After a sea day aboard Britannia it was time for our next two ports, Grand Cayman then Ocho Rios in Jamaica.
We’d visited Grand Cayman previously in April 2014 when sailing on MSC Divina and achieved nothing more than a stroll around town and a couple of bars. I was planning to be a little more ambitious this time and after a little research decided on a visit to Seven Mile beach, a short taxi ride from the tender port of George Town.
When we arrived around 8am there were already 3 other ships, with another following closely behind so it was going to be a busy day in town! As we’re suite passengers we get priority tender tickets which is a nice perk although the whole operation seemed well handled for all passengers and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about lengthy waits. A short 5 minute tender later we were ashore but we declined the waiting taxis and mini buses offering trips to Seven Mile beach at $4 a head to see if we could walk it.
In hindsight it wasn’t the wisest decision as after walking for twenty minutes along dusty roads we found access to the beach but it wasn’t to the main stretch everyone else had headed to and we had to navigate our way around rocks and through time share blocks to reach the main beach. Ten minutes later we were finally enjoying a well deserved cold beer in a beach bar agreeing we’d get a taxi back. Seven Mile is mainly beach resorts where you pay a cover charge of around $5 – $10 to get in then $10 for sun beds and $15 for an umbrella or even $100 for a cabana! We found a small stretch of public beach and enjoyed a few hours swimming and sunbathing before sharing a mini bus back to the ship. Grand Cayman is a pleasant enough destination however I think it feels very touristy and lacks the charm and character of other Caribbean Islands.
Our next destination was Ocho Rios on Christmas Eve. We love Jamaica as we got married there 12 years ago and have visited on several cruises since. Previously we’ve sailed into Falmouth, a new purpose built cruise terminal which is quite a distance from the main attractions so excursion choices are more limited unless you’re prepared for a lengthy drive. Ocho Rios is far better located and there lots of nearby trip options including Dunns River Falls, rafting on the Martha Brae river and a booze cruise on the Cool Runnings Catamaran which looked like a lot of fun!
We’re big music fans so wanted to visit Nine Miles, the birth and resting place of reggae legend Bob Marley. P&O do run a trip here but it was completely sold out months ahead of the cruise so we needed to do it independently. I did a little trip advisor research and discovered a highly recommended local excursion provider called Peat Taylor. I checked out his website, emailed him and by the next day we were all booked on a private tour at $75 adults and $70 for our 8 year old Finn. Peat emailed clear instructions of where to meet and responded swiftly to an email sent the day prior to check all was okay so having paid in advance I was reassured he’d be there when we disembarked. Ocho Rios port is extremely well organised with tourist board staff directing trip goers to their coaches and we were soon introduced to Peat and in a mini bus with some other passengers. Once out of the port gates we were introduced to his son ‘Repeat’ and got into an air conditioned MPV to head up into the mountains. It was a spectacular hour long drive with incredible views of lush green valleys, farms and roadside villages. Many of the Jamaicans we passed may have had little in comparison to our Western lifestyles but we saw so many big smiles it made me question our materialistic, workaholic ways. Repeat was a very good driver navigating the twisting, pot hole filled roads and avoiding numerous sheer drops as only a local could. I definitely wouldn’t recommend hiring a car and attempting the trip yourself!
On arrival at the village of Nine Miles we grabbed a couple of red stripes and met our tour guide called Crazy who was hugely entertaining sharing anecdotes about Bob’s life and singing his songs as we made our way through the property. You get to visit Bob’s childhood bedroom, his mother’s tomb and a stone he sat on to meditate or ‘medicate’ before finally arriving at Bob’s mausoleum. It was a magical experience and a very entertaining few hours as well as an opportunity to see the spectacular Jamaican countryside. Repeat drove us back to the ship pointing out fruit trees and plants on the way. It was a nice way to do it and we beat the open sided tour buses there and back. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed a bus ride up those narrow mountain roads anyway!
On a final note, Jamaican’s are football mad so the small Manchester United crest badges we dished out as tips were greeted like gold dust and were far more welcome than a few US dollars. Also don’t buy alcohol for your cabin in the shopping mall in the town, it’s far cheaper in the port duty free shop on the way back in.