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Barbados summer cruises 2021


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@Borna  I've received multiple conflicting answers now! Contacting Hilton customer support via the chat link on their website, I've had two representatives look up information and com back with different answers. One confirmed we'd be confined to our room pending the test results. The other said the restaurant is operating at limited capacity, and you have to make a reservation in advance, and then you can go to the restaurant. Then I emailed the Hilton Barbados, and the answer first I received today from their guest relations was the recitation of the Barbados entry protocols but nothing specific about what you can or can't do at the hotel. On my follow-up attempt, I got this reply: "As a fully vaccinated traveler when you arrive to the Hilton Barbados Resort, you would have access to the pool and restaurants (spa, beach and gym not permitted) while you await your second covid-19 negative test." 

 

So I'm trying to decide now if I trust that answer enough to book there. That answer seems consistent with what several other Barbados hotels say: pool, yes; restaurant, yes; beach or gym, no.  The Hilton might not be the top hotel in the country, but it's rated reasonably highly -- and for us, free on points might win out over spending ~$800 or more  for 2 nights at one of the smaller highly-rated hotels (Sandpiper, Coral Reef Club, Fairmont, Crane). I would hope this answer coming from the front desk of the hotel would be accurate.

 

Hope that helps. If anyone else has any different answers about the Hilton (or other Barbados hotels), please share what you find. 

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Thanks cruiseej and Hlitner.  I've learned from the Barbados authorities, that the airport COVID test is free on arrival and results should be emailed to visitors within 24 hours.  But, if the result is not given within that time frame, we could still leave the Hilton and board the Seabourn cruise.  I have this in writing from Barbados government.

 

We arrive at 5 pm on a Saturday and board Seabourn at 2 pm on a Sunday.  I'd certainly rather get the results pronto so we could do some sightseeing Sunday morning and I'd feel more secure having negative result before leaving the hotel and being driven from the hotel and the cruise ship.  

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I've also learned that many of the islands (St. Lucia, St. Kitts) do not require testing on arrival, so Seabourn passengers can explore freely.  I think Antigua and St. Martin (despite its website stating it is not allowing cruise ships, LOL) also have no on arrival testing and can be explored on your own.  Still waiting to hear from authorities from the other islands.  If anyone has any additional or contrary information, please share.

 

Seabourn has provided no information and cannot or won't say when asked about these issues.

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1 hour ago, Borna said:

Seabourn has provided no information and cannot or won't say when asked about these issues.

 

I find this very frustrating. We all understand that the rules and procedures in different countries are ever-changing. But that's no excuse for Seabourn not having a web page listing the current rules as they know them for each port they are sailing to. They have local agents they work with on the ground at every port. If, or rather when, the rules change, update the page. This is not rocket science. 

 

Seabourn posted such a page of travel requirements for their Greece cruises last week, and I assume they will update it if anything changes or proves to be incorrect. Why is there not a similar page for their Caribbean cruises from the Bahamas? It's important for currently-booked customers who have or are soon to hit final payment dates, as well as people who are considering booking one of the cruises. They clearly had information from each country prior to finalizing these itineraries -- so why not share what they know (and any unknowns or question marks), and update it as new information is available, rather than making us all do our own research and get sometimes contradictory information. 

 

2 hours ago, Borna said:

I've also learned that many of the islands (St. Lucia, St. Kitts) do not require testing on arrival, so Seabourn passengers can explore freely.

 

@Borna Out of curiosity, where are you getting this information? For instance, when I look on the St. Kitts Tourism site for travelers, everything I see seems to indicate they have similar requirements to Barbados, minus the secondary test upon arrival. It's not clear to me that cruise ship passengers will be able to roam the country on their own. And the Q&A section has things like this: "Are land-based and water-based excursions open? Not at this time." Does that mean the excursions Seabourn is selling won't actually be available, unless things change?

 

Ugh, every time I dig a little deeper looking for information, I come away with as many or more questions than I had before! 😉

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Cruiseej:  In addition to checking the official tourism websites for the islands on the itinerary, I've called and emailed those organizations and the embassies as well for information.  For example, St. Martin official tourism wrote an email to me stating that we will be able to freely roam the island; but its website states that cruise ships are not even allowed there.  Go figure.

 

Of course, the information is only as good as the source.  

 

Agree with you that the information can be conflicting.   

