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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Jewel of the Seas - [Day 3] Barbados

On Christmas morning, we docked in Bridgetown, Barbados. We had made plans to meet for breakfast in the main dining room at 9AM, but discovered that morning that the dining room closed at 9AM. Judy and Stove "just happened" to be ready early and went to the MDR for breakfast. The rest of us headed up to the Windjammer.


While I wish there was more variety, there were some decent breakfast options in the Windjammer. I liked the breakfast hash and omelets (if the line isn't too crazy).


Also, they had some version of avocado toast every morning which I appreciated.



We had pre-arranged and excursion today for Harrison's Cave Tour and Ziplining by Chukka which Stove booked through Viator. In his email communication before the cruise, they told us to meet at Chefete's parking lot where they would pick us up and take us to Harrison's Cave. We gave ourselves plenty of time to figure this out before our meeting time.


It's quite a walk from where we docked to the cruise terminal. The port offers shuttles to the terminal, but we just walked.


We were in port with the Norwegian Viva.


As well as the Viking Sea.


It's a pretty industrial-feeling port, but they try.


Inside the terminal, we made our way to the taxi stand where we asked how to get to Chefette's. One woman told us we could take a taxi there. Someone else told us that it was close and we could walk, and gave us directions.


Thankfully, Aaron took charge and led the way. I wasn't so sure about our route. We did pass some interesting buildings, though.


Chefette! Seeing it was the first I realized that it was a restaurant we were meeting at.



Chefette was also closed because it was Christmas Day.


Just waiting on our shuttle....


We waited half an hour. No shuttle. Stove kept trying to email and get in contact, but wasn't having any luck (it was Christmas). We did learn that Stove already had the tickets for Harrison's Cave and Ziplining, so we decided it was time to cut our losses and arrange our own transportation.


We started hoofing it back to the cruise terminal so we could grab a taxi when we passed a taxi driver with a van on the way. He said he could take us up to Harrison's Cave, no problem. We told him that our tour was at 11 AM, and he told us that he would get us there as fast as possible because they don't take latecomers.

Rachel, Judy, and I were in the very back, Landon and Stove were in the second row, and Aaron was in the front passenger seat (which was on the left side because they drive on the left side of the road in Barbados). When he said he'd get us there as fast as possible, he meant it. He was flying! Whenever he came up on another car, he'd pass them, even when cars were approaching in the opposite direction. Weaving in and out of traffic.... all with a manual transmission, too. And the entire time, he played loud Christmas music which he turned down on a few occasions to tell Aaron, "I just want to make sure you don't miss your tour." The juxtaposition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas with his NASCAR-style driving was hilarious, but at the time I was absolutely terrified. I was wondering if anyone else noticed this madness, and I looked over to Rachel who was panicking. I was also panicking because I was in the middle seat of the way back and the only person without a seatbelt, so I knew that if this van crashed, I of all people was going to die.

We made it to Harrison's Cave alive and in record time. Our driver gave us his contact info and told us that he would pick us up at the end of our tour and take us back to the pier.


Alas, Harrison's Cave!


We all had to connect to their Wifi to sign electronic waivers on our phones. Judy, however, did not bring her phone (why would she need it?)... I think she ended up filling it out on my dad's phone. But they never asked to see our waivers, they just asked if we had filled them out.


Our tour started in a theater where we watched Harrison's Cave Discover Barbados Film. It was produced exclusively for Harrison's Cave about Destination Barbados. It's a promotional tourist film with some history about the island.

At the end of the tour, we learned that the 32 of us would be taking the tour together. There was a large family of 16, and then there was the rest of us.


We then took a glass elevator down to the Eco Adventure Park.


This is the Gully Challenge Course. It looks like something that would be fun for young kids, but not that thrilling for older kids or adults.


We were encouraged to use the restroom before going to the cave. Don't have to ask me twice. While we were in the bathroom, I guess everyone else went on to the theater. We were the last group there, and everyone else had received hair nets. We had to split up and find random seats for the film. This film was an informational film about Harrison's Cave.

Interestingly, when I was reading reviews about the tour, a few of the 3 star reviews complained about the two films.

We left the theater and headed to board the tram that would take us through Boyce Tunnel (named after equipment operator Noel Boyce who broke ground to open passage to the cave). We were provided hardhats, and we were able to get hair nets.

The family of 16 had taken up a bit more space than they needed, so the rest of us were crowded into the back of the tram. There was only one row left in the very back, and it sat four people across, so Stove and Judy split up and tagged onto the rows in front of them. Stove's row didn't want to make room for him, but he told them that they were going to have to scoot over.




Harrison's Cave opened to the public in 1981. The stream cave system is at least 2.3 kilometers long.


The interior temperature of the cave is an average temperature of 27 degrees Celsius.


The caves were formed naturally by water erosion through the limestone rock. Unusual stalactites and stalagmites have formed from dripping water through the cave ceiling.



Our tour guide was Che and our driver was Andre. They were entertaining. Che had some jokes.


Something that bothered me and probably only me is that the caves were outfitted with a warm light throughout, but the trams had a white light.


I was surprised when we stopped and they allowed us to get out of the tram and take photos.


My view verses Aaron's view...


Harrison's Cave is considered an active cave because it carries water and stalagmites continue to grow.



They called us to board the tram and everyone went except the 16 person family. They stayed out and kept taking photos of each other, blatantly ignoring Che who kept asking them to get back on the tram. Talk about being entitled!

I enjoyed the cave and thought it was very cool to see, but I would've appreciated less people on our tram and a bit more organization in the beginning before boarding the tram.


