When we arrived home from our November road trip to Pennsylvania, we had one day to unpack, do laundry and repack for a ten day Southern Caribbean cruise to celebrate Bill’s birthday. Problem was, after the cold, windy and rainy weather, I arrived home sick. I immediately took a home Covid test which was negative. The next morning I was no better and took another Covid test. It too was negative. I put in a call to my doctor to see if she could fit me in, explaining I was leaving the next day. Fortunately she could see me. In the parking lot the nurse came to the car and administered two tests, one for Covid and one for influenza. After a fifteen minute wait the nurse called to tell me they were both negative and I could come inside and see the doctor. Diagnosis: bronchitis. I was cleared to go on the cruise but boy did I feel rough!
The next morning before leaving for the port I took one last Covid test, just to be sure. Negative. I was really looking forward to sitting on the balcony in the warm sunshine and breathe in the salt air.
Our ship, the Norwegian Getaway, departed from Port Canaveral, very near the condo where we lived in 2020-2021. This was our first time on a Norwegian ship. We usually cruise on Holland America. This ship was quite a bit larger than Holland America ships and we really felt much less movement of the ship. Usually I have to take motion sickness medication daily. On this ship I never felt I needed it, so I took it occasionally.
After a day at sea, our first port was going to be Great Stirrup Cay, a private island owned by the Norwegian cruise line in the Bahamas. Bill booked a zip line excursion and was really looking forward to it. I was still feeling under the weather and was going to just get off the ship and enjoy the island. That morning we were ready to leave the ship and heading to breakfast when the captain announced the port was canceled due to high wind and rough seas. Because the water in the port is shallow, tender boats are used to take the passengers from the ship to the shore. With the high wind and rough seas, it was too dangerous to load passengers on and off the tender boats. Bill was disappointed to miss his zip line excursion. Instead we had an extra day at sea to enjoy the ship and our balcony.
The next day we stopped at the port of Ochos Rios (Spanish for Eight Rivers) on the north coast of Jamaica. A former fishing village, in the last decade it has become a major cruise port destination and resort area lined with beaches and hotels. Obviously tourism is its main source of income with the government spending over $21 million in a revitalization project which included building airports and dredging Ochos Rios Bay. Ochos Rios has a population of approximately 17,000 and exports sugar and limestone.
Jamaica is about 170 miles in length from east to west and 70 miles north to south. It is 87 miles south of Cuba and 118 miles west of Haiti. A ridge of mountains from east to west makes part of the island hilly and mountainous. Christopher Columbus landed here in 1494 and claimed the land for Spain.
The Spanish named the area “Chorreras” meaning rapid rivers, probably because of all the waterfalls. The indigenous people living there were obliterated by disease, slavery and war. Lacking gold or silver, it was used primarily as a supply base for Spanish ventures into the Americas. Spain brought the first slaves here in 1517 to work on plantations throughout Jamaica. 1655, British forces seized the island from Spain. The English misinterpreted the Spanish name Chorreras and named the area Ochos Rios. A mistake because the area does not really have eight rivers. There were repeated skirmishes between the English and Spanish for the island over the years. During the late 17th century the area was often used by pirates.
Slavery was abolished in Jamaica in 1838, 27 years before slavery ended in the U.S. The newly freed slaves slowly turned their town into a peaceful fishing village. In the 1950s they also exported sugar and bauxite (aluminum) and raised cattle.
In 1962 the first James Bond film, “Dr No” was shot here followed by the Bond film “Live and Let Die” in 1973.
Since Jamaica is known for having high crime rates, we decided to take a ship excursion rather than explore on our own. The night before our arrival, at dinner our waiter asked what we planned to do the next day in Jamaica and cautioned us to be careful. We had never had that happen on other cruises. Our room steward was from Jamaica and was really looking forward to seeing his daughter. After doing his morning duties, he had arranged to have a few hours off in the afternoon to spend time with her. He proudly showed us her picture. He is only able to see her when the cruise ship stops in Ochos Rios. Cruise ship workers often spend long months on assignment, usually working seven days a week.
Wanting to get a feel for Jamaica, we booked an excursion that took us through the surrounding lush, tropical countryside. We stopped at Konoko Falls, which really wasn’t much of a waterfall, but the surrounding area had nice ocean views.
On some excursions you climb the waterfalls and we snapped a picture of a group celebrating reaching the top of the falls.
Konoko Falls included a nature area where a guide showed us plants native to the area such as bananas and coffee, as well as many colorful flowering plants.
This large koi pond had strings stretched across the pond to protect the fish from birds and other predators.
We also saw rose-ringed parakeets, scarlet macaws, as well as budgies which are native to Australia. They also had tortoises, barn owls and even a crocodile.
We always try to take pictures of new places that give you a feel for the people. It was hard to take some of the pictures from a bus window.
At one point we drove by a school and a group of little girls came running to the fence to wave at us.
So cute. Later we took pictures of older students probably walking home from school. We noticed school children wore uniforms. Our guide told us this was to prevent social class distinction in the schools.
We were also told there is no postal home delivery. Everyone has to pick their mail up at the post office. The average Jamaican yearly salary was $4,800 in 2021.
Seems no matter what country we visit there are always recognizable fast food restaurants, including a Starbucks.
Next up: Bill’s birthday and a day in Aruba