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2 hours ago, Borna said:

Cruiseej:  In addition to checking the official tourism websites for the islands on the itinerary, I've called and emailed those organizations and the embassies as well for information.  For example, St. Martin official tourism wrote an email to me stating that we will be able to freely roam the island; but its website states that cruise ships are not even allowed there.  Go figure.

 

Of course, the information is only as good as the source.  

 

Agree with you that the information can be conflicting.   

 

I don't understand why reasonable people are subjecting themselves to such stress because of the fluidity of information from a variety of sources?  

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2 hours ago, rkacruiser said:

 

I don't understand why reasonable people are subjecting themselves to such stress because of the fluidity of information from a variety of sources?  

I agree if folks are under stress they might want to reconsider travel plans.  But not all of us find this stressful as much as it is just one more adventure.  For us, our upcoming travel (including back to back SB cruises out of both Pireaus and Barbados) are simply adventurous trips to be added to many previous adventurous trips.   Some of our trips require more homework and research then others, but that is part of the challenge and we hope fun.   Over fifty+ years of extensive travel we have found that the more challenging trips often turn out to be among the most rewarding and memorable.  

 

Hank

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2 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I agree if folks are under stress they might want to reconsider travel plans.  But not all of us find this stressful as much as it is just one more adventure.

 

Exactly!

 

I can complain about Seabourn not providing information I think they should, but that doesn't mean it's stressful.

 

I'm. Planning. Travel.  Yipee!

 

I think anyone planning a trip in the short-term future needs to go into it knowing plans may change on short (or no) notice. Some things will not be the way they've always been. And you need to be prepared to roll with the punches, such as a port call being canceled if local authorities unexpectedly deny the ship entry. If that's stressful, or upsetting, or just not fun, then this just isn't the right time to be traveling yet. But for us, once we decided we'd feel safe traveling now, as Hank said, the research and planning is all part of the adventure of travel.

 

 

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Sharing the latest information I just learned.

 

I spoke directly to the Barbados hilton, where I am staying the night before we board the Barbados cruise.  I was becoming concerned about not getting on arrival test results in time to board the cruise.  The Barbados hilton representative told me that Barbados is expected to change testing for fully-vaccinated visitors starting June 30.  Fully-vaccinated visitors (including negative test within 72 hours of arrival) will no longer be required to take any test on arrival.  So, no test, no quarantine, and freedom to move around Barbados.  

 

I was also told that even if the foregoing change is not made, I would be treated as "in transit" and could board the cruise without having received test results.

 

Keeping my fingers crossed that this information is correct and that Barbados changes its procedures.  

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@Borna  Thanks for sharing this latest information you learned.

 

I think there has been lots of corroboration in the past weeks that anyone at a hotel who has not yet received their test results is free to travel to the port to board a ship; there's no risk of being "improsoned" in the hotel and missing the ship.

 

What they told you about ending the arrival test starting in July would be great news if it comes to pass. It would save the inevitable long line at the airport, and allow us freedom to go out to dinner and do sightseeing in Barbados before boarding, rather than sitting at the hotel waiting for the testing email. I think we've all been hoping the requirements would be relaxed before the cruise begin, so I hope this happens.

 

For what it's worth for anyone following my posts in this thread, after much equivocation about a hotel, I ended up booking The Crane using mostly Hilton points (it's a Hilton Vacations property). It's closer to the airport but farther from the cruise port and most of the resorts and restaurants on the west coast. It seemed to have a nice series of pools (thinking we'd be stuck by the pool for a day) and seems a little more indigenous and less big-convention-hotel than the Barbados Hilton. Aside from points, it's a bit less expensive than some of the highly-rated but small boutique hotels on the west coast. If the testing quarantine does go away, I might re-think it one more time in order to stay somewhere closer to most of the restaurants; we'll see... or I may just leave it alone and look into what we can see on the island if we get a "bonus" day to escape the hotel. 😉

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Another question for soon-to-be-Barbados-bound passengers: have you looked into/booked/rejected the Fast Track service at the airport? It seems to be $60/person. I'm not clear on whether it's all from one supplier or if there are multiple services. (On TripAdvisor, it's through St. James Travel and Tours; Viator also sells it; on VisitBarbados.org, the official travel site, Fast Track is through FiveStarFastTrack.com -- I don't know is these are different services, or they're all selling access to the same service.)  

 

We've never flown to Barbados, but we've experienced long and chaotic lines at some Caribbean airports when multiple flights land around the same time, and a service to expedite you through would be worth the cost.

