Insider Traveler Tips:
The Historic Falmouth Port’s pier is located within Oyster Bay on Jamaica’s north coast. The largest ships in the world can be accommodated there, with no need for tenders. Passengers walk directly off the ship into the port complex. From there, it’s only about a three-minute walk into the historic town of Falmouth itself. The sprawling 32-acre port complex houses standard Caribbean port retail shops like Diamonds International and Dufry, as well as Jamaican craft vendors, restaurants and a transportation hub. Several open-air wooden kiosks with vendors selling snacks and souvenirs are also set up on the port’s neatly bricked open spaces. Passengers can expect to find duty-free shopping, boutique vendors, a craft market, restaurants, and office and residential space within the port complex. Even if you don’t plan to head out on an excursion or walk through Falmouth town itself, it’s still worth leaving the ship to stroll the shaded sidewalks of the complex, browse the craft vendors and admire the replicated Georgian architecture
It’s a three-minute walk from the port into the town of Falmouth, where you’ll likely be greeted by taxi drivers offering day-trips to popular tourist sites like Dunn’s River Falls and the beaches near Montego Bay. The nearest place to rent a car is in the town of Montego Bay or at the Montego Bay airport. It’s not worth the hassle, and your best bet for taking independent day-trips is to hire a taxi to drive you wherever you are headed. JUTA (Jamaican Union of Travellers Association) taxis come inside the port and offer standardized rates to all the nearby attractions, as well as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. A taxi to Montego Bay takes about 30 minutes, and Ocho Rios is about an hour away. Wherever there are hordes of tourists, there are people looking to capitalize on their presence. It’s a fact of the traveler’s life, but it’s nothing to be paranoid about. Be careful to mind your belongings at all times (leave valuables in your safe on the ship), and everything should be fine.
If you’re looking to sample authentic Jamaican food, Falmouth makes up for what it lacks in quantity of restaurants with a few solid, authentic options. The jerked style of cooking is a Jamaican staple that you can try in Falmouth, wherein meats are marinated with dry or wet rubs made of a concoction of spices that might include pimento (all spice), sugar and scotch bonnet peppers. The meats are then cooked over wood coals. And, while there’s no central dining district, and the few chains there are of the Jamaican patty variety (patties are flaky, empanada-like pastries, filled with sauced meats), you’ll find several snack stalls and restaurants within a five-minute walk from the port. After the decline of Falmouth’s sugar industry, yam production became very important, and you’ll find the tuber on many local menus. (They’re tastiest roasted).
- Local Food: Club Nazz comprises several stories of dining areas, including a breezy rooftop terrace, offering good views of the ship and town. Tuck into authentic Jamaican eats like curry goat, callaloo (a leafy, green vegetable), and ackee with saltfish (a single dish that features Jamaica’s national fruit, ackee, simmered with dried cod). The bar does mean cocktails, too. (23 Market St. Open for lunch from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m)
- Near Main Attractions: Less than a minute’s walk from Water Square in downtown Falmouth, Supreme Restaurant has its own jerk center and proffers piled-high platters of jerk chicken, pork and conch with sides like green and red plantains and roasted yams. The thatched tiki roofs inside bring the tropical feel in, and the pool tables are always busy with locals. (Corner of King St. and Duke St. Open for lunch 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m)
- Escovitched snapper or fish is cooked in every home and a traditional Jamaican dish to be tried
- Cocktail: Jamaica’s rum punch or a Miami Vice (layered and starts with strawberry daiquiri, followed by pina colada and topped with Blue Curacao)
Best Shore Excursion for First Timers:
The “Best of Jamaica” shore excursion is an all-day outing that includes:
- down time on pretty Shaw Beach in Ocho Rios,
- followed by a buffet lunch and a
- scenic cruise along the coastline to
- Dunn’s River Falls, where you can climb the cascades or take in the scene from one of several viewing platforms
- Dunn’s River Falls: It takes about an hour by taxi to get from Falmouth to these most famous of Jamaica’s falls near Ocho Rios, where you can climb 600 feet up from the base of the falls or retreat to the beach where the rushing water exits into the ocean.
- Montego Bay: Hire a taxi for the 30-minute ride to Montego Bay, and enjoy a stroll along the Hip Strip (also known as Gloucester Avenue), past bars and shops in MoBay’s most bustling tourist district, which fronts the beach. You can also do some duty-free shopping at City Centre, a shopping area that stretches along one block downtown; there, you’ll find gold, timepieces, perfumes, crystal, leather goods, souvenirs and boutique clothing.
- Mystic Mountain: Also in Ocho Rios, Mystic Mountain is a rainforest adventure park that’s great for kids and adults and is home to some very unique outdoor activities. The adventure begins with a ride on the Sky Explorer, a chairlift that soars 700 feet over the lush landscape below. Once at the top, travelers can opt to try the park’s signature Bobsled Jamaica ride, the Zip-Line Canopy tour or a twisty slide that ends up in the mountaintop swimming pool. Have lunch, and take in the view from Lookout Tower before making your way back down the mountain on the chairlift.
- Good Hope Great House: This immaculately preserved home on a former sugar plantation was the abode of planter John Tharp, who once owned much of Falmouth’s prime waterfront. Just 15 minutes from the port, in the lush interior, the Good Hope Great House dates to the 1700’s and sits on 2,000 rolling acres. In addition to estate tours and gourmet lunch offerings within the historic home, the property hosts a slew of activities that range from horse and buggy tours, dune buggy safaris and river-tubing along the Martha Brae River (it cuts through the property) to zip-line tours through the jungle canopy and ATV rides. You can book shore excursions (all organized by Chukka Caribbean Adventures) on your ship, or plan a see-it-yourself walking tour by booking at a kiosk in the port (shuttle transfers are included). Alternatively, you can book a taxi on your own (more expensive than the shuttle) to arrive at the estate and then decide which activities you’d like to experience. Lunches and high tea, however, must be booked in advance and through your ship’s shore excursion department
One of the first Jamaican vendors to open shop at the new Falmouth port opened in 2011 is King Pepper Products, Inc. which makes one of Jamaica’s very best jerk seasonings, sold for about $5 a pop in 11-oz. jars labeled “Eaton’s Jamaican Boston Bay Style Jerk Seasoning.” “If you can handle the heat, grab the hot version, the local favorite. The mix includes Jamaican ingredients like pimento and cane vinegar, as well as “secret” herbs and spices that grow near the country’s jerk capital of Portland Parish. Just be sure to pack the glass jar in your checked bag so it won’t get snagged by the TSA on your homebound flight”
Language and Money
English is widely spoken and understood in Jamaica. But, when the locals talk amongst themselves, it’s with a colorful patois, based on English but with a thick accent and different vocabulary that makes it hard for new arrivals to understand. To make it clear to salespeople and would-be chauffeurs and tour guides that you don’t need their wares or services, you can always invoke a friendly me no wanti — patois for “I don’t want it” — to make your point.
You can get cash (U.S. or Jamaican dollars) via ATM in Falmouth at two Scotiabank locations: one on Lower Harbour Street and one at Trelawny Wharf, both a quick stroll from the ship. You’ll be able to pay with U.S. dollars at nearly every restaurant and shop in town, but be prepared to get change in Jamaican dollars. Credit Cards are not so popular.