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Lunch at Good Hope Estate

History

Good Hope Estate, located about an hours scenic drive from Falmouth port in Jamaica, is steeped in the rich colonial history found through out Jamaica.

“Good Hope began in 1774 as a sugar estate and grew into a village to support the workers after emancipation. In the 18th century, the Good Hope Estate belonged to John Tharpe, then the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica. Aside from Good Hope, Windsor Estate, the extensive Long Pond Estate and a number of other smaller sugar plantations in Trelawny belonged to Tharpe, who had as many as 3,000 slaves to run the plantations. The small village has some of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the island, and the churchyard has many old and interesting tombstones. At dawn, the Cockpit Country comes alive, and the energetic songs of wild birds float gently on the morning mists.

Although John Tharpe had a choice of four sons from which to name an heir, all four displeased him, and upon his death in 1804, he named his grandson sole executor of his massive holdings. His grandson, however, was rather feeble minded, but then, as is the case now, a feeble minded man with an immense fortune was just as desirable as a smart man with an immense fortune! Several of the colony’s most eligible young ladies vied for his attention, and eventually a marriage to a woman of titled lineage was arranged. Unfortunately, it is said that poor young Tharpe was overwhelmed by the situation, and on his wedding night he became hysterical and practically lost his mind. He was never the same, and although he lived to nearly ninety years old, he never had much to do with the operation of the estates. His sad state plunged the family into a hotly contested battle over his grandfather’s “dead-lef”, and over the years the various properties fell into disrepair and decline.”
(Courtesy of Visit Jamaica)

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Lunch Glorious Lunch

Now I know I must say this about a lot of my excursions, but honestly this one was so peaceful and relaxing, I loved it. The best part was… it came with food, all sorts of local Jamaican delicacies. From Jerk Chicken, to curry, to plantain, to ginger cake…. amazing

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Birds and Flowers

If the food and the charm of the local folks weren’t unique enough the birdlife and garden at Good Hope Estate was a nature lovers Paradise.

I am going to make this a short entry and leave you with all these amazing memories:

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Swallow Tail Hummingbird

Swallow Tail Hummingbird


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Beautiful art work

Beautiful art work


Look carefully for the little lizard on the knee of the goat statue

Look carefully for the little lizard on the knee of the goat statue


There it is

There it is


One final orchid

One final orchid

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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No Problem Mon’… Chillaxing on Red Stripe Beach

Where to Go, What to Do?

When we first pulled into Falmouth Port in Jamaica the everyone was soooo excited. It was JAMAICA after all, an island we had heard of since childhood, the birth place of Bob Marley and Reggae, Rasta and so much more…So where do we go on our first time here… Why the BEACH of course!!!!

But how to get there? Falmouth port is not in the easiest location, an hour away from all the usual hangouts to the north like Montego Bay and Ocho Rios…. We were certain there must be a beach somewhere with reach of crew with only a couple hours free. At the information booth they encouraged us to go to Red Stripe Beach (Red Stripe is a local and very good Jamaican beer). There was a shuttle, for only $10 crew price (half the guest price), leaving in a few minutes. So a group of us grabbed tickets and headed that way.

It’s All Irie Mon’

Piled in the van, with all of us drinking beers (yup open containers are allowed in Jamaica), heading about 10min down the road we turned into what appeared to be a fenced off swamp. The gate was locked and barred and I had a flashback to South Africa… but the driver hopped out unlocked everything and off we went. The swamp area filled with mangroves and brackish water (salt and fresh mixed) had the look of a bad bayou movie… thank heavens it was the middle of the day.
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Turning the corner we knew we had arrived…

Got to love Jamaica

Got to love Jamaica

They had a bar, and a place to have to buy some famous jerk chicken right off the grill… Delish!!!
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The beach turned out to be a little piece of heaven. There were only about 5 other people there so it was pretty much a beach to ourselves.
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They also had a DJ,
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so it was party time as you got us up and dancing, much to the amusement of all involved.
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All to soon it was time to go back to the real world, so we waved goodbye to our new friends and hopped on the shuttle… Farewell till next time!
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Horse Ride and Swim…. Jamaican Style

