The diary of a Virgin Educational from an experienced traveller new to the industry.
My flight with Virgin departed at 10:40 am and so I decided to stay over at Gatwick airport the night before rather than chance the M25! I stayed at the Premier Inn North Terminal hotel, just a 2 minute walk to North Terminal to catch the 2 minute free monorail to South Terminal the following morning.
I was lucky enough to be invited to enjoy the V-Room which had fabulous views of the runway, allowed me to skip through security in a fraction of the time and even provided a delicious breakfast (with a chef prepared to offer a tailor-made breakfast!). I would certainly recommend this as a way of escaping the crowds and winding down before the flight.
We boarded our Virgin flight and enjoyed the first class service provided by the crew. I got to experienced life in Upper Class for just over 8 hours and loved every moment. I enjoyed watching the latest films, sleeping on my flatbed (with a fluffy duvet and pillow), sipping mile high mojitos at the bar and sampling the most delicious airline food I have ever had including afternoon tea.
Arriving into Barbados mid-afternoon, we were greeted by sunshine and smiles. We had a smooth transfer to Savannah Beach Hotel where we enjoyed tropical welcome drinks. After a quick change and after admiring the dreamy view out across the Caribbean Sea, we made our way to dinner. The Hotel is a 19th Century converted Plantation House which sits on the beach and is a great family hotel, offering a kids club, teen hangout den (home to the Pauline Quirke Academy of Performing Arts) and games room. Our room was on the first floor and had steps down from the balcony right into the lagoon style pool.
After a sound night’s sleep, we were whisked away to the brand new Sandals property and had a tour of the hotel. I can see why this property is already a hit for weddings and honeymoons with its first class service, adult only couple status and prime location alone. We saw many of the rooms with my favourite being the swim up room. There was a bathtub on the terrace and loungers just a few steps away partly submerged in the inviting lagoon waters. We were treated to a sumptuous breakfast getting to pick from many delicious buffet style items. I enjoyed the best pancakes I have ever eaten; fluffed to perfection! Whilst looking out to sea and watching the waves gently lapping the white sand beach I can see why couples flock here. It really is a peaceful luxurious break away from it all.
Turtle Beach Hotel was our next stop. This is an all-inclusive all-suite resort which sits on 1500 feet of white sandy beach. We were treated to chocolate covered strawberries in the ocean view suite which has spectacular views and is very modern and well appointed. There was even a dressing area which I know would come in very handy if I was staying there! We enjoyed a catamaran sailing with Captain Sam which was utterly terrifying and exciting, coasting over the waves at breakneck speed (probably only a few miles an hour although it felt much quicker!), but thoroughly enjoyable. In my view, it is the best place to sail on the island as the Platinum Coast is much calmer and so not half as much fun. This hotel also had the largest gym off all the hotels I visited and a great kids’ club with movie nights!
We then checked in to Sea Breeze, a beautifully relaxing escape spread over 2.5 acres of lush tropical landscape. There is a very modern boutique feel to the entrance and bar area with the rooms offering a relaxed Caribbean feel. Sea Breeze was one of my favourite places; it felt incredibly relaxing and it was very peaceful.
In the early evening we transferred to Ocean Two for cocktails. This hotel has a clean cut modern feel to it but welcomes you with warmth and great cocktails. It is perfect for those wanting to self-cater as it is exceptionally well equipped with a high finish and sits close to The Gap for evenings out. One quirky feature with this property is that it is the only hotel in Barbados to have a rooftop terrace complete with pool. Every Wednesday you can enjoy the manager’s cocktail evening there, listening to live music, enjoying wonderful cocktails and taking in the views and absorbing the atmosphere. We were treated to dinner in the Penthouse suite with food cooked by our own chef (available to all self-catering guests if they choose). This was the most relaxing and fun night in Barbados with our host, Charmaine making us all feel very welcome.
Today was a day of adventure, exploring hill top views, sugar cane history and……….off-roading! With the wind in our hair, we journeyed past Gun Hill, soaked up the unusual but fabulous views at Bathsheba and saw the island’s largest sugar factory, Andrews. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable and had a great sense of humour.
We arrived back to our hotel, Sea Breeze, late afternoon and enjoyed champagne cocktails in the hot tub, relaxing on the white sandy beach, eating local delicacies and dancing away to live music. We also spent a little time at The Gap and found a brilliant little place called Jamm Inn which served a creative mix of cocktails (the snickers one has to be sampled) and a terrific live band to which everyone was dancing away to or at least tapping their feet.
