Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The Cruise Diaries--Ya Mon
After much discussion Hubby Tony, Son Brian, DIL Nicole, and I had decided on our excursion and purchased the tickets. I'd been in Jamaica once before, and wanted to go something new. We chose a tour that took us to see a working plantation and the natural beauty of Dunn's River Falls, with lunch in between the two stops.
In the morning the ship docked at Falmouth, which is an old city (founded in 1769), but a new cruise port that just opened last year. It's so new that my travel agent hasn't been there yet! The town is in between Montego Bay (30 minutes to the west) and Ocho Rios (an hour to the east).
While we were eating breakfast, the captain came on and announced that Prince Henry was in Falmouth today as part of his Jamaica trip on behalf of the Queen. (We never saw him, but talked to some people the next day who did.) As soon as they gave the all clear to exit the ship, we walked down the deck and out to the port complex. Everything around us looked shiny and new. The buildings, which mimicked the city's Georgian architecture, were arranged in a U shape with a large covered pavilion in the center. Some of the buildings weren't occupied yet, but the ones that were open were a mixture of retail shops and craft vendors.
A covered transportation hub was at the far end of the complex, and that's where the tour groups were gathering. We got at the end of the line for our tour and waited for a bus. Eventually there were about three dozen people. It seemed to be a bit confusing, but eventually our guide pointed us towards a minibus. We filed on and found seats, and the tour guide stood so she could see us. There was a bus blocking our exit, but as soon as it moved we were on our way.
Our destination was Brimmer Hall, a working plantation another 20 miles to the east of Ocho Rios. It was a LONG trip, which the excursion desk didn't do a good job of explaining. We drove through three parishes, and the tour guide entertained us with information about the area. She taught us some Jamaican phrases, and answered questions.
When we got to the plantation we were treated to a small cup of punch, then boarded a jitney (tractor pulled wagon) for our tour. Every couple of minutes the driver stopped and told us about the plants we saw. He was assisted by two other men, who jumped on the jitney when it was moving. I happened to be sitting in the middle of the wagon right next to one of the assistants, who pointed out things to me as we drove by. This working plantation grew a wide variety of plants: bananas, coconut, plantains, sugar cane, pineapple, cocoa beans, guava, limes, and allspice.
We ended our tour back where we started, and got to taste samples of coconut, sugar cane, and Jamaican apple, then had the opportunity to walk through the Great House. From the outside the single-story building looked rundown, but the inside was a different story. The house had high ceilings, polished wooden floors, and a wide veranda in the rear.
Then it was back on the bus for drive to lunch. I'm not sure if the driver followed the "official" route, because he took us through a local neighborhood that didn't look like it saw a lot of traffic. When we got to the restaurant, we got another small glass of punch, then there was a man taking snapshots of each party before before they were seated. The buffet lunch included salad, jerk chicken, pork, mutton with potatoes, rice pasties, and several kinds of cookies and pastries for dessert.
While we were eating the photographer circulated around the room dropping off the photos he'd taken. The one of our group was pretty good, but pricy. However, a couple of rounds of negotiation brought the price down to a third of the original cost, so I handed over the money and purchased the picture.
Instead of driving straight Dunn's River Falls after lunch, the bus driver swung into a shopping area (that I don't think that was on the tour itinerary) and gave us 15 minutes to shop. It took closer to 20 minutes for everyone to return to the bus. Ten minutes later we pulled into the parking lot at Dunn's River Falls. The tour guide gave us a time to be back at the bus, then let everyone wander on their own. Originally Tony and thought we were going to climb up the falls (and wore water shoes), but we chickened out at the last minute. Instead, we took pictures of Brian and Nicole as they climbed from the stairs next to the falls.
The trip back to the ship was subdued. The guide didn't have much to say, and played some reggae music over the sound system. The driver needed to make up some time to get us back to the cruise port; he was driving pretty aggressively and I was glad I didn't have a good view out the front window.