Jamaica Bound

One of my favorite stops was Jamaica, and we were only there every 2 weeks. We had fabulous excursions there and I got to go on a number of them, from Bobsledding to Climbing Waterfalls. Finally, I got to go on the Horseback Ride AND Swim. The basic premise was you go for a ride and then the saddle is removed and you take a “swim” with the horse, in other words ride the horse out into the ocean.

Now, unfortunately, the location of the Chukka Ride and Swim corral is in Montego Bay, about an hours drive away from the Falmouth cruise port. On this particular trip I got the chance to sit in the co-pilot seat next to the driver…. I became rather religious during this trip as, let’s just say, they drive with enthusiasm in Jamaica.

the bay at Chukka

the bay at Chukka

The RIDE Section

When you first arrive you have to put all your bags and such in lockers (that cost $5 each – I just stored my stuff in the bus). Then you are sized for a helmet and sent to be sized for a horse. Once they call you to your horse you are sent to walk in circles while waiting for everyone else. Now if you had a group of 10 that would be about 15min, but we had a group of 50 and we walked in circles for about 30min… Not that pleasant in the scorching Jamaican sun. Finally we are all saddled and we could head out on the trail.
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The trail was beautiful, about an hour through the surrounding coastal trees. Unfortunately it was a very sedate pace and I did find myself nodding off.
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We were not allowed to pass and when my horse got a little too close to the one in front…it tried to kick me. Luckily it’s hoof hit the stirrup, otherwise I might have had a rather large bruise…
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But the ride was still enjoyable, especially for those who were new to riding.

Just Keep Swimming…..

At the end of our hour ride, all of us hot and sweaty and looking forward to the swim, we were separated into groups of 15. The rest of the group relaxed in the shade drinking red stripe beer and snacking on delicious jerk chicken ($10 for a plate). I was in the first group and excitedly stripped to my swimsuit, put on my floaty belt thing and waited for my horse allocation. Not all the horses swam, so you were not guaranteed to get the same horse as the ride part.

When I was called and climbed onto my horse…. oh my lordy! I think they gave me the thinnest horse. Usually I have an issue with my short legs barely able to reach the stirrups and go around the horse’s middle. With only a saddle pad (all you get between you and the horse) it felt like I was attempting to balance on a fence post… that walked!

balancing act

balancing act

The swim section was soooooo much fun!!!! we got to “gallop” in the water and just whoop it up. It was refreshing and cool and just a whole lot of fun. Once you are in the water balancing on the horse is also much easier.
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Jamaica vs Puerto Rico Horse Rides

Of the two I would say horse riding in Puerto Rico was more fun. Through the jungle, along a river, stunning. Staying in one line is not as important and you also get to gallop on occasion if you want to. However, there isn’t an ocean swim… which made the Jamaican ride well worth it.
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Let’s go swimming again, that was awesome!!!!!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Let’s go UP a Waterfall!!!!!

Dunn’s River Falls

The native people of Jamaica, the Taíno, called their homeland “Xaymaca” in Arawakan, meaning the “Land of Wood and Water”
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or the “Land of Springs”.
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When you visit Dunn’s River Falls you will see why.