The next part of our tour was the Monkey Zipline.



The guides were super nice and let me keep my camera out to get some photos of everyone gearing up before stashing it in the locker.



After being fitted with gear, we were brought to a demo area for a safety briefing.

I brought my phone with me, thinking I could get photos of others, but that was a mistake. When I hiked my legs up to my chest to zipline, my phone nearly fell out of my pocket. One of the guides took it for me and put it in his cargo pant pocket. I worried that I wasn't going to be able to find this guy again, but what else was I going to do? Should've left it in the locker...

Perhaps because it was Christmas Day, the zipline was very slow and inefficient. They were operating as if they had half of the guides that they actually did. They'd accumulate 8 people on a platform, then head to the next. Meanwhile, there were to guides chilling with us on the platform waiting to go. It was hot standing up there, and the slow pacing definitely took away from the thrill of it, in my opinion.

The zipline itself wasn't that cool compared to other ziplines that I've done. Chukka describes it as "set amongst a canopy of trees," and sure, the platforms may be up with the trees, but the zipline itself is not through the trees. It's over the adventure park below. Basically like ziplining over a parking lot. Not that cool. Would not recommend.


After the zipline, there was a little confusion on where we should go, who do we give our gear back to? Also, I couldn't leave without my phone! Thankfully, they located my phone and brought it back to me - phew!

They also have The Mount Gay Rum Tasting Experience here, but that was not part of our tour.


We attempted to call the speed demon cab driver who dropped us off here, but he wasn't answering. In the meantime, some woman came up to Rachel and asked her name. "I thought so! I've been looking for you!" She was our transportation/tour guide who was supposed to pick us up at Chefette. She was able to arrange us transportation back to port on a NCL shore excursion bus.

She really wanted to explain herself to someone which happened to be me. She was trying to call Stove, but it wasn't working. She was sending messages through WhatsApp. Stove doesn't have WhatsApp, and it was never communicated to him that he needed to download WhatsApp.

So big misunderstanding, but we got a ride back to port, and Stove was later refunded his $50 cab fare to get to Harrison's Cave.

On the bus ride back, the people on the NCL excursion had done the rum tasting, and it seemed like a good value... or a lot of alcohol, at least. Everyone was wasted. Of course we lucked out sitting in front of drunk idiots, one of whom confidently declared that most of the world drives on the left side of the road (fact check: 35%), and that America was the only country that didn't. Her boyfriend argued that Canada didn't, and she told him that they do drive on the left side of the road in Canada, and he seemed to buy it.... or at least decided not to tell her that she was definitely wrong.




We considered getting food and drinks in port, but decided just to go back to the ship.




Aaron really wanted a photo with the Barbados sign. Hot tip - there are two Barbados signs, so don't stop at the first one, keep going to the second.



Wet paint...



It's quite a walk to the ship, and you can take a bus, but I enjoy the walk for the photo opportunities.


The Viking Sea ship looked nice... it's small, but you can tell it's quality just from the maintenance of the exterior.



The slides on the side of the Norwegian Viva looks insane. "The Drop" and "The Rush" are 10-story drop slides (like Abyss on Harmony of the Seas and other Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ships) that take you from deck 18 to deck 8.








When we got onboard, the only place with food was the Solarium Cafe (maybe we should've eaten in port...) and there was an obnoxiously long line for pizza. This is a major problem that I also noticed last year on Celebrity Summit. Dining options are very limited in between standard lunch and dinner hours, but most people return to the ship during these hours and are hungry, but the ship isn't prepared for the influx of hungry guests. I mean, they must know that this is an issue by the length of their pizza line.

Rachel declared that she needed a nap. The rest of us went to the Diamond Lounge for some quiet.

From above, we realized that the Sky Bar looked promising....



The plus side of no food is that the drinks hit harder.





Landon, Aaron, and I decided to head down to the Solarium Bar for the most potent drink on the ship, Rum Punch.


I actually went for the drink of the day, the Ocean Breeze.




Stove decided to head downstairs to guest relations to see if he could solve our dining room woes. Aaron suggested that we could switch to My Time Dining so at least we could sit downstairs in the main part of the dining room. (It seems like RCCL is encouraging My Time Dining, placing it on the main level of the dining room.)

Stove came back successful. He talked to a manager of the dining room who discouraged us switching to My Time Dining, said she had too many MTDers and that we wouldn't be happy with that. Instead, she promised us a table for 6 (we had been sitting at tables for 8). She gave him a card to hand the dining room host who would seat us at dinner.


The Viking ship set sail...


We headed back to the room to get ready for dinner.


Christmas Eve fits. (Forgive Aaron for his silly face - he loves me.)


So the card Stove had.... it was some kind of password/coded message. As soon as he showed the card, they escorted us to a table for 6 upstairs.


We were still seated at Table 457 with Victor and Kiran, our table had just been relocated in the corner away from the giant family. Much better!


I ordered the Roasted Poblano Pepper Soup. I was advised that it was spicy, but I didn't think so. It was actually sweeter than I thought it was going to be.


For my main course, I ordered the Carne Asada which was not very flavorful. It tasted better with added salt.


Aaron ordered the Pulled Pork Enchilada which looked more like a burrito in appearance. Good flavor, though.


For dessert, I had the Warm Apple Cobbler. I think it was my favorite dessert all week.


After dinner, we went to the Safari Club.



Then Aaron and I went to explore the ship some more.



Hide and seek?


The only time we went in the gym...



Found a fun stair between the gym and the spa.


And Aaron got brave enough to stand on the glass over the Centrum.





Merry Christmas!


NEXT: [Day 3] Barbados

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