Virgin Holidays' new Departure Beach is the Caribbean island's latest star attraction. Priya Joshi joins the launch party for a VIP vacation.

While taking a morning walk along an endless stretch of golden sand on the west coast of Barbados, locals greet me with dazzling smiles and a cheery good morning in their lilting Bajan accents. Sunlight skips on the water as sea-crabs hurriedly scuttle by tourists dozing on loungers and the cloudless sky is a deep blue.

In the distance, a figure emerges from the sunrise. Running towards me, his honed physique rippling, is model Oliver Cheshire. Turns out Barbados really is the Caribbean island of my dreams.

It's not unusual to run into a celebrity in Barbados, the playground of the rich and famous. Simon Cowell and Cliff Richard have lavish second homes on the island, where they can bask in the Bajan sun undisturbed.

And while unofficial global ambassador Rihanna is the pride of Barbados, no-one would bat an eye-lid at the sight of the superstar picking up pastries at the PRC Bakery in Speightstown.

"Celebrities like coming here because they can walk around like normal people. We don't bother the stars," explains our ebullient local guide, Donna-Lisa Smith. "Everyone is treated like a star in Barbados."

It's true. With heart-warming hospitality and a host of intriguing sights and culinary experiences at their disposal, the Bajan people will make you feel like a superstar - even if you're not one.

Although, during my visit, there are plenty of celebrities in town...

Departure Beach has arrived

"It's paaarty time!" announces Sir Richard Branson as he launches Virgin Holidays' new Departure Beach, a sandy stretch which doubles as an airport check-in, allowing holidaymakers to soak up every last bit of Caribbean sun.

Fireworks spin across the night sky as the rum punch flows. DJ Maya Jama plays Bajan beats, encouraging singer Pixie Lott and Irish TV presenter Laura Whitmore to turn up the heat on the flip-flop-ready dance floor.

Model Lottie Moss and Made In Chelsea's Emily Blackwell are engrossed in conversation, and standing alongside me in the changing facilities, Pixie Geldof is doing her hair.

Taking the stress out of travel, Departure Beach allows you to check-in on site, while your luggage is whisked off to the airport.

Take a swim, dine at one of the three restaurants, lounge by the pool and relax in the air-conditioned lounge, complete with kids' gaming area and Wi-Fi, before being transferred to the airport for your flight, feeling every inch a superstar.

Fancy more of the VIP lifestyle? Here are five more ways to holiday like an A-lister in Barbados...

1. Pick up some luxury goods

When you've had enough of lazing on the beach, head for the Lime Grove Lifestyle shopping centre in Holetown ( to pick up some luxury souvenirs. Here you'll find designer goods from Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Michael Kors, Chopard and others. Feeling peckish? Make a beeline for The Green Monkey Chocolatier ( where you'll discover a treasure trove of hand-made truffles and some of the best macarons. Shopping done, sit back in one of the luxury outdoor bars with a martini in hand.

2. Sip some fine rum

With 350 years of expertise, Barbados produces some of the finest and strongest rum in the world. Discover the tradition of rum-making at St Nicholas Abbey (, approximately 15 miles (26km) north of Bridgetown, on a rum tour ($US65/£50.50). You'll be guided through the distillation process and invited to taste the local produce. Continue the sampling at the Colony Club hotel's Rum Vault (, serving some of the finest rums in the world such as Mount Gay.

3. Have dinner at Daphne's

Want to dine like the rich and famous? Head to Daphne's (, a beach-side sister restaurant to the well-known London institution and Rihanna's favourite hang-out. The Italian-inspired menu uses local seafood for its speciality lobster linguine. Fine wines flow and laughter rings out as stories of travels are shared. A three-course meal costs from £57; cocktails from £11.

4. Cruise on a catamaran

Nothing shrieks celebrity quite like chartering a swanky vessel. An ultra stylish 62ft catamaran, Seaduced ( is the ultimate in celebrity luxury. Indulge in a freshly prepared meal by the on-board chef, accompanied by champagne or cocktails, while soaking up the views. You can go diving to ship wrecks, swim with green turtles or laze and watch the world go by. There are two bedrooms and showers below deck and ample space for dining, accommodating from two to 20 guests for a party on the seas. A trip on a semiprivate charter costs $US185/£145pp.

5. Stay at the Tamarind by Elegant Hotels

Arriving at Tamarind you'll be greeted with cocktails and spectacular views. The beachfront property is surrounded by lush greenery and neat lawns offering a relaxed laid-back atmosphere. With three pools, large rooms and a lavish breakfast buffet, you'll experience all the creature comforts you need during your stay. All beaches in Barbados are public, so there's ample opportunity for celeb-spotting with stars frequently sighted walking along the stretch of golden sand to Paynes Bay.

How to get there

Virgin Holidays ( has seven nights B&B at Tamarind by Elegant Hotels from £1,403pp, including flights with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick and transfers.

Guests of Virgin Holidays can book Departure Beach from just £25pp. Call 0333 305 1769 or visit your local Virgin Holidays store

For more information on the destination, go to