While talking with some well-travelled friends last night, the subject of "worst Caribbean island" came up again.
Whenever I think of my least favorite island, I instantly recall my only major hassle w/ a customs officer, the"sit down & shut up" cab driver, the stone-faced hotel desk clerk, the unsmiling bellhop, rude waiters, etc., etc., etc. This particular island was very beautiful, but my wife and I didn't want to leave our room or cabin, as almost native we encountered was hostile towards us in some way, like they resented our being there, but were most eager to take our money.
In my own defense, I'm a very nice, polite person who doesn't look to find fault with others.
I have enjoyed the people on every island I've visited except this ONE, and I've had the misfortune to go there FOUR times, so it's not like it was an isolated incident.
I'm not going to say which island was my "Island of hell"
'cuz I'd really like to hear what others think. Maybe it was just me. But I'll bet at least half of you who express an opinion on this will name the same place I'm thinking of.
I love seeing new places, so I don't hate any of the islands, but I that Grand Cayman was a little too quiet and not too much to do there. There didn't seem to be that many shops and there was nothing near the port that was food or bars. Besides being pretty and the stingrays, I didn't care much for it.;
I found the Caribbean to be a far better place to live than to visit. Although a large percentage of their existance comes from tourism, they really don't like intruders. On a good day, any island is great, on a bad day, none are worth visiting.
Jamaica, hands down. I had a native on a tour tell me they know how to treat white people in the country and then he made a cutting motion across his throat. On another tour the guide was plesant enough but when she started telling about the country's history she said the proudest moment in their history was when they beat down the white man and they continue to keep him in his place today. I can understand being proud of shaking colonialism but there has to be a better way to tell this to a bus load of white folks. The constant pushing to sell goods and services and the rude response when I said no thank you was uncalled for. They made it very obvious they want my money but think I am a second class person. I am contemplating staying on the ship this go round. I did not feel safe or welcomed there.
I have to agree with Jamaica. Very beautiful and lush, but what good is it if you can't go off and explore it. I have also been to Aruba, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Cancun, Dominican Republic, and Old San Juan. All of those, I felt fairly safe doing excursions and going off and exploring on our own. Even when we did the excursion to Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica, I didn't feel safe. When we finished climbing the falls, the merchants were physically grabbing hold of us trying to sell us stuff (or rob us). Good thing I didn't have anything on me. And the falls weren't impressive at all. I guess I was expecting them to be as beautiful as Hawaii; my own fault for setting my expectations so high.
Gee I hope somebody from the Jamaican department of touism doesn't read this thread and quit their job. I wholeheartedly agree that Jamaica is a beautiful , lush island with gorgeous beaches and beautiful blue water. That said the general population gives one the impression of having total disdain for tourists, vendors are aggressive to the point of making you feel physically threatened and there are few if any places off the grounds of the tourist hotels (and even on them) where one feels safe or comfortable.
Someone once said to me,"why do you think all the hotels in Jamaica are all inclusive?"
Answer " because you CAN'T leave the grounds safely. Sorry Jamaica , your island
is a scary place. I would not readily return.
You've ALL sold me on NOT making Jamaica one of my stops in the future!! Its really good to know this because the Travel Channel really pushes this island and its beautiful places to visit w/o ever stating that it has its downfalls. The saddest part of all? That these same Jamaicans that HATE us "tourists" for populating their island, are the SAME people that rely on us to make an income. What do you think would happen to their way of life, if everyone stopped visiting? Maybe we should?
Unbelievable! Where is all this fear about Jamacia coming from? We have visit4ed this island many times and have always had a great time and felt very welcomed and found the locals to be a warm and friendly bunch overall. I will say that should you show disrespect and look down your nose at them, or if they percieve that you do, then yes, they can be very rude and nasty. So can I if you acted that way towards me. The only area of Jamacia that is dangerous as far as I know is Kingston and even the locals don't go in certain parts after dark. It's called big city crime, just like what we have here in the good old USA. Want really dangerous places? Try St Croix where the ships had to pull out after passengers and crew were constantly being mugged and robbed. How about Nassau where I know of many crewmembers being assaulted and robbed within sight of the ships! Santo Domingo where the city is so dangerous ships also pulled out of there as there were robberies and assaults and even a few rapes weekly! Very few places are really safe and fortunately many of those places are in the Caribbean but just because it "looks" like the USA doesn't mean it is safe. Heck crime rate is very high in the USA and even as brazen as I am you won't find me in lots of areas in Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Tampa, NYC, LA, San Diego, Seattle, and other US ports.
