With that said, let me add that I've been there twice. I didn't like it when I was there in 1995, but gave it a second chance in 2002. I still disliked it!
The island is pretty, as others have said. And, I did meet some very nice people. I was, however, very unimpressed with the service we received and I don't care to be accosted every few feet by sales persons or hair-braiders! I guess it's just not my style.
I've been to many other islands/ports that I love...Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Barados, St. Martin (both sides), St. Thomas, Dominica, etc. I even enjoyed Martinique and Puerto Rico, although it seems they're high on the least-favorite list, too.
My question is why do so many people have to come up and try and sell you drugs? If someone is trying to find drugs then they can go ask someone for them. Just because I am an American does not mean I want drugs or that i am even interested in buying anything. Why can't the local people just leave me alone and let me wander were ever I want to without approaching me to try and sell me something. If I want to buy something i will go to the store or come to your booth and ask you to buy something. Ever been outside of a Walmart and someone approach you to sell you something? I am going into the store to buy what I want i don't need you coming to me to sell me something. Yes I am vacationing and most of us vacation to relax and sightsee not to be hassled or worry everytime ou see someone approaching you that you are going to have to tell them "no thanks". Bottom line is if I want to buy something I will go to the store and buy it, I don't need someone coming up and getting mad at me because I don't want to buy something. If I don't want to buy something that does not mean I am rude, it just I like to look at my own leasure. It is my vacation that I worked all year for to be able to afford to go and get away from the hussle and bussle.
Another vote for Jamaica. Been to Montego Bay twice and Ocho Rios 3 times on cruise ships and frankly, unless I am in Ocho with someone who has never been to see the falls I doubt I would ever get off the ship there again. It's filthy, it smellsa dn the only people who are not trying to push drugs or other wares at you are too drunk to do so in my experience.
Dunns is nice and climbing the falls can be fun, but how many times does one really need to do that in their life? I like Western Carrib. itineraries because I love Cozumel and Grand Cayman - unfortunately Jamaica is usually part of the package deal.....
Unfortunately America has the reputation of being a drug using society! I was on a train from Southhampton to London and teenage boys were traveling home from boarding school. I noticed the boys were checking out my luggage and they asked "lady do you have any drugs on you." I asked them "what makes you think I have drugs on me" and they responded "well you are from America and you live in California." For the record I was 52 years old at the time, and I don't look like a drug user! They also wanted to know if everybody is rich that lives in Ca. and is it true that everybody in Ca. has a swimming pool? It isn't only in the Caribbean where I have been offered drugs, and all one has to say is "no thank you."
Hello All! Very interesting thread here. I have only been to Cozumel, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and St Maarten/Martin. Jamaica is the only stop that involved anything less than complete comfort from a safety point of view, however nothing serious. It is indeed one of the prettiest islands geographically, and one of the most mature politcally speaking. In Ocho Rios we took a river tubing expedition (off of the Carnival Triumph) and it was great fun. We drove up into the coastal mountains on a disintegrating road, and the scenery was spectacular. The White River was beautiful, and is part of their drinking water system, which meant it was very clean. The staff at the tubing establishment were very friendly, their only exaggeration being how "dangerous" the river was--it was pretty tame! The terminus of the raft ride was a little clearing with a "jerk shack--free samples", and we got a free beer or soda. We contracted with the tour drivers to take us to Dunn's River falls and pick us up at a later time--they were quite amenable and prompt.
Dunn's River Falls is pretty, but a lot of tourist-y activity goes on. You are best not to follow the signs that point to the exit, but go out the way you come in. The exit is blocked by about 500 vendors, who all want a piece of you. We had got sucked into buying "custom carved" fertility statues for $30.00 US. Albeit it from a friendly, charming fellow, but he had our names carved into them before we knew what was happening.. We were not interested in anything else other than a pound of Blue Mountain coffee, and several of the vendors pulled the "you disrespect me, mon" when we said no to buying. With 900,000 inhabitants, and probably 800,000 affected directly by the tourist industry, it certainly limits their options and you may understand why the "hard sell" is so important to them.
No problems in Cozumel or Grand Cayman, GC is more British than Britain.
St Maarten/Martin is my favourite island so far. No hassles, great shopping, friendly, well-educated people and beautiful scenery and beaches. You get offered pot, but a simple "no" will dissuade them from bothering you. We rented a van for three days and drove around the island several times. A little exciting, but worth the money. It seems everyone on the Dutch side speaks English, a little less so on the French side. We had a super time there during the week we spent in January.
An observation: As a Canadian, I have found that frequently the treatment I receive becomes more positive when I reveal I am Canadian and not American. I am not tarring everyone with the same brush, as I believe that the bulk of Americans are great people. However, I have encountered the stereotypical American on vacation who looks down on anyone who isn't from the US of A, finding them a little substandard. It is easy to see why someone from a country like Jamaica would be resentful (and perhaps rude) to someone who obviously looks down on them. How would you like to owe your livelihood to someone who looks down their nose at you?