 

The reviews on these websites are generally positive and opine that it's well worth the cost.  But one never knows if online reviews are legitimate or balanced, especially on company websites. So if anyone here has personal experience, or has researched this more thoroughly and come up with definitive information, I'd love to hear it. 🙂

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5 hours ago, cruiseej said:

Another question for soon-to-be-Barbados-bound passengers: have you looked into/booked/rejected the Fast Track service at the airport?


We booked It with Viator in 2017 and then it got cancelled/refunded right before arrival because we were landing on Christmas night.  They did rebook us a driver at least though and we were in first class so we only waited about 10 minutes because we were near to the front of the three flights that all landed at once.

 

I’d be interested in reviews from this summer.  I know these services can frequently change with little notice if CBP suddenly changes a process.  I still remember that happening in Bali many years back - VIP went from private transfer to a lounge where someone always handled CBP for you while you relaxed with a drink and then suddenly on one trip that was gone with no notice and I had basically paid for a person to stand with me in a long line and try to figure out how it which was fastest because they could no longer cut the line!

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Not good news.  Barbados travel protocol updated its website june 26 and seems to have the same on arrival test and quarantine as in its may 30 update.  If anyone has any different or better information, I’d love to hear it.  

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@Borna Did you note any differences between the June 25 version and the June 8 version of the Travel Protocols document? I haven't gone through it in depth. (It's annoying they don't let you download it as a PDF, which would make comparing updated versions pretty easy).

 

I'm not surprised Barbados officials haven't relaxed the rules they established at the beginning of June yet; they're just slowly starting to have more visitors, and haven't yet had the first cruise ships. I think changes will come in time, but I don't know when. I was just looking today at tours and attractions in Barbados, and things are still pretty limited currently. Harrison's Cave, one of the top attractions, remains closed, but looks like it plans to re-open on a limited schedule starting in July. As of now, I don't think cruise ship passengers can do private/independent tours or go off on their own, according to one of the tour companies; they are still waiting for the day that cruise passengers aren't limited to "bubble tours" offered by the ship. 

 

 

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At least at the British Virgin Islands (BVI) stops on the cruise, it appears we will be able to visit on our own without a test on arrival or quarantine.  Here's the latest from BVI website:

june-15_0.jpg

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@Borna  Thanks for keeping us informed of each new development so quickly! 😉

 

It's not clear from that whether cruise ship passengers will have to purchase a BVI Gateway Traveler Authorization Certificate for $35 per person, nor whether they will be available at the cruise terminal; I didn't see any reference to cruise day travelers on their website.

 

In any case, that seems like a very nice step in the right direction. Hopefully we'll see other Caribbean islands -- Bermuda, are you listening?! -- make similar changes, which will make travel easier and more inviting.

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There is still no official "Travel Requirements for Booked Guests" policy document from Seabourn, as there is for their Greece sailings, even though the first Caribbean cruise departs in less than three weeks.  ☹️

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On 6/25/2021 at 2:41 PM, cruiseej said:

Another question for soon-to-be-Barbados-bound passengers: have you looked into/booked/rejected the Fast Track service at the airport? It seems to be $60/person. I'm not clear on whether it's all from one supplier or if there are multiple services. (On TripAdvisor, it's through St. James Travel and Tours; Viator also sells it; on VisitBarbados.org, the official travel site, Fast Track is through FiveStarFastTrack.com -- I don't know is these are different services, or they're all selling access to the same service.)  

 

 

I always use Fast Track, booking through FiveStarFastTrack.com.  They have never failed me, and it's a great investment.  The immigration lines, esp. during the wave of afternoon arrivals, can be long.  It can occasionally be difficult to get a taxi at BGI, esp. in the afternoon.  Thus, I reserve transport to hotel through FiveStar.  Warmly recommended!

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For anyone booked on the Barbados cruises, if you've booked shore excursions, you might want to check to see their status. I received an email from Seabourn that one of our excursions was canceled, and we received a refund. Then I received another refund, with no email from Seabourn; checking the website, I see that another of our excursions was canceled. So we booked four excursions, and half of them were canceled. I see several others we hadn't booked have also now disappeared.

