Barbados is the richest of the Islands in the Caribbean… and it has a very British influence to it… so it is very much like the US or Canada… highly developed, well eduated people, and quite safe (compared to many of the other islands).
It is also a GORGEOUS island with the most ideal of climates (80 F all year round, and very little rain / almost never a hurricane) because it is sooo far south and east.
Because it is such a rich island, it doesn’t have a lot of All-Inclusives (doesn’t need them to survive). There are just a couple, and if you check the Reviews on TripAdvisor etc, you’ll find that they get kind of a meh rating… mostly because, once people get to Barbados, they realize that they could have stayed elsewhere and done more on their own if they weren’t tied down to an AI
Much like visiting other well-off economic countries, one has a lot of choice… be it Hotels, Condos, Rentals, etc.
I have done a fair bit of travelling in the Caribbean… and by far Barbados is one of my favourite islands (dare I say it is the BEST ?). And a lot of that is because there is sooo much choice there… be it scenery, accommodations, eats, things to do etc.
The main accommodations will be found on 2 of 3 sides of the Island (it sort of looks like a triangle) with the most on the West Coast, followed by the South Coast, and fewest on the East Coast… the latter being on the Atlantic side, and the seas are rougher (not suitable for swimming etc)
Where you want to base yourself is up to you… getting around the Island is easy, as they have good public transit, and taxis are not a problem. Renting a car is do-able, but more expensive than in the US, gas / petrol is also expensive. If you stay a week, you might want to rent a car tho for a day or two so you can go out and explore the Island on your own… not difficult. Otherwise, take an organized tour so you can see the interior of the Island and East Coast.
The Island of Barbodos is aprox 166 Square Miles (14 x 21 Miles)… and relatively flat, with a few hills in the middle. And has a population of aprox 285,000.
The South Coast is nice… the West Coast (Platinum Coast) is nicer… but also more expensive. Look for places around Holetown or Speightown. The “mega rich” that frequent the island are centered in these areas… especially in the immediate vicinity of the famous Sandy Lane Hotel & Golf Club.
St Lucia is aprox 238 Square Miles… but it is a mountainous island, and very different to Barbados… although bigger it has a population of 173,000. The island also gets a lot more rain, and has a tropical rainforest.
It is a much poorer island, but also gorgeous… in a very rustic sort of way. Because of the geography & economics of this island, it does rely on tourism a great deal… so there are a lot of AI Resorts and fewer Hotels etc.
Because of the layout of the Island, getting around on one’s own is not easy… and renting a car NOT recommended. So exploring most likely will happen if you are on an organized tour / excursion.
NOTE – The roads in St Lucia are wicked… like a roller coaster… and not a lot of guardrails etc … even taking a shuttle from the Airport and you might get car sick !! If you can see if you can get around by water (many Hotels have water shuttles) and the island has many ferries.
St Lucia is a good choice if you are interested in an AI experience where your time will mostly be spent at the resort… laying on the beach, taking in water activities, maybe a few excursions etc.
Barbados is a better choice if you are the sort of person, who doesn’t like to sit still… and likes the freedom to see and do things on your own (not tied so much to a schedule)
As for cruising…
It is a good option for first time visitors to the Caribbean, in that you can see a different island every day… and therefore get an overview of what you may and may not like (every island having its own vibe) vs. putting out a lot of money on a Caribbean vacation and ending up somewhere you don’t particularly enjoy.
The benefit to a cruise is it truly can be the middle ground between an AI Vacation and a Self-directed one… in that you can do as much or as little as you like… as the mood suits you.
Mr TTR wasn’t sure about cruising before we went the first time… he honestly thought he’d be bored. He wasn’t … infact he admits that he kind of likes the days at sea because he enjoys a holiday where there is variety. Days at sea can be busy (tons of activities on board) or relaxing… curl up with a good book somewhere.
He does enjoy the AI feel when it comes to accommodations, food, activities and entertainment (more so because we cruise with Celebrity which also offers a Flat Rate Beverage Option).
It is also nice to unpack once, and have the islands come to you !!
And honestly when it comes to PAMPERING… you cannot beat a cruise.
Overall amazing value for the money spent in our opinion.
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ANYWHERE in the British Virgin Islands (although nothing is cheap there).
Antigua and Sint Maarten / St Martins are also both nice. I would most certainly go back to Antigua for a week.
Cuba and the Turks & Caicos are the next destinations for us.
Personally, Mr TTR and I would not return to the Dominican Republic or Jamaica (due to politics, crime, etc)
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Trip Planning Tips
Start your familiarization by using Wikipedia… it is a good place to get a basic overview.
Wikipedia – Barbados= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbados
Wikipedia – St Lucia= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Lucia
As well check out each Islands own Official Travel Websites.
And I never travel anymore without consulting TripAdvisor… which besides having Reviews for Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions… also has their Boards (they call them Forums) where you can ask Questions and get answers from locals and Destination Experts. LOVE that feature.
For cruises, every cruise line has their own websites… chocked fulll of info.
And also check out TA’s sister website, Cruise Critic… it sort of does the same thing, just for the cruise industry. So you can read up on Cruise Lines, even specific Ships and Cruise Itineraries. See Reviews etc. And they too have Boards where you can ask Questions get info.
Hope this helps,