We just returned from our first cruise which included a stop in Ocho Rios. I had no interest in booking thru the cruise line due to cost and having to wait for everyone to load the bus and do a congo line up the falls. 4 of us ( myself, wife, 10 and 12 year old) got off the boat as quickly as we could and got a van right outside the pier. There are 2 exits off the piers - one for guided tours to the right and one for privcate taxis/vans to the left. WE hooked up with another family of 4 at the taxi stand and got a van for $5.50per person for round trip. He dropped us off at the falls ( about 10 minutes) at around 9:30 am and we agreed upon 11:30 am pick up time. After paying admission ( cant remeber what it was - check website. CASH ONLY!!!) we made our way down to bottom of the falls but had to survive the onslaught of tour guides insisting we needed their service. We wanted to climb the falls as a small group - just us and the family we hooked up with - so declined all guides. Until - that is - someone convinved us that we needed someone to watch us in case we got hurt. So in the end we ened up with some sort of private guide who helped us when we needed it but otherwise did a lot on our own. We gave him $10 for each group and he seemed content. The climb only took about 30-40 minutes so had over an hour with nothing to do. So we walked back down to the beach where the falls started and played in the water and at bottom of falls for a while. By the time we got to the bottom again, there were hords of people lined up to climb the falls. All shpaes, sizes , ages, etc, all holding hands and moving slowly. Did not look like fun!Leaving the falls at the top to meet the van was interesting as you have to walk through a small village of peddlers who were not as pushy as I expected but maybe they werent warmed up yet. The van was there as promised and we were back on the boat by 11:45. There is some shopping to be done but we wanted to getback to boat. There is a Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville right there at the end of the dock where our new friends went later and they enjoyed a few drinks while their kids played with water toys - might be an option if you have kids, or even if you dont. They said it was great.
Just realized I wrote a lot - hope it was helpful. Bottom line - you do not need to hook up with any tour operators to enjoy the falls. Get there early, before the crowds. Much more enjoyable. Let me know if you have any other questions.