Each year, October marks ‘Plan A Cruise Month’ – a celebration of all things that are cruise related. It’s also a great time of year for holidaymakers to look at booking their next getaway, with many of the cruise lines offering some fantastic incentives throughout the month.
This year’s theme for ‘Plan A Cruise Month’ is ‘destinations’ and as anyone that has cruised before will know, there is no better way to experience multiple destinations in one holiday than on a cruise. It’s the only way to travel, as far as I am concerned.
I’m incredibly excited to be part of ‘Plan A Cruise Month’ and to celebrate, I wanted to highlight one of my favourite destinations and some of the things you can do during your time there. Let me introduce you to the Caribbean island of Jamaica, an island that I fell in love with back in 2013 and one that I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times.
It’s warm, tropical waters entice ships to its shores every year and although I’ve not yet had the pleasure of visiting Ocho Rios, Falmouth or Port Antonio, I have called into Montego Bay on numerous occasions and experienced something different on each visit.
I want to make the most of my time in each destination, so I always do research before I embark on a cruise and for my first visit to Jamaica, I just had to spend the day with CHUKKA, a company that offers a wide range of activities on the island, including visits to Dunn’s River Falls, horseback ride and swim, 4×4 adventures deep in the rainforest and more. I opted for the 4×4 adventure and thanks to their highly experienced and friendly guides, it remains one of my favourite Jamaican experiences. We enjoyed stunning views across Montego Bay, a 4×4 ride deep into the countryside (which included a stop to pick oranges) refreshment stops for that all-important Rum Punch and a chance to take a dip in The Great River. It was exciting without being exhausting and it was a lot of fun. Just my kind of excursion.
If you’d prefer something that sheds some light on the history of the island, then you must visit Rose Hall, the country’s most famous house. It was originally built in the 1770s and was lovingly restored back to its former glory in the 1960s. Originally a plantation house, Rose Hall sits within 650 acres of land, this was originally divided among sugar cane, grass and pasture for over 200 cattle. At any one time, 250 enslaved Africans were housed on the adjoining Palmyra estate. Although Rose Hall is steeped in rich Jamaican history, it’s the legend of the White Witch (Annie Palmer) that most are familiar with. According to legend, the spirit of Annie Palmer haunts the grounds. The story tells us that she was born in Haiti to an English mother and Irish father and spent most of her life there until her parents died of yellow fever. Annie was then adopted by a nanny who taught her witchcraft and voodoo. As an adult, she moved to Jamaica which is where she met and subsequently married John Palmer, owner at the time of the Rose Hall Plantation. Annie murdered Palmer along with two subsequent husbands and numerous male plantation slaves, later being murdered herself by a slave named “Takoo”.
Another absolute must in Jamaica is a visit to Scotchie’s, which is just a short journey away from Rose Hall, in Montego Bay. This world famous ‘jerk-pit’ offers tasty jerk pork and chicken cooked the traditional way, on open-air barbeques over pimento wood. The food here is delicious and you can have your jerk as mild or spicy as you like – I’m told the home-made jerk sauce is HOT! Other items on the menu include rice and peas, corn, breadfruit and roasted yam. The Montego Bay location is the original, but you can also find Scotchie’s in Ocho Rios and Kingston.
These are some other excursions to consider when cruising to Jamaica:
- Dunn’s River Falls – closest cruise port is Ocho Rios followed by Falmouth (1 hour) and then Montego Bay (approx. 1.5 hours)
- Bob Marley tour with a visit to his final resting place – closest cruise ports are Falmouth and Ocho Rios, both are 1+ hours via road
- Doctor’s Cave Beach – one of the most stunning beaches on the island, the closest cruise port is Montego Bay followed by Falmouth (30 minutes)
- Dolphin Cove – closest cruise port is Ocho Rios
- Blue Mountain National Park – closest cruise port is Port Antonio
- Trench Town Culture Yard Museum – closest cruise port is Ocho Rios
Jamaica is fun, vibrant and although it hasn’t had the best reputation with cruise passengers, I’ve never found an issue here and I’ve always felt comfortable. I like to experience the local life and check out the places where the locals go. By speaking with the incredible shore excursion teams on-board the ships that know the destinations inside out, you’ll discover that you can also learn to make the best jerk seasoning at a local restaurant, head to a market and jostle with the locals for authentic crafts and culinary specialities or head up into the mountains to sample Jamaica’s world-famous coffee.