Crane Beach, Barbados - WRECKED
What was one of the better beaches in the World has effectively and practically been wrecked - not by Hurricanes but by the swamping of the beach by sun-loungers apparently belonging to the nearby Crane Hotel, along with broken glass, rubbish, metal beer bottle tops, and other detritus presumably left by guests and not cleared up by the beach staff.
A few weeks ago we ventured out to Crane Beach on the South Coast of Barbados. Our guide book "Barbados Directions - Accurate, Reliable, Informative" by Rough Guides (nominally dated: 2004) states "... it's still a fetching place [the hotel] and worth a look even if you're not staying (a fee of B$5 is charged for use of the facilities, though you can put it towards any food or drink you have during your visit."
My travelling companion, in her 60s, is somewhat mobility impaired (from a double knee replacement some weeks ago) and needs a stick to help to walk. But having read about Crane Beach we decided to spend a day there. We took a local bus from Bridgetown to the entrance gates of the Crane Hotel, and then walked through the grounds to the lobby. However when we enquired about getting onto the beach, we were rudely told by Reception that it would cost us B$25 EACH just to pass through the lobby and use the steps down to the beach. That is the Crane Hotel now CHARGES to visit what is supposed to be a FREELY accessible PUBLIC beach. We were then told that we could redeem this amount in the Restaurant on the way back - if we wished to. When we complained that the Guidebook only mentioned B$5 per visit to "use the facilities," the attitude of the hotel staff was 'take it or leave it' - typical arrogance for this kind of pretentious establishment, but not what we expected to find in Barbados.
We struggled down the rickety steps to the beach. Incidentally the no. of steps down are only 88 and not 200 as per the Guidebook. Anyone who was more disabled wouldn't have had a chance of getting down there, so despite charging for access, the hotel in its many years of stewardship has done nothing to improve access for the physically disabled. However when we arrived down there we found that sun-loungers and sunshades occupied every foot of the beach. These stretched side-by-side from one end of the beach to the other, leaving very little room for anything or anyone else. The only piece of spare beach was in a small 'alcove' underneath some coconut trees (with coconuts ready to drop), and unfortunately also occupied by two scruffy-looking beach vendors.
We were also dismayed to see the rubbish littering the beach (and amongst the palm trees at the rear); this being broken glass, discarded beer bottles and plastic soft drink bottles, metal beer bottle tops and other detritus. There were also at least two obligatory beach vendors lazing around trying to con people into purchasing conch shells and necklaces made out of coral etc. Don't the hotel management/owners realise or care that 2 million conch shells are plundered from Caribbean waters every year, and that around many Islands so many have been taken that many local species are now extinct? Obviously not.
Thoroughly exhausted by the climb down my lady companion sat down on one of the many (about 30) spare loungers to recover. She couldn't sit on the sand itself due to her reduced mobility. The Guidebook stated that the 'admission charge' included the use of all of the hotel facilities. Right? Wrong!!
As we settled down one of the hotel's staff (a real jobsworth) started shouting at us in the most disrespectful manner that my companion could NOT use the sun-lounger unless we were guests of the hotel. We thought that the use of the sun-loungers was included in the cover charge to the beach - but apparently not. And instead of simply closing a blind eye to her use of a lounger this idiot made a real issue of it, so much so that I had to insist that he come with me to discuss his rudeness with the hotel management.
Unfortunately the hotel management was equally adamant (and again typically arrogant) in that we were not going to be able to use any of the hotel's sun-loungers, stating that such use was NOT part of the B25$ (each) deal to access the beach. The attitude was that if we didn't like this arrangement then we could simply leave.
Meanwhile whilst I was upstairs debating the issue of having to pay to access a public beach with the management, down on the beach another member of the hotel staff was trying to physically intimidate my companion from her sun-lounger. But she refused to budge until I returned.
But when I got back to her she stated that she no longer wanted to stay on the beach anyway and wanted to go back into town to find a friendlier beach. I only found out that she'd been intimidated by this other member of the hotel staff after we'd left. This was totally unacceptable.
So we promptly left the beach, the hotel, and the grounds. The day wasn't wasted because we went back to our favourite beach - and one infinitely better than Crane - at Sandy Bay, near Worthing. Noticeably there were many local families there, the environment was infinitely happier and relaxed, and the sun-loungers were available to anyone and everyone to use (for a small fee but one which went into the local economy). And access to the beach was free - as it should have been at Crane.