 

I understand these things happen, and possibly more now as the world inches back from the pandemic, but I'm extremely disappointed. Both of our canceled excursions were catamaran trips — the only options Seabourn offered for getting out on the water to see any of the islands, and now both are gone. On our 6-day cruise, one day is a sea day, and one day is (better be!) the caviar in the surf event in St. Kitts. For the other four days in various countries, we only have excursions on two.

 

And options in several places are limited. For example, Grenada is one of the ports where one of our excursions was canceled. There are only two excursions now available: river tubing, which is not our speed, or a 2-hour bus tour featuring a stop, with refreshments, at the airport. (I am not making this up!) I know Grenada is a small island country, but that's really all Seabourn can offer? Not even a trip to a beach for a few hours? Or a sightseeing trip to see several of the waterfalls and scenery on the island? Or even to the rum distillery?

 

I can only hope that by the time of our trip in late September/early October, we will be free to go out on our own in most or all places. I guess I have more research to do in the upcoming weeks. For those of you on one of these cruises, please continue to share anything you learn about our ability to book independent excursions -- and if you've found some good options in any of the countries, please share that, too.

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Oops, it won't allow my to edit my post. Adding here the ports on our cruise:

 

• Bridgetown, Barbados

• Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

• St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda

• Road Town, Tortola

• Carambola Beach, St. Kitts and Nevis

• St. Georges, Grenada

 

If you've been to one of the ports previously and done something on your own which you'd recommend, please file free to share that as well. (I know there are several forums on CC and elsewhere for ports of call, so I'll check those out.)

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We, too, received an email notification that our Harrison's cave tour in Barbados was cancelled because the cave is closed the rest of this year due to covid concerns.  That's the only ship excursion that we chose that has been cancelled so far.

Yes, we, are on the Grenada bus excursion as that's the only option in Grenada and Grenada has advised us that we are only allowed to take a ship excursion and cannot wander on our own.  So, despite my general dislike of ship excursions, we booked it; otherwise, we would not be able to get off the ship.

 

St. Lucia has confirmed in writing to me that we (vaccinated and able to get tested on ship and provide negative result within 72 hours of landing in St. Lucia), with no testing in port) will be able to see St. Lucia on our own.  So, we did not book any excursions on St. Lucia.

 

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, cruiseej said:

For anyone booked on the Barbados cruises, if you've booked shore excursions, you might want to check to see their status. I received an email from Seabourn that one of our excursions was canceled, and we received a refund. Then I received another refund, with no email from Seabourn; checking the website, I see that another of our excursions was canceled. So we booked four excursions, and half of them were canceled. I see several others we hadn't booked have also now disappeared.

 

I understand these things happen, and possibly more now as the world inches back from the pandemic, but I'm extremely disappointed. Both of our canceled excursions were catamaran trips — the only options Seabourn offered for getting out on the water to see any of the islands, and now both are gone. On our 6-day cruise, one day is a sea day, and one day is (better be!) the caviar in the surf event in St. Kitts. For the other four days in various countries, we only have excursions on two.

 

And options in several places are limited. For example, Grenada is one of the ports where one of our excursions was canceled. There are only two excursions now available: river tubing, which is not our speed, or a 2-hour bus tour featuring a stop, with refreshments, at the airport. (I am not making this up!) I know Grenada is a small island country, but that's really all Seabourn can offer? Not even a trip to a beach for a few hours? Or a sightseeing trip to see several of the waterfalls and scenery on the island? Or even to the rum distillery?

 

I can only hope that by the time of our trip in late September/early October, we will be free to go out on our own in most or all places. I guess I have more research to do in the upcoming weeks. For those of you on one of these cruises, please continue to share anything you learn about our ability to book independent excursions -- and if you've found some good options in any of the countries, please share that, too.

We are on back to backs in early October and have not spent any time looking at excursion options.  Having traveled in the Caribbean for about 45 years we have seldom seen a need for organized tours/excursions since we find it relatively easy (and inexpensive) to simply do our own thing.   But, like you, we simply have no clue as to what the rules are going to be on the various islands by October.  To be honest, DW and I would be more then happy to simply stay aboard in some of the ports since it would often come down to a beach day vs sitting on deck (with great service/food/drink).  As to Granada (we have been there 3-4 times) if the island is open for independent travel you might consider just hiring a taxi (at the port) and taking a taxi tour.  We have had lots of fun doing that on some previous visits and the drivers can take you to see some of the spice related stuff, waterfalls, etc.  We found hiring a taxi to be less expensive then the more crowded excursions and it can be a lot of fun if you find another couple to share your day.  

