Jamaica is home of rum, reggae, Rastafarians and the world’s fastest runners. Montego Bay is one of three most common ports along the north coast of Jamaica used by cruise ships. Our cruise ship, MS Carnival Dream, docked in to Montego Bay on Earth Day (the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement) in April 2015.
Shore excursion to Montego Bay Jamaica
The sky was bright blue and it was a warm day when we set off on a four-hour tour of Montego Bay Jamaica.
The town is a mixture of old and new. Driving out of the port, we passed the only free hotel in Montego Bay. It doesn’t cost a thing to stay and you get three good meals a day and free use of the gym. Yes you got it, the town gaol is site number one.
The town’s history goes back to the slave trade in the 1800’s. Sam Sharpe Square and The Cage were where slaves were held for punishment or death.
On to the Heights of Westgate, lollipop-coloured houses adorned the hills above sugar cane fields and the bay.
In town, we visited St James Parish church, which has a historic cemetery that has been there since 1760.
From there we passed through poorer areas and half-built houses on our way to the Old Fort Craft and Heritage Park. Jamaicans love colour and its everywhere, especially in a street market.
Not just the green, yellow and black of their national flag, but every colour in between. There are colourful bikinis, shorts, T-shirts, dresses, beach shirts, beads and trinkets in a rainbow of colours.
Over to Hip Strip, we drove past Margaritaville, where, selling over 50 types of margaritas, the Casablanca, is the oldest hotel in Montego Bay. It was built in 1924. The Pelican is the oldest restaurant in Montego Bay.
Doctors Cave Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Jamaica noted for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and near-white sand, flashed past too quickly for me to take a photo.
We stopped at Scotchies, a well-known roadside eatery, for a $5 lunch of jerk-seasoned chicken and pork and deep-fried cornbread sticks, washed down with Red Line beer for an extra few dollars.
The ocean was barely visible as our view from the terrace was mostly blocked by power lines and un-trimmed shrubs.
We then drove through the expensive part of the coastal road to Ironshore, where most of the swanky hotel resorts, golf courses, shopping malls and medical centres are located.
Our final stop was The Shoppes at Rose Hall, a quaint but modern tourist Mecca for duty free shopping and jewellery. Live music added atmosphere and encouraged the opening of wallets in the true Jamaican spirit of sharing the love (and the dollar) around.
As it was a hot day, I decided to treat myself to an ice coffee with rum cream at the Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee shop. I was disappointed when they brought me a hot coffee with a few melting ice blocks at the bottom of the glass. Apparently they had run out of ice. The waiter served me my hot drink with a big smile and mumbled “no problem man”, in true Jamaican style.
My day was saved by fellow American passengers wanting to put a voodoo hex over the enthusiastic market and street hawkers constantly trying to catch our eye or bang on our windows. And our Jamaican tour guide, Nicky, with her effervescent, warm and bubbly personality, having us all speaking native Jamaican by the time we got back to the cruise ship.
Yeh man, we all had a very arie time!
Top places to visit in Montego Bay Jamaica
1-The historic Old Town including Sam Sharpe Square and The Cage
2-The historic St James Parish Church
3-Heights of Westgate Hills
4-Old Fort Craft and Heritage Park
5-Uptown streets including Hip Strip with Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffet and Doctors Cave Beach
7-Scotchies, the best jerk bbq bar
8-The old White Witch of Rose Hall Mansion and The Shoppes of Rose Hall
Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense.
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