen to be in Bridgetown on November 11th.
Since this was Trafalgar Square, a monument to Lord Nelson was erected here in the early 1800s. This statue is actually quite a bit older than the statue in London. Nyah, nyah London. Compared to Bridgetown you might as well be Secaucus (at least when it comes to Nelson monuments).
Perhaps the most striking building in Bridgetown are the Parliament Buildings. You can see that the clock tower is reminiscent of the houses of Parliament back in London.
Perhaps the most unique monument in Bridgetown is this opalescent dolphin fountain. It commemorates the bringing of running water to Bridgetown. First of all, I feel there is nothing like this fountain in London. I can’t swear to that though because London is a big city and I’m not familiar with all its fountains. Also I don’t know why there are dolphins celebrating the arrival of running water. I kind of feel like dolphins don’t need running water. If I’d been left in charge of this fountain, it would be decorated with hands or dishes or even a bubble bath.
3) Nidhe Israel Synagogue
OK, now I think I’ll be able to give you a little surprise for your 24 hours in Barbados. Barbados is home to one of the oldest synagogues in the Americas, Nidhe Israel. The first Jewish people came to Barbados in 1628. They were escaping religious persecution from the Portuguese in Brazil. Naturally the synagogue pictured above is not the exact synagogue from the 1600s. It was restored in the 1980s. But it’s still amazing that such a historic building is available for tourists to visit today.
You can also explore the cemetery attached to the museum. The oldest grave here dates back to 1658. That’s about 75 years before George Washington was born. You can notice some symbolism on some of the gravestones. One of the most common images is the hand of God destroying the tree of life. That’s a really dark image, even for a cemetery! I think most people would rather look at cherubs or flowers than the fist of an angry God.
The synagogue also has an outstanding interactive museum attached. The museum’s mission is to educate about the Jewish community in Barbados and also the Jewish role in Caribbean trade. Also the museum has excellent air conditioning which is always welcome in Barbados. My favorite artifact here was this Torah from the 1930s. It’s rare to see one so close up in a museum like this.
24 hour treasure: mikvah
Amazingly, the mikvah, or ritual bath, from the 17th century was discovered intact when they were excavating the area around the synagogue. You can enter the mikvah area with your tour of the museum. It’s truly like stepping back in time to enter this space.
After all that history and walking, you’re going to get hungry! Eat like a real Barbadian at Chefette! I was told by every Barbadian I spoke to that Chefette is the reason there are no McDonalds in Barbados. It is a fast food chain, but it is truly a local fast food chain. You will very likely be the only tourist inside if you stop here for lunch.
The specialty at Chefette is this admittedly not terribly appetizing looking wrap called a roti. But inside is a wonderfully spicy meat, vegetable, and potato curry concoction. It’s so much more flavorful and less generic than I’m used to experiencing at fast food restaurants.
The other can’t miss item at Chefette is the rum & raisin ice cream. You can truly taste the rum in every bite. But don’t get too drunk on ice cream, Internet Stranger! We’ve got a whole nother rum tasting ahead of us.
5) Pelican craft centre
The Pelican Craft Centre is an excellent idea. It’s a center where artists and craftspeople from all over Barbados can come sell their goods. Because the centre is so near the port, it’s easy for tourists to come here. This is a much more authentic place to shop than any of the kiosks in the cruise terminal.
I’ve bought paintings from the Barbados Arts Council, a gorgeous handmade bowl from the artist himself at the Pottery Palace, and polymer clay jewelry from Angelique Custom Creations. Again, the artist herself showed me how to style the jewelry. It’s always so much better to buy something from the person who made it. Then you know the object was made by someone who really loved it, and it gives you a happy memory every time you look at it. That’s worth a lot more than some shotglass or magnet.
24 Hours in Barbados: Shore Excursion Tours
Afternoon: Mount Gay Distillery Tour
Now it was time for my shore excursion! And what could be more appropriate for 24 hours in Barbados than a visit to the Mount Gay Distillery? It is the oldest rum distillery in the world! I told you Barbados was historic! UNESCO heritage sites, oldest synagogue in the American, and now some 300 year old rum. And they say rum only gets better with age. I’ll yo ho ho some more with…
Three fun facts about rum
1) how old is mount gay?