 

If we are stuck with mandatory "bubble" excursions then we would carefully evaluate each option to decide if we want to take, what is for us, a rare ship excursion.  In Barbados (for us it is a turn around day) we have previously enjoyed the tour to Harrison's Cave and assuming that it is offered as an option it might be how we spend a few hours.  Otherwise we have often spent our Barbados days at a beach (on our own) but it seems likely that Barbados will continue its tough restrictions which may prevent any independent options for those coming off a ship.

 

Hank

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First, let me express my best wishes for the people of Barbados. Elsa was the first hurricane to hit the island in 60 years. I'm waiting to rad how extensive the damage was, and whether it is likely to affect cruises in any way.

 

17 hours ago, Borna said:

Our Harrison's cave tour in Barbados was cancelled because the cave is closed the rest of this year due to covid concerns.

 

That seems odd. The website for Harrison's Cave has been saying it would re-open in early July. Currently, it says the opening date was pushed back to July 9 due to concerns last week about the impending hurricane. But the website shows availability for morning tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for the rest of the year.

 

17 hours ago, Borna said:

Yes, we, are on the Grenada bus excursion as that's the only option in Grenada and Grenada has advised us that we are only allowed to take a ship excursion and cannot wander on our own.

 

I guess all we can do is hope they relax their restrictions a bit over the next couple months. I guess I understand that if the authorities on Grenada don't want tourists running around the island, there will be limited options for touring. But that brings up two questions: (1) If a tour operator is allowed to run a bus tour, then why not offer an option beyond the two-hour tour which visits the airport as one of its high points, and circle more of the island so we can see it's natural beauty? (2) If the island is closed to vaccinated toasts from a cruise ship, then why did Seabourn pick this destination instead of one of the other Caribbean islands which is more open to tourists/has a broader array of excursion options.

 

I absolutely don't mind a day on the ship, and look forward to our sea day plus the beach day on St. Kitts, but visiting countries where there aren't viable options to see much of the island doesn't make sense to me. I don't know the status of the various Caribbean nations, but there seem to be multiple possible options if Grenada doesn't have much to offer, such as Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Martinique, Guadaloupe, a touring day in addition to the beach day in St. Kitts, etc.  While I understand there are many factors out of the control of Seabourn with respect to virus protocols, this comes off to be me as poor planning. In fact, I'd love to see them pull a port substitution in the near future than carry on with a less-than-optimal plan.  

 

3 hours ago, Hlitner said:

As to Granada (we have been there 3-4 times) if the island is open for independent travel you might consider just hiring a taxi (at the port) and taking a taxi tour.  We have had lots of fun doing that on some previous visits and the drivers can take you to see some of the spice related stuff, waterfalls, etc.  We found hiring a taxi to be less expensive then the more crowded excursions and it can be a lot of fun if you find another couple to share your day.

 

I'd be happy to do that, but according to @Borna we won't be allowed off the ship on our own in Grenada.

 

@Borna , do you have any information about the stop in Antigua & Barbuda? That's the other port where our planned catamaran excursion was canceled. (Strangely, Seabourn has yet to notify us of this one, but I received a refund for it and it's no longer on the list of available excursions). Our excursion options there are somewhat limited (assuming we aren't going to rent a private motorboat for $900 or a luxury motorboat for $6,000, which is a bit steep for two of us! 😉 ). I'd be happy to look for something we could do on our own… if we're allowed out of the bubble. 

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Last I checked for Antigua & Barbuda:  

 

Antigua & Barbuda - 
 
Visitors may be required to undergo testing for COVID-19 on arrival or at the hotel or place of lodging as determined by the Health Authorities.
 
Sounds like it's up to the on port authority's assessment of the visitor.  
 
I'm continuing to check - near daily - all the islands on the Barbados cruise.
 
I'm on the July 25 - August 8  14 day (back to back Barbados cruises).
 
Agree wholeheartedly that, if we cannot see an island like Grenada on our own, SB should come up with better and more thorough bubble excursions.  
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Here's the latest from St. Kitts, which seems similar to Antigua & Barbuda:

 

Health Screening Questions

Upon arrival, all travelers will have their temperature checked and asked to answer a series of health screening questions, including health and travel history.

In the event a traveler exhibits any COVID-19 symptoms during the health screening, the traveler will be required to take a COVID-19 test on site at the traveler's expense.

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