Approximately half of the Caribbean's two million annual cruise travelers visit the island of Jamaica to enjoy the beautiful beaches and warm weather. Many of Jamaica's visitors fall in love and return to the island for a longer stay.
The popularity of cruises stems from their on-board amenities and activities, and their ability to offer travelers the opportunity to visit several destinations on one trip. Jamaica is one of the Caribbean's most visited destinations, so if your cruise is stopping at one of the country's ports, you'll need to plan ahead. This is especially true is you plan to travel during the high season, when cruises are often booked months in advance.
Most cruises to the Caribbean leave from the Florida cities of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa, and dock at Jamaica's largest ports: Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Port Falmouth. In March of 2011, after three years of construction a cruise ship specific pier, Falmouth Cruise Pier in Trelawny, officially opened for business. The pier was built in partnership with Royal Caribbean, who's cruise ship Oasis of the Sea (the largest cruise ship on waters as of 2011) made its inaugural trip into the port on March 24, 2011.
When booking your own cruise, you may want to call the cruise line directly, or use their Web site for research. You'll want to think carefully about which line you choose, matching the style of your desired vacation to the style of the ship. While some may choose a family-friendly cruise line, others may prefer a more glamorous ride.
The following cruise lines regularly service Jamaica:
|Cruise Lines||Telephone Number||Usual Jamaican Port|
|Celebrity||800-221-4789||Ocho Rios, Montego Bay|
|Montego Bay, Falmouth
Ocho Rios, Montego Bay
|Royal Caribbean||800-659-7225||Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Falmouth
Cruises are generally divided into four main classes: contemporary/value cruises, premium cruises, luxury cruises, and specialty cruises. After learning the details on each of these classes, you may find it easier to choose the style of cruise that is best for you.
The most popular type of cruise is the contemporary/value cruise, where reasonable prices and package deals rule. Carnival and Royal Caribbean are two such lines. Together they make up almost 90 percent of the cruise industry.
The next step up in cruises is premium cruises. More expensive, they also offer higher quality service and smaller ships. Celebrity and Holland America offer premium cruises that host larger wait staffs and fewer passengers.
If you're looking for top-notch services and amenities, luxury liners will have what you're looking for. Though the cost may be much higher , the experience is generally considered to be worth the extra expense.
Specialty class ships don't travel as often to popular ports like Jamaica, but those that do typically are themed cruises. Exclusive cruises are available for certain groups, like singles, homosexuals, and senior citizens.
Ship size is another factor to consider. While travelers wishing to see the sights in Jamaica shouldn't have any trouble, visiting smaller ports would be impossible in some ships because of their size. Travelers on a Panama-class ship will barely squeeze through the ports of the Panama Canal.
Such incredible ships hold a maximum of 3,000 passengers, which may be a consideration for travelers looking for high levels of personalized service. However, their enormous size does make the ships more stable on the ocean during even the most turbulent weather. The following criteria are used to classify ships:
|Gross registered tonnage||measurement of the ship's volume/vessel's size||1 gross registered ton = 100 cubic feet|
|Passenger-to-crew ratio||number of passengers served by each crew member||Smaller ratio = better service|
|Passenger capacity||based on double occupancy (2 passengers per cabin)||More rooms = more passengers|
|Space ratio||comparison of ship space/tonnage to passenger capacity||Higher ratio = extra spacious|
When booking a cabin you'll have two choices. The "run of the ship" cabin allows you to choose between an outside or an inside cabin, but are the less expensive option because they are not assigned until the week you're scheduled to depart. The "perfect" cabin means you'll get the exact cabin you've asked and paid for. It is important to make all requests while you are booking your cabin, to ensure you receive all the desired amenities.
There are a few other considerations you may want to make before picking a room:
Cabins near anchors, bars, casinos, elevators, engine rooms, gyms, nightclubs, public rooms, stairways, pools and hot tubs, theaters or thrusters should be avoided, especially by light sleepers as these areas are particularly noisy.
Travelers with young children may want to avoid outside cabins with balcony access.
Those prone to motion sickness may consider a lower cabin. Travel in the middle of the ship is the smoothest.
Take general safety precautions: lock your door when you leave, keep valuables hidden, and avoid flashing lots of money.
Wintertime snow and holidays find many northern travelers seeking the warmth of the Caribbean, and cruises between December and early April are extremely popular - a fact reflected by a higher price tag. New Year's Eve, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter are the most popular times for cruises.
Cruising in the springtime is one way to cut costs and still enjoy a cruise in the Caribbean. Cruises booked during hurricane season tend to be less expensive as well, because many travelers try to avoid the waters during this time.
Depending on your vacation time, you can book a cruise that lasts anywhere between a few days and several weeks. First-time cruisers might want to start with a shorter trip, perhaps docking in only one or two spots. Seven and ten day cruises are popular options for many cruisers, offering approximately twice the number of islands. For some a two-week cruise is the most enticing, and two week-long cruises can be booked back to back, or as one long journey.
Wherever you dock, on-shore activities will be arranged by the cruise line. Snorkeling, scuba diving, horseback riding, golfing, and tours are just a few of the options most often offered by cruise lines. Such on-shore activities will cost an extra $25(USD) to $100(USD) per person, and some even more than that. Reserve such activities when you book, or add them on after you board, but remember that space may be limited.
Remember that, when traveling by cruise, your time on the island will be limited. Consult the cruise director to find out how long you'll have on the island, it will help you plan your excursions. If you're less interested in the pre-planned activities, or more interested in exploring Jamaica on your own, you'll find there are plenty of things to do, from site-seeing to shopping. Port Antonio is known for the beautiful nature surrounding it, while Ocho Rios is known for its native dishes and bargains. Montego Bay is a resort town with a little bit of everything.
Cruise costs will, of course, be different based on any number of factors. The most important of the factors will be luxury level, cruise length, and number of people traveling. Surprisingly for some travelers, a single occupancy rate is higher than a double occupancy rate.
While most of your travel is included in the price of your room, many extras such as shore excursions and beverages, especially alcoholic beverages, are typically not. Make sure you go over which items are inclusive, and be aware of the cruise lines policy on tipping.
When packing there are a few things you'll need to remember. While you'll be spending your days enjoying a sun-filled vacation, your nights will almost inevitably include meals that are classified as evening casual, informal, or formal. This means you'll need to pack diversely, but the caution is also not to over-pack.
Remember that your cabin will likely be small, and you'll need to make the best use of the space you have. It's recommended that travelers include bathing suits, lightweight and light colored shirts, shorts, and other cover-ups, flip-flips or sandals, sunglasses, and a hat with a brim for additional protection from the sun. But for the nights you'll want to keep a pair of nice slacks and a collared shirt for men, and a sun dress or nice pants and a blouse for women. When traveling on a cruise "informal" can mean a suit and tie and cocktail dress, while formal dinners require black tie attire.
Jamaica has its own standards for dress. It is considered inappropriate to wear beachwear into towns. Shorts, pants, and skirts are acceptable, but women should avoid wearing clothing that is too revealing, which is also inappropriate.
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