The Mount Gay Rum distillery was founded in 1703. However, Barbadians had been making rum before then. Apparently the concoction they came up with by fermenting molasses was such rough drinking that they called it Kill-Devil. And yet people still drank it! I suppose humans will put up with anything for a little buzz to distract themselves from the pain of existence.
Mount Gay Rum was named for one of the distillery’s managers, Sir John Gay. He took over managing the distillery at the request of its owner, John Sober. I know that sounds like a ridiculous “fact” I would make up just to make you feel silly, but it isn’t. The distillery was really owned by a guy named Sober.
2) What kinds of rums are there?
All rums are not equal. In fact, Mount Gay employs a master blender named Allen Smith to ensure that each rum comes out just right. We tasted three rums on this tour: the Eclipse, the Black Barrel, and the XO. The Eclipse is a gold, medium-bodied rum.
Our guide gave us very thorough instructions about the proper way to drink each rum. This one, she said, should be served either on the rocks or in a cocktail like the Rum Runner. One thing I’m definitely not going to do is argue with a Barbadian rum tour guide!
Our next rum was the Black Barrel. This is bolder than the Eclipse, but our guide said it can also be consumed on the rocks or in a cocktail. But this time she suggested using it in place of whiskey in certain cocktails. How about using rum AND whiskey in the same cocktail? No, that sounds disgusting. Please never listen to me. Listen to the Barbadian rum tour guide.
Our last rum was the XO. This was by far the strongest rum we had. It is aged 8 to 15 years until it really does taste kind of like a whiskey. Our guide said we should drink it on the rocks or neat, but not use it in a cocktail because that would be a waste. I bought a bottle of the XO at the Mount Gay store. I tend to be a whiskey girl, so it would make a nice change of pace. Also I saved 20 dollars by buying it here instead of at home.
3) what’s with the red caps?
The oddest fact we learned at the distillery was about the Mount Gay red caps. These caps are awarded to sailors who race in a Mount Gay sailing regatta. You can’t buy them or get them any other way. Hearing this really triggered my greedy side. I usually would never wear a cap of any sort, but when I learned that there’s no way to buy these caps, I started to crave one more than anything. I’m already secretly planning my heist of the Mount Gay distillery, but I won’t take any rum. I just want those red caps.
24 hour treasure
On our way to the Mount Gay Distillery, our driver took us on a brief scenic tour of the area. My favorite spot was this sign pointing out Rihanna Drive. The “Umbrella” singer was from this street in Barbados, and they recently named it Rihanna Drive in her honor. (The sign calls her “our diamond”.)
Rihanna wrote an Instagram post about the renaming ceremony and mentioned that she had to sell glass bottles to be able to afford American snacks when she was a kid. I always get choked up when I read stories like that. Be nice to everybody folks! You never know what the future holds.
24 Hours in Barbados: Shore Excursion Tours
Evening: Cruise Time
Sadly that’s the end of our 24 hours in Barbados and historic Bridgetown! We’ll have to return to our ship and relax with a mystery novel and a refreshing pina colada. Poor us!
Or you could attend the evening’s free entertainment! Usually towards the end of the cruise, the dancers put on a big medley of Broadway songs. I’m a huge Broadway nerd, so I like to see how many of the songs I can identify. Then I always get angry if too many songs are from Mamma Mia or something. ABBA isn’t Broadway!
Even if we can’t all agree on ABBA, we can agree this towel bear is adorable. Rihanna is Barbados’s diamond, and Towel Bear is my diamond. And with that, good night!
That’s 24 Hours in Barbados: Shore Excursion Tours
What would you do with 24 hours in Barbados? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Barbados right now? What’s the best city, Bridgetown, London, or Secaucus? And do you think my Red Cap Heist will be successful? Please leave your thoughts below.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in Barbados. If you want to see some of the other itineraries from my cruise, check out St Thomas, St Kitts, St Lucia, and Antigua.