As many of the respondees here have stated, there are plenty of parts of town in major US (or yes, even Canadian) cities that you would feel just as uncomfortable in at night than somewhere in the Caribbean!
Thanks for all the introspection and sharing, Tim T
We will be going back to Ocho Rios for the second time on the Mariner of the Seas. I am a little
hesitant. We had a bad experience there a few years back. After going on an excursion to Dunn River
Falls we decided to take a cab to the shops. We were told on the ship NOT to go to the straw market.
That it was not safe. When we got into the cab we told him to take us to the shops but NOT the straw
market. ( it was farther away than the shopping area we wanted to go to ) He became enraged that we
were warned against it by the ship staff. He ranted and raved and yelled all the way to the straw
market and dropped us off . I was with my elderly Mom and he scared us to death! We just got out of the
cab wanting to be away from this maniac! So we were basically kidnapped! Taken somewhere without our
permission. I was furious. We walked back to the shopping area and took a cab with a lady cab driver
back to the ship. This trip I will stay with the excursion and not go shopping at all. Jamaica is a
beautiful place and it is a shame that some ruin it for everyone. As far as pushy venders. The worst I
have found were in Barbados, St. Lucia, Cancun, and Cozumel.. You just have to be polite but FIRM. I
read a review recently that a woman was at Labadee and the venders were grabbing her arm and pulling
her into their shops! Don't ever let them grab you. She also had to call a security guard to get them
to give all her change back to her.
I won't say I dislike this Island since I have visited it twice but I guess Jamaica gets my vote. Visited it once by airplane to Montego bay then driven 2 hours to a couples hotel in Ocho Rios and then By cruise to Montego bay. I can't say I found the people to treat me any different but I will say that I found them to be too pushy as far as selling things. When we visited Dunn's river and had to go through the shopping area I stopped to look at something, when I turned around my husband handed me a wood carved mug. I asked him how he got it since I was carrying all the money. He said one of the locals handed it to him then grabbed his 40.00 Tommy Hilfilger hat and ran off. We also had a problem with locals trying to push marijuna on us every where we turned. The shopping area across from our hotel was recommended to get local handmade stuff. We went across the street with 200.00 we had local running after us if we passed their shop. One lady was dragging my husband by the arm and wouldn't let him go. She just kept dragging him all across her little building showing him stuff until I just broke down and bought something. Finally we just got something from most of huts that was there and told them we was out of money and would go back to the ATM at the hotel and be back. We never came back. Otherwise, the island is beautiful, the food is great but they don't take no for answer.
Another vote for Jamaica here. I, too, have been physically grabbed by vendors every time I've been there. At a public beach, I was hassled to buy things - including drugs - and harrassed by local men. At a private cruise-ship-arranged beach, the vendors couldn't come on the property so they came after you in boats when you were in the water. Martha Brae river rafting was nice but on the way back - surprise! - stops at the city center and straw market for more grabbing. Never again.
Wow, Michelle. Thanks for posting that link. I must have missed that storey that Ann wrote. I know that the reputation of Jamaica is very glum. It is such a beautiful country, too. The people must not recieve benefits from the money that the cruise ship and its passengers spend on this island.
We did not like Jamaica . We did not do anything to warrant the treatment we received. We are Canadians and were in fact very happy and excited to be going to such a lovely island. We believed all the travel shows that showed happy smiling people, huh what fools were we! All we did was get off the ship and we were immediatly accosted by dozens of yelling pushing taxi drivers. I've traveled all over Europe and couldn't belive how rude and pushy these people acted. They were not smiling they were yelling ! In Greece when we got off ferries on the islands many people approached us with pleas to come to stay in their hotel/ room/ hostel/ etc. etc. They did not scream at us , they smiled and coaxed , we were young at that time and on our own but we never felt threatened. Jamaica sucked( even though yes it is lush and green and lovely)
An earlier poster went on about staying in Negril. Negril is a artifical tourist strip of hotels that have bars and fences around them. Why do you think that is!?! The beach is wonderful but I think we all agree that the physical beauty of Jamica does not make up for the mean people. Oh yeah they pushed dope on us too(and I mean pushed!) They were sooooo aggresive in the market it was almost hostile!Never again!!
P.S. I live in a city on an island and we depend very heavily on tourists(we get MANY americans) We try to treat them nicely so they want to come back, it only makes sense to me that others in tourist dependent places would do the same.
My least favorite island/port of call is one where our cruiseship spends the least
amount of port time in. Classic examples: in port from 8 AM until 2 PM or
from 4 PM to 10 PM (that is if that particular island has NO nightlife!).
Regardless of the island, I would prefer to spend the maximum time possible
on it- I find 7 hours or more ideal! If the island is not a popular favorite, then
I still would get off the ship but take advantage of a shore excursion or a beach
day at a local resort. To me, there is ALWAYS something good about any
island in the Caribbean!
We went to Jamaica and went on a ship tour taking a tube ride in the mountains down a river (the white river I think) the trip was great and the guides and driver very friendly.
We had him return us to the ship and not the shopping center to avoid having to walk back to ship. Things went very well.
