It’s not lost on me just how lucky we were to be able to escape at last! I call it a Barbados escape as it really did feel like we were doing something naughty! We had booked the trip on the off chance that Barbados would be a ‘Green destination’ on Boris’s traffic light list of countries. However before Boris could tell us what we could and couldn’t do, we made the decision ourselves. Both being self-employed where all work can be working from home if absolutely necessary, we were both desperate for some proper time away, apart from the odd UK weekend away, we hadn’t stopped working throughout the pandemic, and a proper rest and relaxation holiday, over the sea and far away was what we needed, so we went for it. And how blessed we were!
When choosing a hotel, we didn’t have too many options. As Hilton Grand Vacation members The Crane hotel is a fairly new one to the chain and as it has many options of rooms where isolation would be easy if necessary, we picked this one on the East of the island.
There is another ‘typical’ Hilton resort on the West of Barbados, (we stayed there for a few days due to its proximity to the dive school.) as I’m what’s known as a ‘dive widow’ rather than a ‘golf widow’; I was also one of those back in the day; I prefer the latter though, as my friend said, better locations being a dive widow!
This one is more of a commercial hotel rather than an actual resort. There’s a few photos below, and it was a lovely mini break, but if you’re clever with the points and there is a choice at your destination, you can avoid these styles of hotels, as the Hilton brand also covers the Conrad, Waldorf Astoria, LXR and DoubleTree amongst others.
The Grand Vacations properties generally have the choice of an apartment style room, with a small kitchen, lounge, washing machine etc, which is always a good option to have if you want to combine a self-catering holiday with a luxurious one and to save a few ££’s.
The Crane has its own COVID testing lab, a new criteria that was attractive to us as it meant we were able to opt out of the airport testing queues and go straight to the hotel to test on arrival. We waited no longer than 3 hours for the results and during that time had access to most areas of the hotel due to our double vaccination status. It was exceptionally hot on hands, face, space, with masks being worn when in all public spaces when not sitting down (that’s a Barbados rule) many hand sanitisers around the grounds and temperature checks before entering the restaurant areas. Read my blog here on what it was like entering Barbados.
We had so many unused points from 2020 so we opted for the one bedroom park deluxe penthouse suite with pool and roof deck just in case we couldn’t leave the room. It sounded amazing and we were so looking forward to it, but all I can say about our particular room (3622) is that it’s the first room I have been to that 100% met the criteria for being able to report Hilton Grand Vacations to the courts for being in breach of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. For those who don’t know about this Act, it prevents retailers and the service industry providers from misleading consumers as to what they are spending their money on. We were most definitely misled here.
The hotel prides itself on being the oldest hotel in the Caribbean, built in 1887. What they don’t tell you is that this particluar room actually doesn’t look like it’s been refurbished or looked after very well since 1887! I won’t go into too much detail about this room, as it became only a minor hitch at the start of our trip, but this was definitely not what we had hoped for after waiting 17 months for our first long haul destination vacation.
Praying that the rooftop area would make up for the sorry state of the suite downstairs, our hopes were soon dashed when we found wicker garden furniture that was fit for nothing except torture to the body with its unravelling, scrawny pieces of wicker that had come loose over the years, and a BBQ that looked like something that would have prepared meats for cavemen. So after a brief shower and a call down to reservations, off we trotted to find a suitable alternative in this vast hotel.
I think the hotel can’t have been more than 20% occupied so we moved rooms easily and ended up with an upgrade to the most gorgeous ocean view suite with a plunge pool to boot!
Most of the accommodation here is spectacular. One or two bedrooms suites with plunge pools, or small pools, with ocean views. My tip for this resort is don’t book a rooftop or garden or park view room unless you are guaranteed it’s been well maintained and are happy to be in amongst the foliage. In my opinion unless you don’t like to see the sea, only the ocean view blocks are worth it, otherwise you’ll feel aggrieved and exceptionally envious of those who have both the private pools and the views.
