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Cruise Diva Goes Ashore in the Caribbean
Sights to see & things to do


Most cruise ships dock on the lush northern coast of Jamaica at Ocho Rios, although some go to Montego Bay. In Ocho Rios, don’t be put off by the bauxite loading terminal next to the cruise ship pier. Instead, cross over to the other side of the ship for a view of the palm fringed beaches in front of resort hotels across the bay. 

Jamaica is a former British crown colony and a favorite vacation spot of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. If a sight looks familiar, it might be because you spotted it in one of the James Bond movies. While Jamaicans are some of the warmest and friendliest residents in the Caribbean, they can also be the most aggressive when it comes to pushing merchandise and the “hair braiders” are some of the peskiest.


Taxis displaying the legend J.U.T.A. are approved by the government and their drivers double as professional tour operators. Do not take any other taxi—they are gypsy cabs and should be avoided. 

For worry-free touring, ship’s excursions are recommended. The most popular is to Dunn’s River Falls where you can climb the 600 foot waterfall with a guide. Be sure to wear a swim suit under your clothes and shoes that you can wear in the water. Climbing the falls is slippery. Other stops might include Shaw Park Botanical Gardens, Fern Gully, and a swim at the beach.

Another interesting tour is to Brimmer Hall Plantation where you ride in a tractor drawn jitney to see the Great House and the workings of a banana plantation. Guides point out tropical fruit trees and coffee plants.

Other tour offerings might include a half-day catamaran sail and snorkel, rafting on the Martha Brae River, horseback riding, or a beach picnic.


Shopping can be an exercise in frustration in Jamaica. Someone almost certainly will try to sell you ganja—that’s home grown marijuana and it’s illegal. Do NOT buy it. The market place in Ochos Rios isn’t fun unless you don’t mind being literally assaulted by vendors trying to peddle their wares.

Most tours include some shopping time. Downtown Ocho Rios and the surrounding shopping centers (Taj Mahal Plaza and Soni's Plaza) contain stores where buying is more subdued. Best buys are Blue Mountain Coffee and world-famous Jamaican rums from Appleton Estates and Edwin Charlie. Local spices and seasonings are a wonderful way to bring home a taste of Jamaica.


If you look around you’ll notice that resort beaches are surrounded by ominous looking fences. There’s a good reason for that and it’s the same reason that you shouldn’t head to a “secluded” beach. Cruise ship passengers are welcome to buy “day” passes at Jamaica Grande resort, entitling them use of the pool, beach, and facilities for the day. Within sight of the cruise ship pier, it's a highly recommended beach respite. Mallards Beach and Turtle Beach are fairly safe, but again, it’s recommended that you stick with a group or a ship’s excursion.

Fodor's Caribbean Ports of Call 2013
is all you need to plan your days ashore, PLUS a cruise primer section and cruise line profiles by Cruise Diva, Linda Coffman

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