Falmouth

Excursion Focus: Peat Taylor Tours Falmouth

In:
15Oct2016

Please welcome Rick Cincotta, as our latest guest blogger.  Today, Rick is sharing his review of the Peat Taylor Tours in Falmouth while aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

As I sat down to plan out my shore excursions for my upcoming Western Caribbean cruise on  Oasis of the Seas, one destination left me a little stumped. Falmouth, Jamaica. This recently developed port leaves a lot to be desired in the way of shore side activities, if sitting poolside at Margaritaville is not necessarily your cup of te-quil-a. In fact, many cruisers often look to this port as a day to enjoy the ship while the masses disembark for parts unknown. To be honest, that would have been exactly my plan had I not been traveling with my buddy, Mark, who was not only on his first cruise, but was also visiting Jamaica for his first time.

With that in my mind, my first thought was to look for an excursion that included Dunn’s River Falls, the infamous natural staircase waterfall, for which I have been to many times. However, my own selfishness was telling me to bypass the falls and find a tour that would include a stop at the Blue Hole, a destination that many experienced travelers have said is a must do in Jamaica. See the problem with docking in Falmouth is that you are about 45 minutes away from the major tourist attractions, which are primarily located in Ocho Rios, where only certain cruise lines (not to be named) dock. As a result, time is very much against you.

So as many of us do, I took my search to the internet to find a reputable tour operator that could bring us to both stops and ensure that we would return to the ship in time for departure. After reading many reviews and making many phone calls, I settled on using Peat Taylor Tours. After discussing my preferences with Peat, he suggested that we visit Dunn’s River Falls, the Blue Hole and Calypso River Tubing, which gave me room for pause given that we were only in port from 10 AM – 7 PM. However, Peat promised me that we would be back to the ship with plenty of time to spare to enjoy some patties and Red Stripe before setting sail. With my faith in Peat’s hands, I agreed to the $100 per person price and promptly paid my $10 deposit via Paypal.

I received a very detailed email from Peat shortly after reserving the tour, which told me to proceed to the white independent tour operator tent as soon as I could get off the ship. So Mark and I made our way to the gangway at 10:30 AM and easily located the tent, which is located outside of the pier area gates. We informed one of the representatives manning the tent that we were booked with Peat Taylor and he promptly pointed our guide (Carry) and tour van. We were only joined by one two others, which we had connected with online prior to sailing, so this was very much a “private” tour.

Once payment (cash only) was made we began our journey (11 AM for those keeping track) from the “historic” Falmouth area to Ocho Rios, where our first stop would be Dunn’s River Falls. During the 45 minute journey, our guide gave us the usual port talk about the area and various points along the way. The drive is very scenic and primarily takes you along the coast, where you can stop for some photo opportunities.

Once we arrived at Dunn’s River Falls, we were met by an attendant in the tour bus area, who provided us with our entrance wrist bands and introduced us to our guide for the falls, Wilson, who was very entertaining and full of energy (lots of singing as demonstrated below). Note: We were able to leave all of our belongings in the van and did not have to rent lockers.

After about 90 minutes of climbing, picture taking, enjoying the natural pools and saying “Ya Mon” more times than I care to remember we made it to the top of the falls.

After surviving the walk through the Craft Market on our exit we managed to get back to the tour bus with only $4 Red Stripes in on our hands (no DVDs or illegal substances here).

Back in the bus, we opted to bypass lunch (for now anyways) and make our way to Blue Hole. We arrived at Blue Hall at approximately 2 PM (three hours in and counting). This place is really spectacular and the natural beauty of the pools is not done any justice by pictures.

We were introduced to yet another tour guide, Jason, who ensured we were safely diving and took many pictures of us with our own personal cameras (no photo/DVD sales pitch). Our time here (just shy of an hour) consisted of about eight cliff jumps and rope swinging. The jumps ranged anywhere from 15 to 30 feet and really got the adrenaline pumping with the group.

One thing to note, keep your water shoes on. While they are not required, the rocks here are very much still in their natural state and there are no manmade stairs or walkways. Mark and I made the mistake of going foot commando.

Back on the van, we made the quick 15 minute ride to the Calypso River for some relaxing tubing to finish off the day. Once again, we were introduced to a new guide, George, who was extremely helpful and energetic (another a cappella singer). More importantly, he ensured that the group never got stuck and was constantly pushing our tubes to the center allowing us to drift into oblivion without worrying about getting stuck on rocks. The river has just the right current speed to keep you moving, but still providing for a very relaxing experience. Our group of four were the only ones tubing and it truly felt like we were on our secluded island.