Community Staff Leader
That said (sorry, bad old joke) I would not willingly return to Jamaica unless the rest of an itinerary was totally irresistable.
And then I would probably stay on the ship.
The last time we were in Ocho Rios my hair was about as long as the coat of the average hamster. At least twenty women offered to braid it for me. HUH? Might have been worth the money just to see them try.
Queeg and I felt very old because only about thirty guys came up to us and offered us sweet leaf.
My vote, however, goes to San Blas. Wandering about one day, a nice man (I thought) engaged me in conversation. We chatted pleasantly for quite some time.
He asked if I would like to visit his home and see the photographs of his three sons of whom he was very proud. I felt honored to be invited. (Can you spell soft-hearted sucker?)
He showed me his hovel, the primitive cooking facilities, offered me food from the outdoor grill (thank the Good Lord I didn't need a bathroom but the fish was great) and we had quite the conversation. I thanked him for his hospitality and the opportunity to see his home and how he lived. Then he asked for $10 for the tour.
At this point we were back out on the street (there was only one that I could see) and several honchos materialized out of nowhere. My travel companion (another woman) was nowhere to be seen, and after some panic-type glances around I didn't see anyone else I knew from the ship.
NOBODY in this world has ever seen me part with $10 quite so fast. And I don't think I have ever moved away from any location, anywhere, so fast since August of 1965. It was the only time, in all my travels, that I was ever REALLY afraid. I was ready to SWIM back to the ship.
No wonder San Blas is being taken off itineraries.
I am absolutely stunned by the responses to my question on "least favorite island", as Jamaica is one of my all-time FAVORITES. One of my closest friends here in the US is from Jamaica originally, & she just happens to be my travel agent. This past May, she sent six of us to Negril (a sleepy little town on the far west coast).
Genny got us round trip airfare from Orlando, 7 nites at a lovely hotel w/ pool, restaurant & bar, all food, all drinks, transfers from Montego Bay, departure tax, the whole deal for $399 each, by booking us w/ "Reggae Jam Tours". (Is that a deal or what?) This was my third 7-day trip to Negril. None of the five people I took had ever been to Jamaica before, and every one of them is ready to go back ANYTIME! We had a BLAST. Seven-Mile Beach is there, and if there is a prettier beach in the world, I haven't seen it. We went horseback riding, climbed Mayfield Falls, went offshore fishing, ate our grilled catch right on the beach with live reggae music, etc.
As far as the natives - we loved them & found they treated us very well, just as they had on my two previous trips. I've learned that a simple "no, thank you" will fend off most pushy vendors.
We befriended a young cab driver who took us everywhere for the week, and felt very safe, knowing Morris would not put us in harm's way.
Negril is a world away from Kingston, Ocho Rios or MoBay, it's the REAL Jamaica for visitors.
My vote for "worst Caribbean island" goes to Puerto Rico, the jumping-off spot for 4 cruises I took.
I am so sorry that so many wonderful southern Caribbean cruises begin there.
I continue to follow their politics in the hope that their general attitude
toward us "mainlanders" changes for the better (PR is a U.S. commonwealth).
But that's just my opinion. Thanks to all who responded with their opinions.
(My absolute FAVORITE island is St. Bart's!)
I have to agree with thedreamweaver on Puerto Rico. We were stuck there, due to a hurricane, on our way to St. Martin to catch a Windjammer cruise. We were there 3 days. We stayed at the recommented hotel, which was the only nice thing about our stay, but everyone outside of the hotel was very rude. We had to take several cabs to the airport to check on flights every morning. The taxi drivers were dangerous drivers and very rude. On the way to the hotel the first time, the driver stopped half way and said, he was off now and we would have to get into his wife's cab to continue on ( she turned out to be a very pleasant person tho), after one frighting ride we refused to tip, (needless to say that didn't go over very well), I even said a prayer after one ride to the airport. At the airport it was crazy, the native carribeans that had been stuck in the airport for days also, were out of control. At one time the lady behind the ticket counter got up on the counter shouting, to try and restore order. Then the armed police with machine guns came running in. That was about the time we decided we would get the hay out of there . We had kept in touch with Windjammer the whole timie and they rerouted us to Greneda on the next flight out. They were holding a ship there for us, along with about 20 other cruisers on the same flight. It was a great cruise or as we say,, we had a great adventure. But I will have second thoughts about going to Puerto Rico again. Here's a tip if you do have to take a cab from the airport, follow the signs to the airport cabs, they are down under the terminal, don't walk out and hail down a cab out front, these are the rudest drivers. Our return flight back into Puerto Rico we discovered this and the cab drivers are much nicer. Going on a cruise in aug. and we will be stopping in Jamaica, plan to do a snorkeling excursion. Stopped there on a cruise several years ago, went shopping at the port shops right at the pier. They are fenced off so they were very safe. Didn't like the way a salesperson follows you around the whole time your in their shop, but they were very friendly and got some great stuff.
