Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Yesterday I told you about the general differences of Grand Cayman and Barbados. Now, here's an overview of the food, nightlife and hotels.
Barbados and Grand Cayman are about on par when it comes to food. While Bajans are quick to tell you that Barbados is the only island with its own Zagat's guide (it's given away for free at the airport, restaurants and most hotels), I wasn't blown away anywhere I ate. There's a lot of fried flying fish, which is tasty in small quantities. Sadly, I didn't have the chance to eat at Oistins (below), the outdoor market that's hopping on Friday nights with people and dancing. If you go, stop by Uncle George's fried fish stand (that's him, above), which is rumored to be the best.
Overall, most of the food I ate was over-sauced. I often wished I was eating a simple piece of grilled fish, rather than a piece of grilled fish topped with orange pesto sauce on coconut-flavored rice. My favorite meal of the trip was at Restaurant at Southsea (below. That's not my photo--it was raining when we went there) where I had a yummy grilled lobster. The prices for food on both Barbados and Grand Cayman are pretty similar--about $25-30 for an entree. We didn't have any meal that compared to Eric Ripert's Blue in Grand Cayman--in food quality or cost, but I hear a meal at The Cliff comes closest.
When it comes to nightlife, Barbados has more of it than Grand Cayman. St. Lawrence Gap is lined with clubs and pubs and is reportedly Rihanna's favorite haunt when she's in town. My group opted to skip the club when we were told we had to pay a cover charge (Hell-o! We were four women and they wouldn't cut us a deal.) for a quieter pub, where we could drink our Banks beers in peace on a patio. That said, I had a good deal more fun in Grand Cayman, but I think that's because I was with my good friends, who I could have fun with in the back of a pick up truck.
Now the biggie--the hotel. I was excited to stay at a small hotel, after staying at the 300+ room Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman. That excitement soon waned when I arrived at Mango Bay (that's my room above). My biggest issue with the hotel was the mosquito colony that lived in my shower. That's followed closely by the aggressive birds who flew into the dining room and felt at home on the buffet at the all-you-can-eat breakfast and lunch buffets. (Ever since a pigeon wing once touched my head, I have a sever aversion to any creature that flies. They don't always miss.) I could go on, but I'll limit myself to three complaints. Complaint #3: The hotel was overrun with pasty Brits and their much younger girlfriends enjoying the all-inclusive resort. The small beach was so crowded on our last day that you had to bob and weave through the umbrellas.
To Mango Bay's credit, my room did have a stellar view of the beach. Unfortunately, there was a steel drum band playing every night to entertain those Brits and the majority of the rooms surround the pool.
We did have the opportunity to visit The Crane, which has one of the most stunning beach views I've ever seen. It was the first hotel on the island, and has since grown into a multi-building compound with shops and three restaurants.
The Crane is on the east side of the island and the Atlanic is notably rougher than the Caribbean. The Crane has a number of suites and penthouses that would be ideal home bases for a girls' trip--all have kitchens or kitchenettes. If you can swing a penthouse, it's worth it, if only so you can bathe in the outdoor tub.
I've also heard good things The Hotel, a chic 34-room hotel and JSG's friend, Carolyn, did enjoy her stay at the Fairmont.
So, with all that being said, I would probably pick Barbados to go back to, especially given that American flys there non-stop from JFK, Jet Blue starts flying there non-stop from JFK this fall and Air Jamaica is flying there non-stop twice weekly through the summer. But more than anything, this reinforced that who you travel with is more important than where you go!
Read Part 1 of Annie's adventures in Barbados.