One of the highlights of the trip was at Sea Breeze. On our last morning after breakfast we took part in Ready Steady Cook! We were split into two teams and had to cook Bajan fishcakes, pancakes and plantain. Our team was lucky enough to win, inspired by the knowledge and skill of the hotel’s chefs (who’d previously made one of the most amazing cakes I have seen and tasted for a member of our group who was celebrating her birthday) and our team rode to victory with its delectable dish. Jacqui was an incredible host and made our stay very special and so I know guests celebrating a special occasion would be well looked after.
We then headed to Waves Hotel, our first taste of the Platinum Coast and enjoyed beautiful views and wonderfully relaxing massages. We were then ready to head to The Club, our home for the next night. I was lucky enough to be given one of the best rooms in the hotel. I opened my door and was greeted by a breath-taking sea view. I had opened the door to my open plan lounge (an extended balcony with no door) which then connected with my large bedroom and bathroom with lovely corner bath. We sampled the island’s famous Mount Gay Rum before heading to Enid’s for a tasty 3 course dinner. I loved Enid’s because it’s all about local food and I could have eaten there every night as the dishes were so good. We made full use of the Piano bar which is a lovely extra and included karaoke with live piano!
Oistins is also a great place to be on Friday evenings from 6:30 pm – it’s Fish Friday! You can choose from a variety of Bajan seasoned fish and have it fried or grilled as you take in the local entertainment and music.
Today we had lunch at the Colony Club. We began with a tour of the hotel and I absolutely fell in love with the rooms, especially the ground floor swim up rooms which also came with a large terrace. The stone walls, luxurious furnishings and tranquil setting makes this the perfect break if you really want seclusion and great service. Our lunch setting was by the beach with gorgeous views out to sea accompanied by the most heavenly food. The hotel looked so beautiful and felt very peaceful and after such a wonderful lunch, we only had the energy to return to our final hotel of the trip where we’d spend our last night, Crystal Cove.
The beach at Crystal Cove is the best beach I experienced. It was charming, offered water sports, was quite large allowing people plenty of space and offered inviting waters to cool off in. There were cheerful members of staff taking care of us all by providing drinks and ice lollies throughout the day. My room had a prime beachfront location with two floors and its own bar although this was never used! There was a large and well equipped gym which I enjoyed sorbet in whilst feeling terribly conscious of all the eating I’d been doing and a lovely kids club.
We headed to The House where arrival is over a bridge lined with fire lit torches and enjoyed sundowners. This was without doubt one of my favourites. It was an all-suite adult only property which offered champagne breakfast, afternoon tea and canapés in the evening. It felt exceptionally relaxed, had clear views out to sea and I could imagine being outside watching the sunset with a rum punch in hand. It was understated luxury at its best.
Tamarind is located next door under a covered walkway and offers an attractive waterfront restaurant. We enjoyed a gala meal there and sampled the best chocolate dessert on the entire island. It was that good, not even my group could get my attention as I was savouring every mouthful. This hotel is perfect for families and offers a good kids’ club, 2 family friendly pools (and another adult only) and large and beautifully decorated rooms.
They saved the best for last! Today we got to swim with the turtles. We were picked up from the shores of Crystal Cove and taken on a short boat trip to see the Turtles, not too far from Sandy Lane. We were given snorkelling equipment (the best I’d ever used as the masks didn’t leak!) and offered lifejackets if needed. I found myself away from the main group and had the sudden urge to turn around. Right in front on me was a turtle. I swam with her for a few minutes, watching her surface to take air and swim down into the depths of the ocean. This was a truly magical moment I will treasure forever and I cannot wait to return to swim here again. We had one final stop, a shipwreck! This site was located not far from The Club where we had stayed previously. I have snorkelled in the Maldives and Egypt and the volume of fish here was quite spectacular. I found myself in amongst shoals of fish, reaching out to touch them but always being just out of reach as they gracefully glided past me.
It then came to our return flight home and again, we I enjoyed a wonderful personable service and even breakfast in bed. Upgrading to Upper Class on a return night flight is a smart move as facing the M25 rush hour traffic the next morning was far easier having been able to sleep on the way home.
Now I am back, I have very fond memories of Barbados. A perfect all year round destination, beautiful beaches, lovely people and relaxing hotels.