Our favorite places include Virgin Gorda and the Baths, Cain Garden Bay in Tortula- white sand and a beach bar nearby. St. Johns and its North shore beaches. Cozumel snorkling and a dos XX afterwards. Xelha on the Mexican coast was also fun day.
Purto Rico is also fun but not as a cruise ship stop. You have to spend several days and enjoy the people, the food, the mountain rain forest and the east side beaches and snorkling. I have been there four times, never on a cruise ship, and have always enjoyed it.
I had heard that the resorts in Haiti are really, really nice and very reasonable rates.
As long as you stay in the resort compounds, you are pretty much insulated against
the sight of such extreme poverty (similar to India) and crime. I personally have
no interest in visiting Haiti because of the anti-Anglo feeling there, huge resentment
against tourists in general and crime issues. However, Royal Caribbean International
still uses Labadee, Haiti as their private "island". There was a time a few years ago
that even RCI stopped calling at Labadee because of political unrest and violence.
I understand that at least politically it is much calmer.
This what Frommer's guidebook has to say concerning Labadee
"Labadee is isolated on a scenic 270 acre peninsula and boast five separate beaches, each with different charactorics, evoking everything from the gravel and rocks of New England to the sandy atolls and palm trees of the Southern Carabbean. Royal Carabbean keeps the area so completely walled off from the outside world that if it weren't for souvenir venders hawking local paintings, you'd never know you were in poverty-stricken Haiti."
I have seen that the cruiseline advertises Labadee as being on the island of Hispaniola, not mentioning Haiti. It's like they do not want passengers to know "Your going to Haiti".
OK---I read all about Jamaica before I went, but was still unprepared for how unsafe I felt. I was traveling with a 9 year old and 13 year old. We did a "cruise excursion" b/c we were warned by the cruise line to not venture off on our own. Unfortunately, the excursion stopped for downtown shopping! My 10 year old daughter was grabbed by the arm 3 times, by people hoping to be able to braid her hair. We couldn't even walk from store to store without being hassled. I know this is their source of income, but no child should be grabbed away from their parents!!! When the answer is "NO!", these people just don't get it! Never again will I take a cruise that stops at Jamaica--can't understand why they stop at this port. A lot of our fellow cruisers were wondering the same thing!!!!
So glad I read thru this thread. We also had bad vibes in Jamaica, and last cruise there wouldn't get off the ship. Now take other cruises that don't include Jamaica. We also found Martinque very unfriendly, was there less than an hour and went back to the ship w/o souveniers or tours. So many other places to go to, and enjoy their culture etc. Really looking forward to visiting Aruba now. Going on Summit next March.
Wow...I am blown away by this thread. I am a traveler and have not been to many places that I didn't like. My least favortie would be Grand Cayman but even then it had some nice things about it. I have never felt unsafe in Jamaica and will go back time and time again. I've never been offered drugs or been pulled on. Don't know if this is because of my attitude or because when they see me they think I am from the Islands and don't take take me to be American even though I am. I guess this is one time that being black has it's advantages.
Living in Central Florida and having worked at the very popular theme park of the mouse when in college I have to say that Americans have lousy attitudes when they go on vacation. The things people said and did and the way some treated those of us working there was horrible. We often used to wonder if they decided to leave their manners and home training at home.
We will be on the Voyager of the seas next week and will stay on board and enjoy the ship instead of Jamaica. Sadly, we have heard mostly bad things about this island and how tourists are treated there. When I visit an island I always buy t-shirts and souviners and do an excursion but I know I would be turned off by pushy and agressive venders/natives and would not buy and spend if treated that way. How many people out there buy and spend more when harased? Not many I would think.
Easy...Jamaica (as almost everyone else agrees). Why?
1. Filthy. One of the dirtiest places I have seen in the world. Come on people, pick up your stinking trash. The world is not your garbage can.
2. Rudeness. People selling items getting verbally agressive when you tell them you don't want to purchase their overpriced crap.
3. Bait/Switch. Cab drivers that will not leave you alone. Actually took one up on a short tour once. At the end of it he trippled the cost. Figured that it wasn't worth arguing about, as I didn't want to hike 7 miles back to the boat.
4. Dope. May be your thing, but I hate getting it shoved at me all the time. And I love the federalies who- in broad daylight- sleep on the pier under the signs saying that you will be arrested for bringing/taking narcotics with you.
4. Denial. I love how all the 5 start resorts seclude themselves from the rest of the country by either a) brick walls, or b) folliage. Even they don't want people looking out and seeing how dismal of a place Jamaica is.
After climbing Dunns Falls on Jamaica my husband and I got separated from each other. I was trying to get back to the bus and I passed through the vendors and had several of the men grab my arm and try to pull me to see their wares. Then one man,whom I thought I could trust (STUPID) told me the way to the buses. Well,all that way did was take me back through more vendors. We have decided to never leave the ship when we are at Jamaica. I can understand why, at one time,the ships stopped going to Jamaica.And no, I do not LOOK DOWN MY NOSE at the locals!