Located near Ochos Rios about an hours drive from the Falmouth Cruise ship port, the Dunn’s River Falls Park receives thousands of tourists each year who flock here to link hands and climb the falls.
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Geology

At about 180 feet (55 m) high and 600 feet (180 m) long, the waterfalls are terraced like giant natural stairs, there have been a few man influenced improvements for safety sake, but for the most part it is all natural. There are also several lagoons throughout the falls which make great dipping pools.
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The falls empty into the Caribbean Sea at the western end of an attractive white-sand beach.
Throughout the falls there are little mini falls that act as superb massage therapy sessions…
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There are also some rather large spiders…. luckily they stay in the trees…
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Explaining The Concept of a Waterfall

Dunn’s River Waterfalls is not only a stunning natural wonder but also tons of fun and great exercise. Therefore, during my talks on the excursions I would always encourage guests that this was the one to pick, especially if you did the combo with the Dolphin Encounter or Jamaican Bobsled (click to read about these adventures). However, it became apparent, on more than one occasion, that when I explained they would not only be visiting, but also subsequently CLIMBING up the falls seem to confuse people. Guests would come back from the excursion and complain that they did not know they had to bring a swimsuit, they didn’t know they were going to get wet….

So, I was forced to attempt to make it crystal clear, much to the amusement of the guests at my talk. It went something like this:
One of my favorite excursions is the chance to visit and climb the Dunns River Waterfall.. Now I have to make something very clear, when you climb UP a WATERfall you will get WET. By nature of it’s name, a WATERfall has WATER therefore if one climbs inside of it YOU WILL GET WET!!!! I am not talking about a little damp, I am talking soaked through, very very very wet, so please remember your swimsuit. You will be surprised at how many guests do not grasp this fact and make a complaint afterwards. For those who wish not to get wet or climb, there is a walkways along the side to take amusing photos of your friends and family, but for the rest of you, you will get wet!

So I hope all of you will take the opportunity and go have some fun and get wet!
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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Yeah Mon’! Jamaican Bobsled Team!

Working as a Social Hostess on my cruise ship means I get to go along on excursions in most ports. There is no certainty to which excursion you will be sent on and while we are often sent on the…less exciting ones… there are times when we get a chance to experience some heart stopping adrenalin rushing intense moments of terror mixed with sheer joy… Bobsledding in Jamaica was one of these for me.

The Jamaican Bobsled Team
We only get our schedules the night before around 10pm, so it is always a surprise as to if and which excursion we might go on. We are allowed to request/suggest ones we would enjoy but 9 times out of 10 it is something out of left field.

When I saw Jamaican Bobsled Adventure I was dumbstruck (a rare occurrence). I am not a fan of speed, I have never been on a roller coaster (unless you count the pirate ship and even that turns me to jello) and the only thing I could think of was the movie Cool Runnings. 

But, I try to do what I am told and figured may as well give it a go, and what a go it was. It takes about an hour drive north from the Falmouth Cruise Ship terminal to reach Mystic Mountian, Ocho Rios. Along the drive you are never sure what you may see.

Such as the "Future" walmart...

Such as the “Future” walmart…

Once there we had a short wait in line before taking a leisurely cable car ride through the lush jungle up to the top of the bobsled ride.
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view of Montego bay and the cruise ships anchored there

view of Montego bay and the cruise ships anchored there

We Be BOBSLEDDING!!!

Just to give you an idea of how this works, these are 1 person sleds set on rails through the jungle. Usually the driver goes alone, but in cases of kids or those struck with terror, you can hook 2 sleds together. The entire ride is gravity fed, but there are levers to control your speed. However, if you control your speed too much then you will get stuck on the rails, causing the staff to come fetch you and you looking embarrassed once fetched. We waited in line for over an hour as 2 people, from a different cruise line, breaked too much and got stuck. As the manager went to go get yet another victim of fear, he mumbled something along the lines of “If anyone else breaks… I swear….”. I feared that I may become the next victim of his wrath. One of my amazing guests, a 22 yr old French Canadian lad offered to let me hook up to his bobsled and he would do the driving. We decided this was best….
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As we turned the first corner I started to pray…
As I mentioned the ride is completely gravity fed, so there is no steering, you just have to hope the sled stays on the rails. You whip down the hill and round the corners, over and under. As you whipe round the corners it felt as if my sled was going to keep going while my perfectly calm and capable drivers’ would continue on the rails. To truly understand the adrenalin rush here is a little video to give you a taste (’cause, yes, my cohort was not only a capable driver who refused to use any breaks, but apparently he could video it at the same time)…

BOBSLED VIDEO

Needless to say the mandatory photo that is taken shows my cohort screaming with glee, arms in the air. As for me all you see if the hunched over back of someone screaming in terror.