As we hung up our tubes, a quick time check reminded us that it was now 4 PM and that we had about two hours to get back to the ship, which included the 45 minute ride back to Falmouth. However, we were starving at this point and informed Carrey that we would very much like to stop for food, but take it to go. With that we headed to Scotchies, which Carrey coined as “Jerk Center,” for some fuel for the ride back to the ship. I ordered a quarter pound of jerk chicken, a festival (Jamaican hushpuppy), rice and beans, which equated to $6. The food was excellent and we all quickly found ourselves thoroughly stuffed and snoozing on our ride back to Falmouth.

When I finally awoke, the Oasis was staring me in the face and I immediately turned to the clock to see that it was about 5:30 PM, which gave us about an hour before all aboard and clocked the tour at about six and half hours.

So now for my final thoughts. This tour currently sits at the top of my list with respect to excursions in the Western Caribbean ports of calls. The experience was top notch, from the locations visited (yes, even Dunn’s River was fun) to each of the tour guides we had along the way only to be capped by a truly fantastic authentic Jamaican meal. In addition, if you recall this tour was only $100 for three stops and six and half hours of “personal” tour time…what a bargain! To think this was a port I was going to stay on the ship and potential miss this unforgettable experience…

For anyone that has not given Jamaica the time of day on recent cruises and feels that there are no excursions worth their time or maybe is concerned with the limited amount of hours in port, I highly suggest trying this tour and can almost promise you will not return with anything but a mind and camera full of memories.   

Excursion Focus: Blue Waters Beach Escape in Falmouth

In:
15Mar2016

If there is one Caribbean port of call that seems to generate the most questions about what to do there, it has to be Falmouth, Jamaica.  

On a recent cruise to Falmouth, we had the chance to try the Blue Waters Beach Escape shore excursion.

Description

The Blue Waters Beach Escape is a shore excursion sold by Royal Caribbean, that promises guests a beach experience very close to port (only a 10 minute bus ride) with white sandy beaches, blue water, complimentary drinks and food and some other extras too.

Guests meet the tour group in the designated tours area, located close to the Falmouth port gate.  There, guests check-in and are given bracelets for all members in their party.

Guests are picked up in an air conditioned coach bus and driven to the beach, which is a bit under ten minutes away.  

Our bus driver gave passengers a brief overview of Falmouth and Jamaican customs.  The bus ride is quite short, so there is not much to see along the way.

Upon arrival, guests are taken through the entrance area and given a short overview of the facilities and options.  

After that, guests are free to choose a seat on the beach and enjoy the area as they see fit.  

Blue Waters features a beach with designated swim area, as well as these amenities

  • complimentary Wi-Fi access (signal seems to only be available near the bar)
  • complimentary beach chair
  • unlimited Jamaican inspired food
  • select complimentary drinks

Comments

Our family struggled mightily with what to do in Falmouth and we picked Blue Waters because it was a short ride to the destination and the price was not as expensive as some other options there. With our young children, avoiding a long bus ride seemed like a good idea.

Blue Waters is great for someone looking for a basic beach day and not interested in all the upgraded amenities or options at some of the other all-inclusive resorts in the area, such as the Hilton Rose Hall resort.

The water is indeed blue and a very nice beach experience.

Unfortunately, there were aspects of the excursion that did not sit well with us, but may be fine for you.

Upon arrival, the beach was nearly full and while we were able to get a beach chair, some guests who arrived after us had no chairs available and had to settle for beach chair mats until chairs were freed up by departing guests.  The shore excursion title says, "An exclusive Blue Waters Beach Escape", but clearly this was not as exclusive as one may have thought.

The food is described as, "unlimited food (jerk chicken, pasta) served up by 5-star chefs," and while the food was free, it certainly was not five-star level food.  Jerk chicken, salad, a seafood pasta, hot dogs in a sauce and another option or two were plentiful, albeit not very tasty.  My picky wife and children essentially ate nothing and I cannot say the food was anything remarkable.

Lastly, the Wi-Fi signal was only available near the bar area and there were so many other guests using it, that it was essentially useless.

With all of that being said, I think Blue Waters is a good option for someone that wants a basic beach day, does not need frills and does not want a long ride to/from the excursion.

Royal Caribbean guests on the excursion also have a select menu to choose from that includes a number of unlimited alcoholic beverages.  

I also did like that there were buses running back to the port quite often, so it allowed guests to leave early if they wanted.

Ultimately, Blue Waters is a nice beach, but was too crowded for our taste and the dining options available were also lackluster. As long as guests go in with the right expectations, I think Blue Waters can be a good (and close) option, but it is important to understand what this excursion offers.

Cost: $79.75 per adult or $59.75 per child. Infants are free.

21 Royal Caribbean guests involved in shore excursion traffic accident in Falmouth

In:
14Jan2016

Royal Caribbean is reporting 21 guests on a shore excursion from Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas were involved in a traffic accident in Falmouth, Jamaica today.

