Western Caribbean, 1988

By Jack Welsch

Images © Copyright 1988, J. H. Welsch
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Here was yet another trip where I failed to keep a diary of events. We took the trip with our good friends Nancy & Bill. The cruise was on Royal Caribbean's "Song of America" from Miami to the Western Caribbean. Ports of call were Cozumel, Mexico; George Town, Grand Cayman; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; and Labadee, Haiti.

At Cozumel, we took a taxi to a beach for some nice snorkeling, then had lunch in town. Lunch was good but the Marguerites were murder! I can usually pack them away but I didn't finish my drink and I could hardly see! Linda had a similar problem. After a VERY short shopping trip, we returned to the ship where she crashed in the room and I by the pool. WOW!

We really enjoyed Grand Cayman. We spend most of the day on Seven Mile Beach and I rented a windsurfer. The water and beach were both about perfect. We spent some time in town, too, and found the locals both polite and friendly. We truly felt welcome.

Ocho Rios was another kettle of fish entirely. On the cruise we were warned that it was unsafe to wander off alone in a taxi or something in Jamaica. We took a tour to a plantation and then to Dunn's River Falls. The bus ride was an eye-opener. The all-inclusive resorts were surrounded by razor wire! I'm pretty sure it wasn't to keep the guests in. Unsafe indeed! The plantation tour was informative if a tad touristy. Dunn's River Falls is a delightful natural wonder totally ruined by commercialism. I climbed up the falls but the other three met me at the top. We were absolutely mobbed by locals hawking junk and they did NOT want to hear, "No, thank you." They were absolutely overbearing and rude. We were happy to get onto the bus but even then they kept yelling into the windows! The bus driver said the tour was to return to the ship but he'd take us to town to shop if a majority wanted to do that. The overwhelming majority voted to return to the ship. We were back in time for lunch and spend the afternoon aboard. I'm not likely to return to Jamaica.

Labadee was great. Labadee is an isolated peninsula on Haiti that Royal Caribbean uses as their "out-island". There is a wall that separates it from the rest of the country and the only locals were those employed by the cruise line. The only real issue I had was that there were not enough lounge chairs. The beach help would "sell" you one and then, as soon as you turned your back, steal it to sell to the next guy! I got one, stood up to take off my shirt and it was gone when I turned around! I like Royal Caribbean but this is the fault of the cruise line. The place was absolutely magnificent, however. The scenery was breathtaking and the facilities nice. I took a free snorkeling tour and the reef and the guide were both great.

We enjoyed the ship and the cruise but the itinerary wasn't the best. It was fun but I don't have a strong urge to go back to the Western Caribbean.