Please tell us what you didn't like about St. Thomas.
I've been there twice, once on a Windstar ship, stayed three days after the cruise at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef hotel, had a wonderful time exploring the island. I'll never forget sitting on Sir Francis Drake's bench overlooking Megan's Bay. (WOW!)
The second time I went there was aboard the Norway this past January. Again we had a great time.
What happened when you were there?
the dream weaver
Jim I agree with you, if you want to be respected, show respect. I even feel strange telling the vendors No Thanks because I know this is how they make a living, however,the man with the throat gesture was in regard to a pass rebuff and the tour guide was just doing her thing with a bus load of people. Maybe someone on the bus rubbed her wrong.
I have only experienced the W. Caribbean so it looks like I have many more adventures ahead of me in my sailing career.
I try to be respectful, after all I am on their turf, with their culture etc, but threats are threats.
When I went back to the ship I was told by one of the performers that there is some sort of insident involving a crew member in Jamaica at least twice a month, from petty theft to stabbings.
Being in another country has it's risks. Shoot, being in my neighborhood has it's risks, but I will be very cautious in Jamaica if I disembark and will also take note of other posting here when I venture to other islands in the future. I would love to feel safer there. It is a beautiful island. One super thing is everyone's mileage may vary.
Who knows, I may just brave it one more time and be able to post a better experience. I would like that.
Driving in Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean is simple if you know the rules. Rule one - there are no rules. Traffic signs are to control traffic. If there is no traffic, there is no reason to pay attention to the signs. The last person who could have prevented an accident, regardless of right of way, is held responsible if one occurs. If you are standing in line and someone cuts in front of you, it is because that person is in a hurry. You can't be in a hurry because you are standing in line, otherwise you would have cut in front. The locals are very easy going and friendly unless you dis their wife, sister, daughter, girlfriend or mother, or any combination. They won't let that pass. They will rip you off if you are putting them down. Treat them with respect and openly appreciate their island, and they will see that you enjoy yourself. Unfortunately, often when one tourist irritates them, they take it out on the next one they come across. Often they won't speak English until you take a pathetic stab at their language, then they become fluent. Having lived there, I can sympathize with putting up with a new crowd every few days with the same attitude. During the 80s I used to think that middle aged men couldn't leave the ship unless they were dressed in oxford cloth button down dress shirts, brand new flowered shorts and wingtips with hose. Thank heavens things have progressed past that. All the islands have areas that are wise to avoid, but so does everywhere else in the world. Just go and enjoy.
Jamaica gets my vote! Sure the island is pretty, but so is every other island in the Caribbean. The locals are the rudest people I have ever seen, and I have been to 31 countries thanks to the USAF. Dunns River falls was hardly what I would call waterfalls. Plus given the state of plumbling in Jamaica, am I the only one who wonders just what might be in that water cascading down? We took a snorkling/Dunns River Falls excursion on our first trip there and were offered drugs several times, once while we were snorkiling! I love to scuba dive, but in Jamaica there is nothing much to see as they have managed to destroy most of their reef system. I would hope that the lines quit stopping there one day as I would like to avoid the place all together.
I'm with Don about Puerto Rico. I lived there for four years and loved every minute. I go back every chance I get.
Sometimes it seems that the major thoughts about PR are the Sharks and the Jets from West Side Story and folks go there expecting the worst. If that's what somebody expects, it's often what they get.
Given, I have some Spanish but what used to be fluency for cocktail party conversation about local PR politics has sort of degraded to asking the location of the nearest ladies' room. (Use it or lose it.)
It always grates on me when people made denigrating comments about my former home, but I just let it pass. They don't know the island that I know.
Don, however, missed the most important part of Puerto Rican driving lessons.
If someone is close on your back bumper you extend your arm and slap the top of your car. This means, "Drive over me if you are in such a big hurry." This can also be accompanied by other hand gestures (not recommended).
My least favorite island would be ST Maarten. Frankly I don't know what the attraction of this island is. Yes, there are beautiful beaches and you can go nude and I hear the food on the French side is excellent, but thats where it ends. The island is very run down. Our biggest mistake was renting a car and driving around the island. We just should have spent the day at the beach and not gone off exploring. I have been to many islands, yet this is one place I don't care to return to.
