Going in to the cruise, I think we all were a bit apprehensive about stopping in Jamaica. Our only other visit to the island was 8 years ago on an NCL cruise, and it ended with a pretty serious injury to one of my daughter’s hands due to negligence on the part of the zip line operator. That was also the cruise where we saw that if you’re late coming back from a cruise line sponsored excursion, they will in fact wait for you. Due to the injury we were an hour late getting back to the ship, and obviously the last tender from shore before departure.
On this stop, things couldn’t have ended any differently. We booked an excursion through Royal that took us to Dunn’s River Falls for a climb up the falls, followed by a lunch stop at some resort, and ending with a 35-minute river tubing trip. There were a couple of lows, but overall we had a lot of fun!
After getting off the ship and meeting at the designated location for our tour, we were broken up into two groups of ~15 for the bus ride. It was nice not being packed into some large tour bus, the small groups were perfect. On departure, they told us they were changing the order, and that we’d do the falls first, so that we could avoid the larger crowds that show up later in the day. That was fine with us. After about an hour of riding in the bus, we arrived at the falls to a mostly-empty parking lot. There were a couple other small tours there, but the place never felt overcrowded.
After getting all checked in, we were assigned a guide and videographer and were led to the bottom of the falls. For those who have never done this, it’s really not that hard. They scrub the path every morning to keep it from getting slippery, and are always pointing out the best spots to step on the way up. Now, there are times that your group has to hold hands and form a human chain while climbing, but overall it was pretty easy to get around. The guide was great, and while the videographer did a good job of capturing everyone along the way, we chose not to pay the $40 for the DVD, as I had my GoPro with me.
After the climb, they lead you back to the bus through the little market place there, where you do encounter some pushy shop owners. This is one of my least favorite parts of Jamaica, as we all remembered it having some of the pushiest locals of any port we’ve stopped in, and this area was no exception. After a string on “no thank you” responses, we made our way back to the bus to head out for lunch.
The lunch stop was some little resort along the way where you get access to a buffet with some mediocre eats. Things like jerk chicken, rice, beans, salad, and assorted deserts. One thing to note here, on the way in they give you a very small glass of rum punch. That’s the only free drink you get here. Period. Bring water… Also, a very pushy gentleman will take your families picture on the way in, and try to get you to buy it on the way out for $10. He’s a pretty bad photographer, as a few pics were blurry, and ours was fogged over. Yea, no thanks.
After leaving the resort, we took a short drive to the starting point for the river tubing. This was an absolute blast. The last time we did something like this was in Belize, cave tubing, and we were highly disappointed. That wasn’t what I consider tubing, as they pulled us down the river the entire way, there was zero current. Here, there was plenty of current, with a few small drops along the way. Nothing to fear though, it was really, really fun!
After tubing, we all loaded up in the bus for the long ride back. As we were leaving, it started raining pretty hard, which made the drive back even slower. On arriving back at the port (around 4:30pm ship’s time, if I recall), it wasn’t raining there yet, but was about to start. We walked through a couple of shops and picked up a few small items before heading to the ship right as it started pouring. One nice thing about the enclosed shopping area at the port, the store owners aren’t pushy like they are everywhere else.
Even though we got back pretty close to dinner time and were soaked and tired, we managed to get ready and make it on time, and enjoyed another tasty meal with more excellent service from our wait staff.
After dinner, we headed over to Dazzle for Battle of the Sexes, but the best we could do seating-wise was an upstairs section against the center glass, and even with that view, couldn’t really see a thing. A lot of people seemed to be really unhappy with the views in there, and a number of others left without being able to find a seat. That was a pretty popular game show that was held in a really horrible venue. I think we stuck it out for 10 minutes before we decided to head to the boardwalk so Bayley could take picture with the penguins from Madagascar:
That pretty much did it for the night. Bayley went hunting for a snack, but with some very limited options at 9:30pm (basically Sorrentos and the half a dozen items in the promenade café), chose to skip it. We’re still really surprised at how limited late night snacking is on a ship this size.