Friday 26November 2021
So, here I am aboard the Britannia, after a horrendous week of trying to get various tests booked and completed together with a constant barrage of emails from P&O telling me that they can’t wait to welcome me on board, “but here are just a few more pieces of information” to make you feel even more uncomfortable, such as if you should contact Covid we may put you ashore on one of the islands.
Wow, really! Now some of these islands are not exactly up there in the top ten countries with a highly developed health care system, in fact, some of them have raw sewage running down the street gully’s en-route to the nearest river where it flows untreated into the Caribbean Sea, quite often at a beach where tourist gaily frolic in the surf.
The last email with “a few last-minute details” was 16 pages long. So, anyway, after quite a stressful week I made it through to the airport and settled in at the Premier Inn which is situated right next to the terminal building at the airport. Perfectly reasonable and clean accommodation and at £44 a very reasonable price for an airport hotel. Dropped my case in the room and walked across to the airport to check where I had to go the next Morning to be once again tested before boarding the plane, to find that the covid testing centre did not open until 7 AM and my information pack was telling me that I should be there by 5 AM, oops. This did not give me a high level of confidence as to what was to unfold the next day.
However, back to the hotel for dinner and an early night and to be honest, the next morning went like clockwork. The testing centre was open at 5 and the testing procedure was carried out very efficiently, followed by a seamless checking in process.
The flight was long but good, with reasonable in-flight meals. A bonus was that I had three seats to myself, so was able to stretch out and get some sleep, heaven. The next stop was Barbados, where the efficiency was continued with a seamless transfer to the ship, involving disembarkation from the plane and straight on to coaches which were parked on the apron, with no need to go through the terminal buildings.
This is only the second time I have sailed with P&O. The first time I left with a not very high impression of them and one of the main reasons for trying them again was the price and the length of trip and of course the Caribbean. My reasons for the low opinion I gathered the first time, were mixed, the main one being the imposed Britishness. It was things like every deck was named after a colony of the British Empire. There was always a “curry of the day” on the menu. The Union Jack is emblazoned over the front of the ship. The food was very British and therefore generally bland with not a lot of choice.
One of the main things that kind of put me off was the discussions with fellow passengers. Now let me say here that I have no problem whatsoever with people expressing honestly held views, but the distinct impression I got was, that there were a lot of uninformed opinions going about looking for someone to attach themselves to and for some reason that generally was me, therefore there was a lot of re-education went on as to the viability of Scotland as an independent country.
Anyway, enough of that and I am here with an open mind as to any improvements in P&O who are, by the way, anything but a British company as they are owned by Carnival, an American company, as are Cunard, another “very British” Cruise line. The Britishness is a branding, which, to be honest, seems to work.
So, after settling in, I made my way out into Bridgetown which is the capital town of Barbados. Barbados was a colony of Britain, and it became independent in 1966. It has taken them a considerable time to shake of the effects of being governed by another country, but they seem to be getting on their feet. I have been in Barbados several times over the last 20 years and during that time I have seen steady improvements. When they became independent, they, like other ex-colonies kept the Queen as their head of state, however, they have now decided to become a republic and this I believe becomes official by the end of this year.
One thing I have noticed in the Caribbean, that is the difference between islands that have been ruled over by Britain and ones that have been part of other empires such as France and Holland. The French and Dutch islands are prosperous and have very good infrastructures, whereas the once owned British islands, are generally very poor and underdeveloped, the exceptions being islands like Bermuda and the Camen islands, which are tax havens.
So, after a wander through Bridgetown which is generally safe except for an area of a few streets ( which I couldn’t find), I settled for a bar on the way back to the ship where I partook of a few bottles of Banks beer which is a local brew and very nice too, before heading back to the ship by 10PM which is the curfew limit in Barbados.
Saturday was hot and I took advantage of the additional day in Bridgetown to further explore and re-acquaint myself with the town, stopping again at the same bar for some re-hydration before heading back to the ship, whereby, onboard I joined in a dance lesson followed by dinner and ended up in the disco. A good start to the holiday with the ship heading for Curacao in the Dutch Antilles.