One Beautiful Island. Three Cruise Ports. Welcome to Jamaica

Ocho Rios Craft Market
One of my favorite Where’s Waldo photos. Find the two vendors…or is it three?

Jamaica runs on its own rhythm of music, food, its people and scenery.

The mountainous Caribbean island of Jamaica is famous for its dense rain forests, lush waterfalls, wild and crazy bobsled rides and of course pulsating reggae. Your only decision is to choose which port to visit on your cruise to Jamaica.

A cruise to Jamaica may include the bustling city of Ocho Rios or historic Falmouth, a revitalized and cruise-friendly city/port thanks to Royal Caribbean. Famous Montego Bay, or Mo-Bay, is known for its laid-back atmosphere and shore excursions from there carry cruise passengers to the glistening sugar-sand playground at Seven Mile Beach in Negril.

Ocho Rios

There are as many activities to do on your cruise to Ocho Rios as there are beachs; dozens of fun, entertaining, historic and tasty shore excursion to choose. Sign up for a breathtaking zipline ride and glide above the rain forest canopy, or form a human chain and climb to the top of Dunn’s River Falls. A short walk from the port is Island Village, and shopping, dining and entertainment complex with Jimmy Buffet’s iconic beachfront Margaritaville.

Climbing Dunn's River Falls, close to Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Climbing Dunn’s River Falls, close to Ocho Rios.  Photo: Wikipedia

Those interested in serious shopping in Ocho Rios can head over to the two-story, open air Taj Mahal shopping mall. Many shore excursions include a stop at Taj Mahal for a last minute spree to purchase duty-free liquor and fine jewelry and gemstones. Cigar stores are plentiful but passengers are prohibited to bring Cuban into the United States.

Montego Bay

Montego Bay is the port of call to get a shore excursion for a day at Negril Beach. Walk for miles (seven of them to be exact!) along the soft, warm sand and take time to float in the languid Caribbean Sea. It’s a good one-hour drive from Montego Bay and best visited with a pre-arranged shore excursion.

Rose Hall Mansion in Montego Bay, Jamaica
Rose Hall Mansion in Montego Bay, Jamaica

A bit of the paranormal is said to haunt nearby Rose Hall Plantation. Tour the two hundred year old Great House, built for Annie Palmer in 1770. She became known as the White Witch after word got out that she was into all sorts of witchcraft and perhaps murdered one or more of her unfortunate husbands.

Shop til you drop at Montego Freeport, a shopping area located near the pier. Beautiful hand-made art is for sale at the Old Fort Craft Market, in the heart of Mo-Bay.

Falmouth

Royal Caribbean invested millions of dollars into the redevelopment of the old Falmouth Port. Almost Disney-esque in appearance, this “new” port of call is located between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay and offers many of the same shore excursions as these other two ports. Located right as you step off of your ship, this cruise ship center and mall is home to many of the same designer jewelry and watch stores as you’ll find on other Caribbean islands. Historic buildings dating back to the nineteenth-century reflect the Georgian architecture of that period and have been restored to their original facade, offering more shopping venues and housing government offices.

The rebuilt port at Falmouth, Jamaica, courtesy of Royal Caribbean.
The rebuilt port at Falmouth, Jamaica, courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

Something very unique to experience is Jamaica’s Meet the People Program.  Begun in 1968 by Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), the Meet the People Program enables visitors to explore the culture of this vibrant Caribbean island. Have lunch at a family’s home, go to a local market, sample the island’s Blue Mountain coffee and learn about your temporary guide’s life and living on Jamaica. There’s no cost to participate; it’s complimentary.  Simply contact the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Cruises to Jamaica, part of a western Caribbean cruise itinerary, are offered year-round by all of the major cruise lines. While all three ports have many similar sightseeing opportunities, they all have a distinctive flair and flavor, a mélange of cultures that create this very unique island.

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