September 2, 2014
Royal Caribbean Cruise Port: Jamaica
Our next stop on our Royal Caribbean Cruise was to Jamaica! This was one of my favorite spots as we did end up getting a little bit more of a taste of the culture and ventured out to an excursion, Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios.
If you missed them, check out my previous posts on the boat and our first port, Haiti!
Back in college I visited Jamaica on a missions trip with my church. We spent one day doing touristy things like visit Dunns River so I knew that I wanted to come back to climb the falls again and experience it with Brent.
In attempts at getting the best deal we could on a taxi, all five of us crammed into one little car! Having experience bartering on our trips to Mexico, I felt confident that we could get a better deal than what was being hollered at us from the streets. The only difference was that instead of just Brent and I we had three other people with us. This provided a new challenge as we looked much more touristy! I think I freaked out my poor in laws a bit with my persistence and ability to keep walking with people hollering at us to get in their taxi! But after an intense period of bartering, I was able to get one taxi driver down to the cost I had researched and felt comfortable with. And we even ended up with an amazing taxi driver who was friendly and helpful as we traveled to our different locations.
When we got to Dunns River Falls, just Brent and I choose to climb the falls. Since our humungous boat was porting that day, the falls were packed. On my previous trip to Jamaica, we climbed the falls without a tour guide which proved to be a fun experience. So instead of paying the extra money for a tour this time around, we choose to climb the falls ourselves. The website and reviews are very clear that you are allowed to climb the falls without one of their tour guides. So if you trying to save some money and have an adventurous spirit (and perhaps other things you want to do that day!) I definitely recommend trying the climb on your own.
If you are part of a tour you are required to climb the falls with your group, holding hands, in one giant line. They take video, photos, and do silly little group chants together. It's pretty fun if you are into that sort of thing. Though they do yell a lot which is funny. I think it was freaking out Brent a little in the beginning. They would say, "hey you!" in their loud Jamaican accents trying to get the attention of the group. It felt like they were yelling at us because we were not in a group! Brent asked me at least three times if I was sure we could climb by ourselves until he realized they were yelling at their tour group!
Thanks to our family hanging around and our waterproof camera, the Nikon 1 AW1 (more about our cameras coming in a future post!), we got some great pictures climbing the falls!
It is really hot in Jamaica. Like super duper hot. All year long. That cold water was literally like heaven.
Something we learned, being on a very crowded vacation experience (meaning lots of people constantly around), we handed our camera off a lot to let others take a picture for us. As I have shared before, we are definitely tripod people (since I am a photo snob and don't trust other people to take a good picture!). But because we now had smaller, compact, and user friendly cameras to use (versus our SLR), we trusted others to take our picture for us. And it proved to provide some really great photos of the two of us.
Sitting in the actual falls was a rush. That water comes hard and fast and is a really fun experience!
The falls are pretty easy to climb. There were plenty of children climbing as well as a range of ages from young to old. Water shoes are definitely recommended but besides that the climb is a breeze. There are plenty of options of where to climb for whatever your adventurous climbing comfort level is!
And if you are not in a rush, just lingering in the pools of cold water, taking in the views, is a great experience!
I am a huge water girl. I just love being in the water. Being out in lush nature areas is one of my favorite things to do when traveling. Taking in the earth of a different culture is such a beautiful and unique experience.
After the falls we headed out to get some food. Because we had a little extra time, our taxi driver took us on a short tour of the town as well as a mini shopping trip.
You cannot see it in the photo below, but a lot of the homes and buildings in Jamaica are unfinished. You will often find things sticking out of the tops of roofs making the buildings appear in progress. Our taxi driver informed us that this is because in Jamaica, you do not have to pay building taxes on a home or building until it is finished. So people live in unfinished houses to not have to pay taxes on building their home!
For lunch I researched the best jerk chicken place which landed us at Scotchies in Ocho Rios. It proved to be amazing. The jerk chicken and festivals were just as delicious as I remembered it from ten years ago. There were also a lot of locals there confirming this was the place to be for lunch!
The jerk chicken is authentic to Jamaica as it is grilled over sweetwood and pimento wood logs, meaning it is grilled on Jamaica's very own naturally grown grill.
Besides the amazing food, the location was tucked away amongst a beautiful background of greenery.
We ended up getting the jerk chicken, festivals (an amazing sweet fried bread sort of like corn bread), and the rice and beans. The jerk chicken and festivals blew the rice and beans out of the ball park when it came to taste.
I cannot even begin to tell you how happy I was to be here. Can you tell?
A Jamaican bathroom selfie. While I was in here these two adorable young Jamaican girls came into the bathroom and just stared at me. One finally spoke up and said I was beautiful. I in return told them how beautiful they were. We said good bye and my heart about burst. I suppose they don't see half Chinese girls running around Scotchies too often. They were the epitome of sweetness. I hope they know I really did think they were beautiful.
We later learned that Scotchies was named after the pepper they grew there. I asked him if the pepper was hot before it was fully grown to pick. He answered that the pepper is always hot. I replied, "Just like Jamaica!" He got a good laugh at that one.
And here we are with our adorable taxi driver!
He then took us to his wife's shop where we did some final shopping. The two of them travel throughout the week to different locations based on where boats port that week. Seeing the locals cater their business and life around making a living off of tourists is both a fascinating and humbling concept.
Then it was back to our big ol' boat.
This is a look at the mini "city" that Royal Caribbean owns as you go to and from the boat. Most people have a paid excursion set up that drives them directly out. It appears a little scary or sketchy to walk out of the gated community but worth it to see some of the real life. It just amazes me that many will shop and "see" Jamaica through the eyes of what Royal Caribbean puts up. Because it is also funded by the cruise line, the money that comes in goes back to them. Though I imagine it provides locals jobs, the money spent does not necessarily go directly back to the people of Jamaica.
Though I will have to say, one of my favorite parts of the trip was seeing the view of our ports from the boat. Every time we floated away, I had to go to the top of the boat to catch the view and take a few last photos.
Our last port, Cozumel, is up next!