We are thinking about a Western Carib cruise for next winter and as much as we would like to see Jamaica, I am wondering about the safety. I know Kingston has some problems, but what is it like in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios? Do you feel safe? Keep with ship excursions oo go on our own?
This is strictly a personal opinion. I would feel safe on the ships organized excursions combined with the common sense you would exercise anywhere these days. Most people are not comfortable on their own in Jamaica. There is high unemployment,
vendors and such are more aggresive than anywhere else in the caribbean. There is a reason why virtually all resorts in Jamaica are all inclusive. As beautiful an island as it is, and in general the people of this country are wonderful, there is in fact an element that prays on the tourists a lot more aggressively than elsewhere.
Don't miss it, this is a wonderful place full of much beauty, just excercise care, in this case use the ships, excursions exclusively. Excursions will take you nowhere near Kingston which is where the civil unrest usually flares up.
Personally I do not like the Mass Excursions the ship offers. I will be in jamaica in two weeks YAY!!! and did some homework and have booked a private tour guide. Search the tourist board sites for reccomendations or try ShoreTrips.com for the "unusual" port call trips.
Definately stay with the ship excursions in Jamaica. Although most of the people are very nice the vendors get real pushy and they're not just trying to sell you a trinket. You can get propositioned for almost anything there. I wouldn't miss the island completely though, Just use common sense and don't go off by yourself.
Personally I have never felt threatened in Jamaica. The people there are very poor and try hard to obtain your business but they are also some of the nicest people in the world! They have so little that respect is something that they cling desprately to and it is probably the most important thing in the world to them. If you show the locals respect and friendliness they will repay you tenfold. My wife and I and even our kids have walked to the main town from the pier and not had any hassels. My son who is in his mid 20's was asked if he wanted some grass but he just said no thank you and that was the end of it. I have never had it offered to me there. In St Martin on the French side my wife was asked if she and I wanted to attend a sex orgy and I was asked three times if I wanted drugs so it can happen anywhere! Jamcica IMHO is one of the prettiest islands with some of the most wonderful and interesting people you will find in the Caribbean. Even when Jamaica was first discovered in the 1490's the reports were that it was the prettiest island they had ever seen! I love it there.
I would not walk around alone there! We took a ship's excursion and then came back and taxied to town and shopped for a while. I was a little uncomfortable. We did get some great stuff at the straw market and found the venders in town nicer than in Nassau. I would have NEVER walked back to the ship!
I always try to be watchful and careful when ever we travel, especially in Jamaica. Going with a group tour is probibaly best and be sure to visit the "falls" if you've never beent here. Just make sure to wear some old sneakers or a pair of water shoes, the rocks tend to be slippery, have fun.
We have been to Ochos Rios twice and have never taken a shore tour, opting to do it ourselves and never had a problem walking around town. Use your common sense as you would anywhere else. Don`t look like a target by wearing expensive clothes and tons of jewelry like I have seen many Americans do. This is a very poor country, treat the people with respect and they will treat you the same in return. For anyone who gets "spooked" by the occasional pushy vendor, perhaps if you can`t simply say no thankyou you should stay on the ship. Don`t miss the falls, and get a taxi driver to give you a tour of the island, and be sure to haggle for the price, there is lots of competition. I would go back there in a heartbeat!