***Just curious, to the original poster, was the island you disliked Martinique?
I have never been there, but I have heard the people on that island are not friendly at all.
Carole: As the original poster, I revealed my least favorite island on 7-17-02 as Puerto Rico. I've never been to Martinique
As I said, I was blown away that so many disliked Jamaica, one of my favorites. I was also surprised to read that one person didn't care for St. Maarten.
My apologies to the thin-skinned one who felt comments about Puerto Rico were "denigrating". As far as getting what I expected, I must admit that West Side Story never entered my mind even once on my four trips to Puerto Rico, and I honestly had no preconceived ideas as to how my wife & I would be treated. We even booked a week at a lovely hotel there after our cruise the first time we visited, intending to experience the island with an open mind.
I could start at the airport with a loooong list of persons we came in contact with, almost without exception, who definitely had a few preconceived ideas about us, though. It was only AFTER our unpleasant visits there that I became interested enough to learn more about why so many could harbor such strong resentments and outright hostility toward visitors. A rash generalization? Watch the news, read the papers. 1/3 want statehood, 1/3 want independence from Uncle Sam, and 1/3 want to maintain the status quo and continue to receive millions in aid w/o paying taxes. Think that might have something to do with their attitudes?
I'll change the subject here. You know what they say about religion & politics. I still wanna know why Susan didn't care for St. Thomas.
I have been to all the islands mentioned but I have to say the absolute worst for us - as in I won't get off the ship there if I ever cruise there again which I will avoid - is Honduras! The people were much ruder than Jamaica and I felt very unsafe. If we had done a ship tour I'm sure it would have been better but we did on our own and the island is ugly! Jamaica ia much prettier - they say it is a rain forest island (Roatan Bay Islands off Honduras) but it was ugly! The people were so rude and lied and lied and lied. Not again - and we even like Jamaica so I'm not picky... Debbie
Didn't realise the breakdown in Puerto Rico was now by thirds. When I was there, the independents were in the minority, problem being they tended to shoot people and break things to make their point. A few idealists were for statehood but the vast majority recognized as a commonwealth they have the best deal ever offered to anyone.
I haven't been on line for quite some time so I had to read all the posts. Hey Pamda, maybe no one else went to San Blas. We did and I agree, ours was this past April. All we heard was Dollar Dollar and Picture Picture. When we got back to the ship, I commented to one of the crew how bad it was. He told me not many live on the Island they use. They come toell their wares from surrounding islands. We had made the comment no xhildren over 8 or 9 years old, no pregnant women, no teens. If we travel that area agin, I will not get off the ship unless I can find a way to visit the other islands in the area. I believe you can. JAMICA, I guess that being old sometimes is good. We were there about 30 years ago. we flew and spent two weeks. We were fortunate to climb Dunn River falls when it was primativem Rose Hall, Blue Mountains, although we wer advised even then not to go to Kingston. We had a ball we have since heard from friends how bad it was, Hey Puerto Rica was fun, my limited spanish caused a riot, people were friendly, we were invited to a local outside wedding, saw many good things and excellent entertainment. We have made all the islands except Trinadad and Tobago. They are still on my list. Like you we were invited into a home on San Blas, it was the highlight, no cost let my wife lay down in the hammock. Hey I'm windy. Treat all other like you would want to be treated, and you are fine. O)h, Imforgot, any antique people or glass collector, I bought a piece of Depression glass for $1.25 on San Blas. OK I love all the Islands we visted, even San Blas. Bob
Pamda, I really didn't mean to flame Puerto Rico. It's just that I seemed to run into the natives on their worst days, when I was there. If you lived there, you have a much better basis for assessment than I do, with only 4 visits.
Some of the folks who answered
this post DID like PR very much, so I guess it's just me. Peace?
Guess I'd agree with Puerto Rico & Jamaica as well. Would not take any cruise that stopped in Jamaica & was disappointed at how expensive San Juan has become esp. if you are crusiing from there.. It was also a bit dirty last trip there..would avoid it if I could. Used to love Jamiaca abt 25 yrs ago but that was then & even then there was an attitude! Also not fond of Catalina Island.. off DR. A beach with a large drop off into the water, rocky snorkeling & the pushiest vendors you ever saw. They talked about the patrons in Spanish (as if no one could understand) One shopper fully understood , translated for everyone & then everyone left the shop having been duly insulted. The atmosphere was tense as there were too many vendors & helpers compared to the number of shoppers. Would not leave any items on shore to swim & we ate & returned to the ship. Very disappointing as we thought it would be as much fun as Coco Cay.. Others on our cruise disagreed but we'd skip it next time. Just not our cup of tea.