We would return to this hotel and book either the same room, or the larger 2 bed ocean view on the ground floor, as those have proper mini pools and a terrace to sit in the sun. The higher levels don’t seem to get the sun on the terraces but that may depend on the season or position. So if you want sun on the terrace, ask for it.
Due to low capacity, only a handful of the restaurants were open. All based round a village square, the main hub had a slight Disney feel to it, albeit an empty one. We couldn’t work out if it looked quiet because of Covid; because we were here out of season or because the hotel is so vast and could be really busy but you wouldn’t necessarily notice; but for whatever reason we never felt like we were in a busy ‘resort’ style hotel.
People tended to flock to The Carriage House for lunch as the beach bar wasn’t open at all and the main bar was closed until 5pm so lunchtimes were busier than the evenings. We ate at the Italian restaurant which was delicious with a great wine selection and the usual Italian fare as well as fresh fish, seafood and homemade desserts. You’d definitely have to book the restaurants here in high season, and the same goes for the Japanese/Thai restaurant ‘Zen’ too. With ocean views, this one was hidden away at the back (or front) of the hotel, after 10 days I still couldn’t get my bearings! Both restaurants were good, however, once you’ve been to Fusion on the West Coast (read about that one here🙂 no other Japanese/Thai on the island compares.
If you don’t want to spend the time or money getting taxis over to the West of the island, which is where the more popular resorts and restaurants are, then make sure all the restaurants options area available to you, or you may get bored of Italian, Japanese and bar bites for dinner.
There’s one great bar/restaurant within walking distance of The Crane, Marco Polos, owned by a British guy Mark, who we coincidentally met whilst out at a sports bar watching the England match! It had a great choice of wines and food and again was quiet at this time of year, but I can imagine its very busy peak season at The Crane and Mark was charming!
For us, we were happy to chill and dip in and out of other places as we chose. The hotel has a number of drivers on site to take you wherever you want to go whenever you want to go. Taxis to the West generally cost around £25 one way for a 30/40 minute journey. Nothing is cheap in Barbados, but the taxis seem to have standard fares and it’s cheaper and safer than hiring a car in my opinion, some of the roads are more like tracks. For the best driver on the island, please see my What to do in Barbados blog. We were mostly driven by David of Nakendras Chauffeur Services, who was the nicest, most charming and accommodating person to show you round the island. Very entertaining, knowledgeable and fun too! But book him in advance for any trips, he’s very popular!
There are a variety of pools to choose from if you decide to venture out from your own; the Cliff Pools are the central point of the hotel, there’s also a large whirlpool and finally the historical pool,(this was my favourite), adults only pool, this one was actually the original hotel pool, next to the breakfast restaurant, and our own private pool most of the time
Despite our initial issues , the staff couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating. The general manger compensated us for the issues we had and we will definitely return back to The Crane, and most probably around the same time of year as I’m really not sure I could do the sun/heat without the clouds!
I’m now sitting here at the historical pool finishing both my holiday and writing my blog and I really, really, really don’t want to leave.
ADDENDUM TO THIS BLOG: an hour later, rumours started online that Boris was adding Barbados to the Green list. Two hours before we were due to check in, packed and ready to leave we made the quickest and riskiest decision we’ve ever made. We blew the remainder of our annual points to book the extra 5 days in Barbados and change the flights so we hopefully didn’t need to quarantine on our return.
The risk paid off as 35 minutes after we had confirmed our new flights, Barbados officially went Green (or a wonky watchlist Green, whatever that is)!!! It was like we’d been given a gift from the big man above and felt completely lucky and blessed to be starting another mini holiday all over again, getting the opportunity to do all the things we hadn’t had time to do first time round!
If we had the choice again, we’d definitely stay here on the East of the island. There is always a breeze which makes sitting in the sun so much easier, but also more dangerous if you’re not covered in factor 50!
For more information, click here to read my blog What to do in Barbados.