Jamaica is a popular port of call on Western Caribbean cruise itineraries. The island has three major ports of call - Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay. Whether you’re looking for beautiful beaches, adventure, history, wildlife, or just lots of fun, you're likely to find a shore excursion that matches your interests here.
If you’re wondering what to do while your ship is docked in Jamaica, here are ten top activities and adventures for cruise passengers:
1. Swim with Dolphins. Get up close and personal with dolphins (and even snorkel with sharks) at Jamaica's number one marine attraction, Dolphin Cove. At Dolphin Cove Ocho Rios, cruisers can interact and swim with the dolphins. As part of their entrance fee, visitors can also take out their own mini boats to explore the coast, snorkel and interact with stingrays, take a glass-bottom kayak ride, and interact with exotic snakes, birds and iguanas on the Jungle Trail. If your ship is docked in Montego Bay, Dolphin Cove Negril may be the closest option for you. Here, passengers can experience the same dolphin experiences at this 20-acre property which boasts the largest natural dolphin lagoon in the world.
2. Take a Bobsled Run. The cool bobsled ride at Mystic Mountain is one of Jamaica's hottest attractions. Cruise passengers can star in their own Cool Runnings movie and hurtle along on steel rails 1,000 meters through the forest. Although gravity drives this ride, passengers can control their bobsled's speed by maneuvering the handlebars. Parents who want to manage their child's experience can have two bobsleds connected to each other.
3. Fly through the Canopy. Cruise passengers visiting Jamaica have multiple choices for zipline and sky trek adventures. Take the Original Canopy Tour, a two-hour zipline experience that sends its guests soaring through the treetops. Near the Rose Hall Great House, cruisers can take Chukka Caribbean’s Flight of the White Witch zipline canopy tour. Here, ziplines traverse a densely forested canyon about 1200 feet above sea level. Be prepared to rappel 100 feet down from Annie's Web, a suspended platform high above the forest floor. A zipline tour and a sky trek experience are offered at Mystic Mountain as well.
4. Go Rafting on a River. Treat yourself to a unique rafting experience and journey down the Martha Brae River on a 30-foot long bamboo raft built for two. Located about three miles inland from the port of Falmouth, this river rafting tour was started over forty years ago and is the leading rafting excursion in Jamaica. As guests glide along the three-mile stretch of water, they'll learn about the "Legend of Martha Brae" and will have the opportunity to take a swim in the river. If tubing is more your style, take a shore excursion to Jamaica's White River and get in on the fun. Kayaking safaris are available on Jamaica's Great River as well.
5. Get Wet in the Waterfalls. Dunn's River Falls is one of Jamaica's most famous tour attractions. Take a guided climb over 600-feet up to the top of the falls - definitely a great bonding activity. Wear water shoes with good treads for the best experience. Those who don't wish to make the climb can watch people ascending the falls from a series of observation decks. There's also a beach below the falls for swimming and playing before or after the climb. Many cruise passengers combine trips to Dunn's River Falls with other activities on their shore excursions, including river tubing, catamaran sails, dolphin swims, bobsled or dogsled rides, zipline adventures and more.
6. Hit Some Balls. Jamaica has some of the most beautiful courses in the Caribbean and is certainly a hit with golf lovers. As part of a ship shore excursion - or even on an independent tour - cruisers can often arrange to play Jamaica's famous Half Moon Course, consistently ranked as one of the top golf courses in the world. This Par-72 Robert Trent Jones, Sr. course has hosted a number of prestigious tournaments, including the Dunhill Cup Final of the Americas and the Jamaica Open Golf Championship.
7. See the Wildlife. Go "under da sea" in an air-conditioned semi-sub reef explorer and learn about the fascinating marine life found in Montego Bay Marine Park - or go snorkeling on one of Jamaica's many catamaran boat trips to see loads of bright corals and tropical fish. If your ship docks in Montego Bay or Falmouth, you may also have the opportunity to take a scenic boat safari up the Black River where wild crocodiles can often be seen swimming through the water and sunning along the banks. Your guide will introduce you to these fascinating creatures and you might even be able to touch one if you dare!
8. Live the Legends. Visiting Nine Mile, the birthplace of reggae legend Bob Marley, is the equivalent of a Graceland pilgrimage for many fans. On this tour, cruise passengers have the opportunity to learn about Bob Marley's life, see his home, and visit his final resting place. Several variations of this tour are offered, sometimes with a stop at Jamaica's lush Fern Gully - home to over 200 different species of ferns. For those seeking a totally different type of legend, take a trip to Rose Hall, the most famous Great House in Jamaica. Built in the 1770's and immaculately restored, this Georgian mansion was the home of Annie Palmer, also known as the "White Witch of Rose Hall."
9. Go on a Camel Safari. Take a ride atop a camel at Prospect Plantation, a privately-owned 1000-acre 18th century working agricultural estate. The plantation is an interesting stop for cruise passengers, allowing them to see how local tropical crops are grown. Guests can feed the ostriches as well. Once at the Camel Park, visitors will get a brief orientation to the camels and will have the opportunity to ride and pose with these exotic creatures. Age restrictions apply.
10. Saddle Up and Swim. This popular tour from Chukka Caribbean takes cruise passengers on a trail ride through Jamaica’s countryside and to old sugar plantation estates. After riding through these areas, the horses will come to Chukka’s beach where riders (and their horses) can go for a swim in the sea. Check with Chukka Caribbean for age and other restrictions.
Of course, a list of Jamaica's attractions wouldn't be complete without mentioning its beaches. While Negril's stunning white strand is legendary, other popular beaches include Runaway Bay, Ocho Rios, Oracabessa, and James Bond Beach. Although taxis are readily available, check with your cruise line to see if beach shuttles and excursions are offered. A number of beachfront resorts sell day passes as well.
For more information on what to do in Jamaica, go to http://www.visitjamaica.com.