In the incident, one guest passed away, while three others were treated for injuries at a local hospital.

Royal Caribbean crew members have gone to the hospital in Falmouth to assist.

Royal Caribbean is asking all guests to keep those injured in their thoughts and prayers.

UPDATE: The Jamaica Observer is reporting the tour bus was on its way from the Dunn's River Beach in St Ann.

Falmouth getting infrastructure improvements

In:
Category: 
18Sep2013

The port of Falmouth, Jamaica that Royal Caribbean has spent a lot of money working with Jamaica to build, is set to receive new improvements to ease traffic flow within the port and access to the town.

Specifically, the pre-booked tours area is getting a $400,000 refurbushment to help with traffic flow and passenger comfort. The traffic routing will be completed this month, according to William Tatham, VP of cruise shipping for the Jamaica Port Authority. Tatham also indicated landscaping and cover will follow, replacing the use of tents, for next summer.

The Falmouth improvements spring from advice and technical expertise offered by Disney Cruise Line, which volunteered a couple of experts to make assessments and suggestions regarding tour bus movements and signage that led to the redesign.  

In addition, there will be renovations and upgrades in the town of Falmouth to make it more welcoming and accessible for visitors. Tatham said these will address how people move around the town, by trolley or on foot, to facilitate more exploration and discovery of Falmouth's history and culture.

A number of government agencies under the transportation ministry are studying the infrastructure and flow; Tatham expects town works will be carried out by the end of the 2013/14 season.

Jamaicans upset over lack of passenger spending

In:
Category: 
10Oct2012

The local merchants in Falmouth, Jamaica that hope to sell their crafts to tourists from Royal Caribbean cruise ships are upset that not enough money is being spent by tourists.  Locals say passengers simply are ignoring the merchants and opt to go on Royal Caribbean's excursions or shop at the chain shops on the pier.

Royal Caribbean partnered with Jamaica's port authority to build the $220 million port in Falmouth, where locals were told that they could expect tourists to spend about $100 each.  Locals say that just isn't the case.

"We were promised that we'd be able to show people our Jamaican heritage, sell our crafts. But most of the tourists stay far away from the local people," said Asburga Harwood, an independent tour guide and community historian. "We're on the losing end."

Royal Caribbean brand communications manager H.J. Harrison Liu commented on the criticism, "We don't discourage guests from going into the town of Falmouth, but many of our guests choose a Royal Caribbean excursion to see some of the country's beaches and famous attractions."

According to trade groups, about $2 billion a year is pumped into the economies of the Caribbean by the cruise ship industry.  Critics, however, say that all that money does not produce a lot of revenue for locals because most passengers dine and shop in international chain stores such as Colombian Emeralds or Diamonds International.

According to William Tatham, vice president of Jamaica's port authority, that's because the city is still adapting to its new role as a resort town. He noted that nearly all businesses in the town are aimed at locals, such as hardware suppliers, meat markets and general stores.

"The problem in Falmouth is that the residents are not tourist savvy," Tatham said.

Jamaica Port Authority talks about future of Falmouth port

In:
Category: 
12Jul2012

William Tatham, Vice President of Cruise Shipping and Marina Operations, spoke about the future of Falmouth, Jamaica.  Falmouth is a $220 million project that is a joint project between the Jamaica Port Authority and Royal Caribbean.  It opened last year and has been a major success.

The opening of Falmouth has increased Jamaica's birthing capacity by 50%, which has sparked Jamaica's overall growth by 20%.  As part of the project, Royal Caribbean has put a majority of their existing business to visiting Falmouth but the port is looking at other lines, such as Disney Cruise Line.  Falmouth invited Disney to come down and visit the port.

The future of Falmouth looks bright as well, with 85% of the shore-side retain entertainment now open and by fall the world's largest Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville will open.  When it does it open, it will be an enormous and elaborate facility including a pirate ship on its side, waterslides, jaccuzis and bars.

Royal Caribbean is also working with Jamaica about what the next phases will hold.  There are 30 acres to work with and the port wants to create activities and venues that will be attractive to the cruise passengers but also to pull travellers from the North coast. Realistically work will probably start on phase 2 in the summer, but  both sides are exploring a number of ideas.

Video: Historic Falmouth Jamaica is home to Royal Caribbean

In:
10Apr2012

Royal Caribbean announces second Royal 5K race

In:
07Feb2012

Royal Caribbean is bringing back the Royal 5K race this year and will take place twice.  First,  the event will take place in Falmouth, Jamaica in April 2012 aboard the Allure of the Seas.  Next, in December 2012, Royal Caribbean will hold the Royal 5K in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, onboard Oasis of the Seas. 

