Does anyone have any suggestions re: the best family activities in this port? From what I've read so far, it appears that Rose Hall is where most go. Do I need to book an excursion from the ship or can I just take a cab? How far is it approximately from the pier? Has anyone played golf there? Any recommendations, as far as booking an excursion for this or contacting the resort directly, would be appreciated!
If you have kids in your group, I don't think they will enjoy Rose Hall. We did this tour back a year or so ago in January and it was terribly hot and humid ... It was just walking thru the house and listening to the story of the "witch". The shopping area they took you to was very secure but a little more upper end than a lot can afford ...
DO NOT DO A SHIP's TOUR !!! I found a private tour guide (Carolyn Barrett) that picked us up at the dock. We were on Rose Hall Beach a full hour and a half before the busses from the ship showed up! While they were standing in line, We were on the beach, going for rides on the banana boat and drinking pina coladas. Then we went into the hills to see the real Jamaica local areas. We then went to a non pressure craft fair. Then we went to a local jerk chicken shack that had unbelievable food! (I would have never chosen to eat there based on how the place looked !) We then went to Maragritaville before being driven right back to the ship. All we heard from everyone else on the ship was how bad a time they had in Montego Bay. We (our family of 6 plus 2 more couples we found on the ship) had the time of our lives and all wanted to return. It was and still is my favorite port. All because I hired my own private tour guide (for a lot less than the ship excursions). Since then, we have never signed up for ship tours. We always book our own!
I think it is bad to arbitrarily dismiss ship's tours just because your private tour went well. Ship's tours offer peace-of-mind when it comes to not missing the ship for one thing. People have different perceptions of safety too. What is safe to you may not be so to me or others. So, for people who have never been to a particular port, I recommend they stay with the ship's tours. For someone who has been to a port previously, or has more experience with international travel....then fine, do it yourself.
Dave is providing very wise advice that would do cruisers well to listen to. Tom, I'm thrilled to hear you had a great tour and felt you got more than your money's worth. That can be the case with many outside operators in many ports. Shopping with outside vendors can also be a crap shoot. You can get a great experience or a very poor one. That can also be said for excursions booked with the ship. The big difference is, with the ship if they get too many complaints or a vendor is excessively late getting back to the ship ontime or a number of other issues happen, they can cancel their contract and find another operator. With an outside company you're on your own. Who will you complain to? What will you do if the bus gets a flat/breaks down and is late getting back? The ship will not be held for outside excursions. They don't even know where you are.
There is an advantage in having your excursion booked and on the ships log. When X number of people are missing and they are all on X excursion booked through the cruiseline, they contact the provider (all are required to provide and emergency contact #) to see what the delay is and when to expect them. They can at that point either hold the ship and wait or arrange outside transportation to get the stranded passengers back to the ship and bill the vendor for the cost. You have recourse if you go theough the cruiseline. You take your chances if you book outside. Have a backup plan to get back if you venture on your own or take outsude tours.
Sorry but I'm still going to highly disagree.
I have been on numerous ship tours and numerous private tours and as long as you do your homework and get recommendations from other experienced travelers, the private tours are a much better value. From Stingray City and snorkeling in the Caymans to Blue Lagoon in the Bahamas. To simply urge everyone to stick with the ship tours because the ship won't leave if your late back to the ship is in my opinion bad advice. But, That's why they have these forums so everyone can express their opinions and views.
My family (Me, my wife and sons age 8 and 10)did the Jungle River Tubing excursion provided by the ship. It was a fun excursion. They take you way up into the mountains of Jamaica and you get to really see what the island is about and how some people live there. The tubing was fun and not to crazy for the younger ones. (Minimum age is 6 I think). We didn't do Dunns river falls because we heard it was a zoo with a cruise excursion and we figured we would come back and do a land only trip to Jamaica some day. But after being there and to many other islands in the carrib, Jamaica is probably last on our list of land only trips, so we will probably never get to see it. Just one more excursion suggestion.
To simply urge everyone to stick with the ship tours
Who said that? I didn't. I said the ship's tours are a good thing in Jamaica. Booking private tours in Alaska, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and other places is fine.
And as a general guidance issue - I suggest that people on their first cruise to a new place stick with the ship for that first time. Once they gain some familiarity with cruising and the ports, then fine, go ahead with the private tours. I don't understand how this can be construed as bad advice.
Not everyone is an experienced world traveler such as you. Many people on a cruise have never left the U.S. and visiting Jamaica can be an exotic and also scary event for them.