Catch the Calypso – Ocho Rios and George Town
Ocho Rios, Jamaica and George Town, Caiman Islands
A Caribbean cruise has to be many people’s dream holiday. But if
you ask them to name some great places to visit in the Caribbean, they can
sometimes get a little vague. They’ll generally name islands rather than
But the chances are that included in their list of paradise
islands will be Jamaica and the Caymans. These are often included on Caribbean
cruise itineraries – for example, Royal Caribbean’s Western Caribbean Cruise
calls at both: Ocho Rios, Jamaica and George Town, the capital of Grand Cayman.
Ocho Rios has got to be as close to Eden on earth as anything
else you could hope to come across. The tiny town sits in its own sandy cove in
the middle of the north Jamaican coastline. There are lots of things to do: you
can ride, go deep-sea diving or fishing, play golf or tennis, or even take a
tour of the old-style sugar plantations at Prospect Estates and Brimmer Hall.
These are modern commercial farms, producing far more than simply sugar.
However, they can also give you a taste of what life was like in the West
Indies two centuries ago, when tourism did not exist and virtually the whole
island was given over to growing crops.
It’s also a great area for people who like a walk. The name
‘Ocho Rios’ is thought to be derived from the old Spanish word for waterfalls,
a theory which would seem to make sense as the area is full of them. Possibly
the best are the Dunn’s River falls, a series of beautiful cool cascades over
rock terraces – none of them exactly Niagara, but every bit as beautiful in
their way. A really good stroll runs through three miles of Fern Gully,
allowing you to spend time admiring the local ferns on the way.
Most cruise lines stop for just one day at Ocho Rios. In the few
hours available to you don’t miss a walk around the town itself – which has
pretty impressive shopping facilities for such a small place – and make sure
you spend some time admiring the area’s natural beauty. Enjoy getting into the
wilds a little after having your every whim catered for on your ship!
Most lines head for George Town on Grand Cayman after calling at
Jamaica. Grand Cayman has many splendours, including some of the finest beaches
in the world. What’s often overlooked is how great a place it is visit if you
like to eat and drink. No visit to George Town is really complete without a
meal at the wonderfully-named Grand Old House. It’s a former plantation mansion
which now serves as a restaurant. Its broad sea terrace affords some of the
finest views in the Caribbean. It’s not cheap, but neither is it killingly
expensive by the standards of London, Paris or New York. If you enjoy seafood
and champagne it’s about the best place to eat within a thousand-mile radius.
Given its duty-free status for visitors, George Town is a great
place to shop. General duty-free goods – including the island’s superb rum –
are best bought at the British Outpost duty-free store on Harbour Drive. If
your appetite for sensual indulgence hasn’t been satisfied on board your ship
you should visit Icoa Chocolates, where the owners show off a fantastic range
of “fresh, local and seasonal chocolates” All the chocolates are hand crafted
using fresh local ingredients like Cayman keylimes, passionfruit, rum, coconut,
and Cayman honey – and they taste out of this world. The shop staff are very
helpful, and if you are short on time they can assist you in making a
suggestion. Don’t think about taking these home for the kids, though, if you’re
on a long cruise: to achieve the maximum taste sensation Icoa chocolates are
made without modern preservatives. So you’ll have to eat them all yourself –
it’s a tough life in the Caymans!
If you don’t fancy haring around during your brief stop in
George Town you could lounge on the beach. Seven Mile Beach is widely reputed
to be the finest in the Caribbean – all white sand, azure sea and deep green
palm trees. It’s also really big, so if you’re prepared to walk a little way
there’s no need to worry about overcrowding.
One of the things that makes the Caribbean such a special place
for a holiday is its diversity. There’s a lot of different things to do and
see. Yet the US dollar is accepted virtually everywhere and you’ll have to work
hard to find people who don’t speak English – it’s the first language of most
of the major and minor islands. So in a lot of senses, the Caribbean is like
home from home. And cruising there makes the journey itself part of the fun!