December 2012 – We stopped for a day in Ocho Rios on a week-long western Caribbean cruise. We arrived early in the morning, just in time to catch a beautiful sunrise over the ocean. This was our second stop on our first cruise, and we were still getting used to procedures on the ship and on port days. Once we disembarked, we met up with our tour guide on the pier and climbed aboard our designated bus.
The ride was fairly rough at times with typical wild Caribbean driving. We arrived at a beautiful, humid jungle and were given a few minutes to use restrooms, lockers, and explore the gift shop. We were then led down a path to a team that hooked us into harnesses and gave us a safety briefing. We were told about different signals for slow down, etc.
We were then escorted to a platform and hooked to the zipline. The first segment was an adrenaline rush, zipping over the top of the rainforest. We reached the next platform and started off again. We were on the zipline for about an hour, and I was actually a bit bored by the end. I think I had expected to see more wildlife and have more of an adrenaline rush. It was a fun experience, though, and suitable for most people who are not afraid of heights.
After ziplining, we were allowed a few more minutes in the gift shop. This was mostly for purchasing photos; we were not allowed to take our own cameras on the zipline. Unfortunately, the cheapest photo package was over a hundred dollars. Being our honeymoon and on a tight budget, we had to walk away without photos.
Our next stop was lunch, which was provided as part of the excursion package. We were taken to an outside seating area and served jerk chicken with rice and beans. This was my first (and best, so far) experience with jerk chicken. It was delicious, and I was hooked (I have since tried to replicate the recipe and have ordered jerk chicken meals many times in the Caribbean).
We enjoyed a leisurely meal among peacocks and then hopped back on the bus to visit Dunn’s River Falls. Along the way, our tour guide pointed out different sites and explained customs within the country. She also warned us about the pushy vendors within the country. She said to say no and keep walking. She told us that sometimes vendors will do things like start carving tourists’ names into wood and try to act like they have to pay for it. She again said to simply say no.
When we arrived in the parking lot for the falls, we disembarked the falls and were led down the path into the park. The falls were very pretty and quite slick. It took a seemingly long time for the whole group to climb to the top so that we could explore the market area.
We were given some time to walk along the boardwalks and through the market area. We started off to explore, but we gave up pretty quickly because we grew tired of having to say no repeatedly to so many pushy vendors. They were everywhere! We couldn’t look at anything or even just stroll along without someone putting his arm around one of us and trying to talk us into buying something. My husband repeatedly opened his wallet to an empty pocket to show we had no money to spend, and they left us alone after that until we reached the next vendor. We had one try the name carving trick on us (he was also evidently on the influence of some drug), but we firmly said no and walked away (so glad our guide warned us about that). A few yard back, we saw a couple of our tour group members being escorted into a tent to look at additional items. Since our tour guide was further behind them, we continued to the bus, frustrated and ready to get out of there. After awhile, the couple came back to the bus followed by a native. He waited outside the bus while they got money from the wallet they had left on the bus and gave to him.
After the falls, we rode to a shopping center near the port and were let off for about half an hour. We entered a couple of shops but found that they all sold the same
typical, “hand crafted” (not really) items sold in most Caribbean souvenir shops. The rest of the shops only sold marijuana paraphernalia. After this stop, we rode back to the port and reboarded the ship.
Since this cruise, we have been to many different places within the Caribbean. While I appreciate the views of those who enjoy Jamaica, i have to say it is probably my least favorite place. This is mostly due to the vendors. I understand that tourism is the main industry in a lot of these areas, but I would guess that they would make more money if they were not so pushy.