Jamaica

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.

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

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.

Falmouth, Jamaica Photo Update

In:
14Sep2011

On our cruise to Falmouth, Jamaica last week, we took some time to take some photos of the port area to give you an idea of what the construction progress is like.  To be honest, we found the port a lot further along than we had read about.  

Jamaica Labor Party blasts Falmouth for slow development

In:
18Aug2011

Senator Dennis Meadows of Jamaica's Labor Party lashed out over the lack of development in Falmouth, Jamaica since the port opened to cruises in February 2011.  Falmouth's cruise port is a $7.5 billion endeavor that is a partnership between Jamaica and Royal Caribbean.

"The apparent abandonment of the town since the opening of the cruise ship pier demonstrates the perceived lack of commitment on the part of various government agencies in sustaining the focus on the development of Falmouth."

According to Meadows, businesses in Falmouth have experienced up to a 50 percent fall-off in their revenues since the implementation of the traffic management system in February.

When Falmouth was being planned, there were several projects that were to be included in the finished product including an artisan village, municipal market, and a transport center.

Meadows went on to claim that the people of Falmouth were feeling a sense of abandonment and urged the government agencies in the area to make plans to finish development of the area.

"There is a pervasive sense that the people are subjects of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines which seem to be the primary focus and the sole beneficiary of the development that has so far taken place, and this is unsustainable."

Falmouth helps propel Jamaica into top 10 fastest-growing cruise destination

In:
14Aug2011

Jamaica is back in the top-10 fastest-growing cruise destinations in the region after not making the list for the last five years.  Jamaica posted double-digit growth between January and May 2011, growth that has coincided with the opening of the Falmouth cruise port in February of this year.

Since February, Falmouth has seen nearly 181,650 passengers and 65,400 crew arrive which translates to generating $15.8 million in passenger expenditure.  

Falmouth was developed by the Port Authority of Jamaica in partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Limited (RCCL), whose investments were estimated at $167 million and $102 million, respectively.  Royal Caribbean has promised to send eight million cruise passengers over the next 8 years into Falmouth.

Ahead of Jamaica is St Maarten with 21.5% growth, followed by the Bahamas at 16% and Jamaica in third with 12.6%.

Falmouth Jamaica Photo Update

In:
22Jul2011

Many of our readers are eager to know the state of construction at Falmouth, Jamaica.  Being one of Royal Caribbean's newest ports of call, it's a common stop for many Royal Caribbean Western Caribbean cruises.  If you're curious what the state of affairs are, here are some photos of the port that Otterman34 posted on CruiseCritic recently.

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