These cruises that include the Royal 5K race will also offer passengers other activities including

  • Private meet-and-greet sessions with high-profile racing athletes
  • Seminars and lectures with high-profile athletes
  • Personal training tips from experts
  • Speed tests onboard the track on your ship
  • A chance to win prizes, including a grand prize trip to ESPN headquarters

The Royal 5K package price is $25.  

The first Royal 5K was held back in December 2010 in St. Maarten.

Falmouth named Port of the Year

In:
03Oct2011

At the Seatrade Europe in Hamburg, Germany the Seatrade Insider Cruise Awards 2011 were awarded and for Port of the Year, Falmouth was named the winner for 2011.  

Falmouth opened earlier this year on the coast north of Jamaica. Established by the Port Authority of Jamaica in partnership with Royal Caribbean and opened in March, Falmouth Harbor Theme represents an investment of about U.S. $ 270 million, with a pier with two piers, shops, restaurants and transportation center. Later phases of development planned for the immediate future include attractions, hotels, residences and more shops and restaurants.

Falmouth, located on the north coast of Jamaica, is located between the popular destinations of Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, making it a convenient point of entry and exit to the island. In addition, cruise ships have more than 60 shore excursions to choose from, including walks around the city.

Excursion Focus: Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa Day Pass

In:
15Sep2011

With Royal Caribbean now making regular stops on its Western Caribbean itineraries in Falmouth, Jamaica, many cruisers are looking for good excursion ideas for this port.  On our recent cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas, we tried out the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa Day Pass.

Description

The Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa Day Pass is an excursion that is available from a third-party vendor.  The day pass offers passengers access to the  Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, about 30 minutes from the Falmouth port.  There, guests have full access to the facilities including the pool, beach, food, beverages, chairs and more.

The resort is located directly on the beach and offers fantastic views and access to the ocean.  The sandy beach has lots of room with beach chairs right on the water.  There is also two pool facilities available for use.  The first pool is your generic swimming pool located near the beach and offers a fantastic view.  The Hilton recently opened a new pool facility, called the Sugar Mill Falls Water Park, which offers a pool, swim up bar, lazy river and a few water slides.

In addition, your day pass includes towels, non-motorized water sports including snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, volleyball, aerobics, and tennis.  There is also an optional transportation package that includes transfer to and from the port.

Comments

The Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa is a beautiful resort that is great for those looking for a beach/pool getaway while in Falmouth.  After a quick ride (25 minutes or so), you arrive at the resort where you pay the remainder of your balance (the company we booked with required only a deposit to book the package) and then you're given quick access.  We were happy to see the staff working quickly to get us onto the resort to enjoy the day.

The beach is quite nice and among all of our beach days on our Western Caribbean cruise, this beach was by far the nicest.  It was the least rocky with clear blue water and serene atmosphere.  If your idea of a beach day is enjoying a calm, picturesque view, then this is the beach for you.  There aren't any docks or water toys in the ocean, but that's okay because the nearby water park makes up for it.

The Sugar Mill Falls Water Park is really a glorified pool facility.  To call it a water park is a bit of a stretch, but it's more than just another pool.  It's one of the nicest pools we've been to and frankly, we spent most of our time here.  The pool opens up to a swim up bar, which you can get drinks for free.  There's a lazy river as well, although we found it quite difficult to navigate the lazy river while staying in your group.  There's also one large water slide and two smaller slides.  The Sugar Mill Falls Water Park really compliments the resort well and combined with the ocean access, make the perfect aquatic excursion for families.  If you want serene and calm, you have the ocean.  If you want to burn off energy and have fun, Sugar Mill Falls Water Park is for you.

Included in the price of admission is unlimited alcoholic drinks and food.  The drinks aren't top shelf liquor, but they were quite good and we found the bartenders to be rather liberal with their pouring. The staff was also quite nice and really made our stay here feel welcome.  The food wasn't anything special, however.  We found the food to be rather generic resort food and nothing great.  If you were staying here for a week, I'd be concerned but since you really only eat lunch, it's not a deal breaker but it is something to be aware of.

With the cost of the package (we paid $75 per adult), it's a little on the pricey side but acceptable.  All-inclusive beaches in Mexico are somewhat cheaper, but for Jamaica it's in line with other all-inclusive beaches we've been to at other ports.  Like any all-inclusive, the cost makes more sense if you're looking to have a lot to drink.  But even with people in our group that didn't drink, we really enjoyed our time at the resort and if you consider you'll spend about five hours or so at the resort, the price per hour is cheaper than most excursions you can find.

Location: P.O. Box 999 Montego Bay, Jamaica

Websitehttp://www.rosehallresort.com & http://www.jamaicaforaday.com/Falmouth_Jamaica_Shore_Excu.html

Cost: $75 per adult or $55 per child (Age 4-17).  Optional transfer included increases price to $90 & $70 respectively.

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