Even though I was terrified and I am fairly certain my life flashed before my eyes on more than one turn…

IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE

…the gentle cable car ride down was most likely my favorite

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Uncategorized

 

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Swimming with Dolphins

Dreams and Bucket Lists

For as long as I can remember the ocean, and it’s creatures have fascinated me, and I have had a love of Dolphins and Whales. A year ago I got to scuba dive with whale sharks, marking a tick on my bucket list. Just a few days ago, through a crazy coincidence, I was able to go swimming with dolphins, marking yet another tick off.

How it All Began…

Part of my duties as an English Social Hostess on board Divina, is to take visitors, usually dignitaries and officials, around the ship on a ship tour. I met all range of interesting people, but I must say, the group from Falmouth, Jamaica were by far the most animated, fun-loving group of officials I have yet met. In fact I got 2 marriage proposals (including one of them getting down to one knee). They insisted I join them for lunch in the ship restaurant after the tour, (after I got permission), and we had a great chat. One of the officials, William Tatham of the Port Authorities (if I remember correctly) gave me his card and said next time we were in port he would organize something for me.

Well, my mom always said I have no shame when it comes to taking people up on their offers, and so two weeks later when we were due to arrive I dropped him a message. Next minute, I get an email from Dolphin Cove inviting me to experience a VIP tour and dolphin swim at no charge!!!! I couldn’t believe it, wow!

Unfortunately, that port we had a crew drill and we got out too late to go, same for the next visit, I also had an excursion that time (the Jamaican Bobsled… where I feared for my life, but that’s another story).

It really looked as if we would never get a chance to take them up on their offer, until….

3rd Time Lucky

On our 3rd time back in Falmouth it was Jam Cruise. Not only did most of us have it free, there were also excursions. This was the perfect time. Dolphin Cove suggested I bring friends, the more the merrier, and so our merry group of 20 were all busting at the seams for the day to arrive.

….then, Murphy’s Law… I was scheduled to work, which meant, unless there was a miracle, I would miss the trip. But I decided not to complain, not to argue, after all it is my job. Instead, I think everyone else went to my defense, and with 30min before the bus was due to leave I was told I could go!!! Woohoo!!!

17 of us made it on the bus, and with our amazing driver, Derek, we set off on the hour long drive to Dolphin Cove. Derek, gave us historical and musical information the whole way down, and everything was, well, “Eiri Mon, just Eiri!”
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Swimming with Shakira

Our dolphin was named, Shakira, the other half of our group had Apollo. Shakira, was beautiful and I do not have words to express, how amazing it was to touch her and swim with her and even kiss her. In fact, I almost started crying the first time we got to stroke her as she swam past (oddly, she feels very much like the rubber toys they sell in stores…)
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After we got to meet and touch her it was time to swim with her. Here we had to tap the water and then she would pop up in front of us, lie on her back, we would grab her flippers and then she would swim us back to the pier. Very important was to let go when the trainer told us to, otherwise there was the threat of smashing into the pier as she swam under it….
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Finally it was the pièce de résistance, the kiss!!!
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It was a truly spectacular afternoon, and the staff at Dolphin Cove were phenomenal. All the Dolphins seemed happy and looked healthy. In fact, they have one rescue dolphin who was hit by a boat, during her recovery (to keep her entertained) they taught her the tricks and skills. Upon her return to health she was returned to the sea, less than a week later she found her way back to Dolphin Cove and “asked” to stay!

I will never forget this day, thanks so much to everyone who made it happen!

DOLPHIN SWIM VIDEO

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2014 in Cruise, Uncategorized

 

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