Our port stop at Falmouth, Jamaica was to be different than any other port stop for us. Inspired by our church’s involvement with a mission in Haiti and their severe need for basic items like clothing, but seeing the overwhelming costs for shipping and logistics to get these goods there, we did some advance research to see how we could help. Through some research, I was able to find a Children’s Village (orphans and children from unfortunate situations) that was near the port. I reached out to their director, got some information and we packed two suitcases full of clothes, toys and basic supplies. Because we were not paying for these to be shipped, but instead just “checked” them for our cabin, we were able to transport them for free. We held some hesitation about visiting the site and flip flopped on how we were going to do this before and during the cruise, until discussing the safety of the area with our main server who was from Jamaica herself. Assured that all would be well, we awoke early, packed our lunch with Uncrustables and chips, grabbed our sand toys, beach supplies and the two extra suitcases, ready to disembark. The weather looked fantastic with no ill affects from the cold front that swept through earlier in the week and prevented our stop in Grand Cayman.
We grabbed some towels as we exited the ship and walked through the port shops to reach the transportation area. On our way, we stopped at information to see the best way to get to not only the SOS Children’s Village in Barrett Town, but also to the beach club we intended to visit. To our discomfort, no one was sure where the village was located. So, we trekked to the taxi stand and asked the porter for information and directions. She was also unfamiliar of our destination. Luckily, the taxi driver waiting next did know where it was because his daughter happened to go to primary school last year just next to it. When we explained why we were traveling there, the porter also asked for some of the clothes and books for her own children. We loaded up into the taxi and began the drive to Barrett Town. Other than driving on the other side of the road, the main road was uneventful, until we turned off and headed up into the mountains. From here, the paved road was spotty at best, the potholes were larger than cars and there were a number of burned out car shells along the side of the road. The ramshackle houses were nothing more than concrete blocks perched on the side of a steep hill. But, from what the taxi driver told us, this wasn’t bad living in Jamaica. Some lived in tents near the swamps.
As we continued along this road, the driver informed us that just recently (within the past two weeks) six gang members had been killed by police in Barrett Town. The gang members were the worst type, he said, murders and thieves, with no regard for human life. Brooke began to regret out decision to venture out like this and just as he finished telling us how the local citizens celebrated in the streets over this news, a goat crossed the road in front of us and, being that he was tied to the other side of the road, was now blocking our way forward with the rope. The driver stopped and got out of the vehicle and this began to feel a lot like a trap. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t, and after he was able to free the goat and cross her back to the other side, we were on our way. A few minutes later we arrived at the SOS Children’s Village in Barrett Town / Montego Bay. We were ushered inside the gated area to the administration office and were told of how the Jamaican government would rescue children, either orphans or in unfortunate situations, and put them in care of the SOS Children’s Village. The children, currently ranging in ages 3 – 19, lived in one of six houses. In each house, a “mother” was assigned who helped in getting the kids ready for school, meals, homework and mentoring. They were currently housing 74 children. We handed over the two suitcases we had packed and the staff was extremely grateful.
A bit more at ease with only the drive back to the main road left from this unknown part of our trip, we hopped back into the taxi. Our original request for a specific beach club was located the opposite way and the taxi driver suggested a different one closer to the Montego Bay Airport. Because he had been extremely helpful and knowledgeable to this point, we agreed to his suggestion and set off. While the food and entrance to the beach clubs is very cheap in Jamaica, the transportation is not. I needed to stop at an ATM on the way to ensure I had enough cash to cover the cost of the taxi and the procedure for this ATM did not make me feel much safer than Brooke had felt before. However, I should have felt extremely safe with the armed guards outside the strip mall and the locking cubicles in which you enter to use the ATM. I grabbed the cash and quickly retreated back to the taxi.
Now, it was time to relax and we pulled up to the Tropical Beach Club right next to the Montego Bay International Airport. It was only $5 each for entrance and Brooke hopped out first to make sure the place was what we were looking for. A quick glance and she approved. We paid, made arrangements with the taxi driver to pick us up in a few hours (and I knew he would since I had yet to pay him) and walked out to the beach. It was only 1015 AM and we were the only ones at the entire club. It would stay that way for the next hour, and then a small trickle of individual groups arrived and finally just after noon, the large groups from other cruise ships started to arrive. With the entire beach and amenities to ourselves, we took in the sights, sounds and smells of Jamaica. The kids had a blast playing in the surf and sand, digging holes, building castles and playing ball with the rolling waves.
The local staff apologized for the rough conditions, but we only saw small waves crashing in. Out approximately 40 yards was a water trampoline, so after a short while the kids wanted to bounce. Looking to beat the crowds, we went early.
Just as the other individual groups started to come in, Brooke decided to enjoy a massage on the beach and while she was away, I fed the kids some of the lunch we had packed. After Brooke returned, we grabbed a plate off the buffet that included jerk chicken, jerk pork, pasta salad and festival, a Jamaican fried sweet dumpling. We stayed until 1 PM and quickly found our taxi driver as he had not left the club the entire time we were there (not wanting to lose his fare). Back at the port, the girls found some magnetic necklaces that they loved (and revealed that almost everything on the ship is magnetic).
Knowing that most of the passengers would still be off the ship enjoying their excursions, we headed immediately to the quick service food and then to the pools. The kids had the hot tub to themselves for a while and took turns going down the Mickey slide.
We alternated between the hot tub (hot water), slide (cool water) and the AquaLab (cold water), a large splash play area themed for Donald Duck’s three nephews.
Tired after our day in the sun and water, we showered and got ready for dinner at Enchanted Garden. Lila requested to have dinner at the Oceaneer’s Lab instead and by the time we had ordered our appetizers, Weston was ready to join her. It was nice to have some time with just the older girls at dinner. After dinner, we picked up the kids and all went to the Tube (entertainment lounge and nightclub for adults after 9) to watch a family version of a hypnotist show by Dale K, opened by a family dance party.
The kids thought those under hypnosis were hilarious and so did we, so we made plans for the kids to go back to the kids club, all at the same time, later in the night, when he would be performing to the adult only crowd. The night’s main entertain was a magician and while they liked the show, the tired kids only made it halfway through before requesting to go back to the room. However, when it was time for them to go back into the club so we could watch the adult’s show, they obliged for us! We did not make it all the way through the show before being buzzed to pick them up, but with only 10 minutes left to go, we stayed until the end and just made sure we were the first ones out to pick up our kids. Everyone was exhausted and bed time came quick and easy.
This was Day 5 of our Disney Cruise. Be sure to check out the entire Western Caribbean Disney Cruise on the Disney Fantasy in January 2017.