Jamaica is a favorite destination for both well-seasoned and novice travelers. With an astonishing range of physical terrain and natural features, from white sand beaches and lush jungle to tumbling waterfalls and 7,000-foot mountains, Jamaica offers visitors many natural attractions as well as a rich culture and history. This distinctive island is a popular port of call for a variety of cruise ships.
Cruisers to Jamaica have a seemingly endless roster of dining, entertainment and sightseeing choices, thanks to the many cruise lines that make Jamaica a top port of call throughout the year. Here's just a sampling of Jamaica cruise options:
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Lines features more than a dozen Jamaica cruises with stops in Ocho Rios. One offering is a seven-day trip departing from Miami on the Norwegian Epic, voted "Best Cruise Ship" by Travel Weekly in 2012. Onboard are more than 20 different dining options and entertainment, including Broadway's Blue Man Group.
Carnival Cruise Line
Hop aboard Carnival Cruise's Carnival Magic ship, departing from Galveston, Tex., and get ready for the golden beaches and reggae rhythms of Montego Bay. This value-priced cruise includes award-winning stage shows, 24-hour room service and casino gaming.
Disney Cruise Line
Family-friendly Disney Cruise Line launches its first trips to Jamaica in late 2013. The 1,754-passenger Disney Wonder departs from Galveston and stops in Falmouth, Jamaica, where guests can choose from a wide range of attractions including bamboo river raft rides and tours of plantation homes. Onboard, magical deck parties with Disney characters and separate pools for kids, families and adults help keep everyone happy.
Mature travelers who prefer a traditional cruise style with just a hint of the new will get just that on Holland America's Western Caribbean cruise to Ocho Rios, Jamaica and other ports. Onboard, there's an elegant art collection and nightly cheek-to-cheek dancing, but an Internet café and the cruise line's first Hong Kong-style restaurant lend a global, contemporary vibe.
Shore Excursions in Jamaica
Of course, getting there is just half the fun. Once you've arrived in Jamaica, there are many popular shore excursions that range from cultural explorations to dramatic discoveries of the island's natural wonders. Whether you choose an organized shore excursion or prefer to blend with the locals by arranging for island exploration on your own, be sure to visit some of Jamaica's most popular attractions.
Dunn's River Falls
This breathtaking waterfall cascades over 600 feet to the beach below in a terraced descent. Tourists can climb the falls, forming a human chain behind an expert guide, or they can simply descend via the adjacent boardwalks to partake of the magnificent views. Locker rentals are available, and aqua shoes are highly recommended.
The highlight of Dolphin Cove is a lagoon with several tame dolphins that visitors can touch, play with, or swim with, depending on the fee they wish to pay. Limited walking trails are well marked to point out various native plants, and a small shopping center offers typical souvenirs.
This museum in the Island Village complex explores the origination and history of the distinctly Jamaican music.
Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville
With two locations at the Montego Bay airport, this world-renowned bar is perfect for guests who want to keep the party going until their flight is called.
A former riverbed that has been converted to a magnificent rainforest preserve, Fern Gully, located south of Ocho Rios, has been cultivated with hundreds of varieties of wild ferns.
Brimmer Hall Estate
Recommended by Frommer's, this working plantation east of Ocho Rios offers daily guided tours through tropical fruit orchards and coffee fields. The Estate includes a fine restaurant where guests can sample a wide range of Jamaican delicacies.
Rose Hall Great House
This famous plantation home east of Montego Bay has a rich Jamaican history, including slavery, witchcraft and murder, events that have led to many ghostly legends.
Rocklands Wildlife Station
South of Montego Bay, this bird sanctuary offers guests the opportunity to hand-feed finches and doves and interact with Jamaican doctor birds.
Jamaica visitors have their pick of numerous delightful beaches. While many resorts line the better venues and restrict beach access, public beaches are plentiful. To find less crowded areas, venture further from the cruise dock.
Though not a physical attraction, Jamaican food is a don't-miss treat for visitors. One of Jamaica's most famous dishes, jerk meat, consists of chicken, pork, beef or goat that is heavily marinated in a potent blend of spices and slowly roasted until it slips easily from the bone. Jerked foods can be found at many local eateries, and culinary-inclined visitors can pick up spices and rubs to replicate the taste at home.
To get the most out of your Jamaican dream vacation, it's helpful to know a little about the local environment.
While English is the official language, most Jamaicans speak a richly accented local dialect. Visitors will have no problem communicating in English; however, they may have a hard time understanding.
The Jamaican dollar is the official currency. However, U.S. currency is widely accepted throughout Jamaica.
As in many tourism-based destinations, prices for handmade crafts and other souvenirs can sometimes be inflated. While haggling is welcomed, some vendors can occasionally become quite insistent. Fortunately, a polite, firm refusal is usually met with a cheerful "no problem, mon."
Safety in Numbers
Because of the island's high crime rate, cruise ships frequently encourage their passengers to stay with organized tours or remain within the well-regulated downtown shopping district.
Jamaica May Be Your Dream Destination
Jamaica is truly an island paradise and a perfect destination for cruise passengers. With excursions and attractions ranging from sedentary historical tours and shopping venues to adventurous waterfall climbs and canopy tours, every guest will go home feeling they've become just a little more mellow with island life.