Thursday, April 15, 2004


Ocho Rios

We took a lot of cruises during graduate/law school as they offered a perfect all-inclusive cost-friendly time-sensitive combination of relaxation and "soft travel."

Recognizing they may have many fine points, we quickly learned cruise ship excursions were not for us.  We just had a more enjoyable time researching ports beforehand, deciding what we wanted to experience, then making that happen on our own.  Sometimes this meant contacting local operators/guides and other times it meant renting a form of transportation and setting off on our own.  For each port I will provide a published synopsis and then post our own experience.

Courtesy of Lonely Planet:

"Wrapped around a small bay with postcard-worthy snugness, Ocho Rios is a former fishing village that the Jamaica Tourist Board earmarked for tourism in the 1960s and developed in the mid-1980s. With Main St lined with shopping plazas, craft markets and fast-food emporiums, its appeal is not immediately obvious to the more adventurous traveler, but others welcome this ‘Jamaica Lite’ – the opportunity to experience the country without straying too far from the comforts and conveniences of home.

The frequent docking of cruise ships at the central pier that commands the town’s focus gives ‘Ochi’ a decidedly ‘packaged’ feel, spiced up by the incessant entreaties of ‘guides’ and souvenir sellers. However, it has also endowed the town with an international eating scene and two distinct kinds of nightlife: rough-and-ready dancehall clubs and beach sound-systems versus karaoke nights and all-you-can-drink swimwear parties. The choice is yours.

Those who come to Ochi expecting peace and solitude are likely to be disappointed, but the town makes an excellent base for active, solvent travelers who wish to explore the scenic north coast and to partake in slick, well-managed ‘adventures’ such as dog sledding, zip-line tours, horseback riding and waterfall climbing."

Our time in Ocho Rios can be summed up pretty simply:

  • We spent the entire day on a gorgeous beach in rented chaise lounges under a palm tree.
  • We were approached by an elderly toothless local gentleman who offered to sell us a fruit plate for ten bucks.  This is not something we typically do but we figured hey why not.  The man disappeared behind a nearby wooden hut and after several minutes of chopping he presented us with the biggest and most magnificent platter of fresh tropical fruit we have ever seen!  It. Was. Delicious.  To this day we still talk about that fruit plate.  We gave him twenty bucks.
  • Word spread quickly as shortly thereafter we were approached by another local.  This time selling "fresh Jamaican aloe" for five bucks.  We should have known better but the fruit thing worked out so well.....  Moments later the man returned with a sandy rum bottle containing "fresh Jamaican aloe" (hah, I know) more resembling floating cheese curd than anything else.  But we had agreed so we handed over the five dollars.  Except then he starts yelling it was supposed to be ten.  I have no memory of how this resolved so nothing exceptional mustve happened.
  • Walking back from the beach we noticed guards or police of some sort with very big guns standing outside the entrance of a few banks.  It didnt really phase us beyond "noticing" it; maybe thats how they roll here.  Later we asked my friend from Jamaica if this was the norm and he laughed and said absolutely not and called it "nonsense" they were brandishing weapons.
  • Walking through town passersby would, without stopping or looking at us, mumble a single word: doobie?

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