One of the best things about cruising is waking up in a brand new part of the world. After a day spent exploring Carnival Freedom, playing table tennis on deck, relaxing in the sunshine and over-indulging in the restaurants, we awoke to find ourselves off the coast of Jamaica, just outside the port of Falmouth.
After a day at sea its something on a celebration on a cruise ship when you first glimpse land ahead. We were hit by a wall of heat as we stepped from our air conditioned room on to the balcony, where we watched with fascination, like the newbie cruisers we were, as the ship slowly guided itself into the cleanest port I’ve ever seen. Admittedly that’s not many.
We were mesmerised for a time by the colour of the sea. There’s no filter on this shot. It really was turquoise.
We debarked to the sound of traditional Jamaica drums being played on the dock and quickly found ourselves amongst colourful market stalls selling an array of traditional gifts.
Then we were were driven into the Jamaican countryside, with only a quick glimpse at the obvious poverty that exists a short distance from the well-stocked shops.
Jamaica was hot but bearable, humid, full of colourful vegetation and absolutely beautiful. It’s red soil reminded me fondly of Africa, a region certainly close to Jamaica’s cultural heart.
Our destination for the day was Good Hope Estate, a 20 minute drive from the port on the edge of the Martha Brae River. It’s a former sugar plantation set in 2,000 acres of lush countryside. Its location 600m above sea level meant there was a slight breeze, which took the edge off the heat.
We were new to the world of cruise excursions, but the attraction of the Good Hope Estate excursion provided by Chukka was that it offered a variety of activities and also promised to offer a taste of Jamaica. When you’re only there for a short time, there’s a definite need to experience as much as possible.
Rather than attempt the dune buggies, the zip wire over the whole plantation and the river tubing, all of which were available, we opted for the more sedate activities of walking around the aviary of exotic birds, enjoying a Jablum coffee and taking in the gorgeous countryside.
IJ enjoyed the playground and assault course but was particularly taken in by Duke, one of the horses that took us on a carriage ride around the plantation, because he appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean, which means he has celebrity status.
Not to be missed, once you’ve explored the grounds, is a tour of Good Hope Great House with its original orange cedar floorboards, rare mahogany furniture, lush gardens and stunning views over the estate.
Built in the 1700s it’s the former home of John Tharp, the largest land and slave owner in Jamaica. IJ was most fascinated with the grave room, which really is a grave inside a house. It belongs to Elizabeth Williams, the young bride of the original landowner Colonel Thomas Williams. She died of malaria aged 24.
We dined in the sun on traditional jerk chicken. Had I been keen, there was Appleton Rum Tasting too, but we had a busy evening at sea ahead so it was best to stay off the alcohol.
We had a fabulous day and were made to feel incredibly welcome by the Chukka team. Good Hope Estate really did give us a taste of Jamaica, its people, its history, and its cultural heritage. Just enough to want to go back and spend more time there.
Next time though, I won’t make the mistake of forgetting to apply insect repellent!
From Jamaica we continued along the Caribbean Sea to the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited … the Cayman Islands.
We travelled to Jamaica with Carnival Cruises for Cruise International Magazine and were kindly hosted by Chukka during our time there. For more information about Jamaica visit: www.visitjamaica.com