Day 4 – Montego Bay

Wherein we act like rookie tourists.

As was our tradition by now, we had room service breakfast on the deck. We kept messing with the arrival time to make sure it got there after everyone woke up but before we were starving. 6-7 usually worked, but the longer we cruised, the later Max stayed up and the later he wanted to sleep. The front blinds are required to be closed from sunset to sunrise to avoid glare on the bridge below. I usually opened them when we were ready to wake up, and that helped Max to stir.

After breakfast, we proceeded to our second tradition, second breakfast. The room service breakfast was pretty good and offered the opportunity to fill up, but it doesn’t have hot food. We usually had croissants with cream cheese and jelly, coffee and hot chocolate, chocolate milk for the boys. Then we’d put on clothes and walk over to the buffet to pick up some bacon and eggs to finish off the meal.

Today I spent a while on the deck watching us follow the Magic into port. After the Magic docked, we turned to park perpendicular to her. This is one of the shots I captured from the deck showing what a gorgeous day we had:

I took a few shots of the Magic as well as we docked.

The weather in Montego Bay was gorgeous as you can see from the pictures. We made our way off the ship and discovered we needed to shuttle over to the main terminal next to the Magic. There were two options right off the Conquest: the “free” shuttle and the purchase for the hop-on, hop-off bus. The HOHO allowed use of the sign and sail card but didn’t have a price displayed. We heard some others saying it was $19 per person, but I never got the price directly so YMMV.

We elected to use the “free” shuttle. I keep putting it in quotes because the driver spent the whole time reminding people to “take care of your drivers.” Like many, I’m tired of the tendency to turn any job into a tipping job. When my tips help cover the salary, such as the cabin steward or a waiter, it’s a lot more palatable. When someone is fully compensated for serving ice cream or driving a bus or whatever, I don’t see why they should put out a tip jar or practically demand a tip, but that’s a discussion for a different day.

We made it to the terminal and joined the crowds from the Magic making their way out. We intended to take a taxi to Doctor’s Cave Beach, spend a few hours, then taxi back for lunch and naps.

As we left the terminal, there were throngs of people being shuttled onto buses. I told several workers we we not on a tour and just wanted to go to Doctor’s Cave Beach. They kept saying no problem and herding us toward the next bus. I seem to remember small taxis at Falmouth 12 years ago, but there were none to be found here. As we were herded close to a bus, I told the driver we wanted to go to Doctor’s Cave Beach and get off. He of course said no problem and continued to pack people into the bus. Because I expected a short trip, I allowed him to direct me to the back while Elle and the boys sat up front.

After stuffing the bus to the limit and closing the door, the driver said, “I’m going to make you a deal. I’ll drive you around all day and show you the best beaches, take you to the best shopping, etc, and it will be just $15 per person. Does that sound good?”

I was hoping Elle would object, but when she didn’t I stupidly stayed silent amid the partyers on the bus saying yes. I figured Doctor’s Cave must be one of the best beaches and we could just duck out there. Naturally I was wrong. I knew we were in trouble when we passed right by DCB and turned away from the coastline. I didn’t want to be a jerk and stop the bus, but in hindsight I should have done just that. Not only is an all-day bus tour not a good option for my 5- and 8-year-old boys, the adults really didn’t want cranky kids hanging around them all day.

I kept expecting him to stop somewhere close where we could just walk back to DCB, but it didn’t happen. Before long we were far away on a highway and I figured it was safer to stick with him than get out on the side of the road. He took us all the way to the White Witch golf course and let us out at the top to take pictures. I went for the nearest golf club employee and set up a taxi to return to DCB. It took long enough that our original driver was ready to go just as we were walking away. He ran up to us and said if we were leaving we could just pay him now. I gave him some $ for the ride and he tried to get us to pay him $15pp. I told him my kids couldn’t do an all-day tour and there was no way I was paying all-day tour prices to strand me somewhere I didn’t want to be. He stopped arguing and left with the $ we’d already given him. The new driver tried to talk us into going somewhere else but backed down when I said we are getting off at DCB and nowhere else. He actually was trying to be helpful, but I was not going to get scammed twice in one morning.

The moral of the story, of course, is something I’ve learned all over the world, from Colombia to Germany to Thailand: don’t get in a taxi until you’ve agreed on the destination and the price. Now, The party people in the bus seemed like they were in for an enjoyable day, but it wasn’t what we needed for enjoyment, and I was stupid to let myself be bullied when I really know better.

After the 45-minute, $30 detour, we arrived at Doctor’s Cave Beach. Admission was $6 pp, but she gave us “the baby” free. By this time the chairs and umbrellas were all rented, so we threw one Carnival towel on the sand and piled our stuff on it.

Doctor’s Cave Beach is nice if all you’re looking for is sand and water. There are no fancy features except a trampoline that pretty much stayed full. It was just what we wanted, and gorgeous:

We saw some lucky AirTran folks getting ready to start a nice vacation:

With just adults, we probably would have stayed longer and eaten at a nearby restaurant, but with the boys a full day in the sun usually isn’t a great idea, as we found out the next day.

The sand there was weirdly coarse. I wound up sitting on the edge with Jack for about 30 minutes while the waves splashed us. He loved that. When I stood up I found a bunch of sand had entered my shorts in the waves and then coalesced. I had two big mounds stuck in the netting inside my drawers! I had to go out in the deeper water. If it wasn’t so crowded and so crystal clear, I would have take off my shorts and washed the sand out. As it was I had to keep shaking the blobs up so the sand would go back into the water.

Also the entrepreneurs didn’t leave us alone even while swimming. There were Jamaicans swimming around trying to get us to buy conch shells. I wasn’t the least bit interested, but another couple was. That was until another cruiser said they are illegal to bring back on the ship. I don’t know about the legality but thought I’d pass the info along.

We walked to the top of the DCB steps where several drivers waited. They wanted $5 pp back to the port which we gladly accepted. The guy asked us to wait awhile so he could fill the bus, but after 10 minutes there were no takers and we left.

Oddly, the driver asked if it was ok to buy gas before talking us back. Elle seemed amenable and I said OK. After all, we were now out of the sun although sweating a lot, and we weren’t in a hurry. We got back to the port in no time and packed into a shuttle for the Conquest side.

Again the driver emphasized the tips he needed to live, but honestly I wasn’t feeling so generous after the morning we had. We passed through the terminal where some but not all bags were checked, then got back on the Conquest.

We made a quick stop by the room to drop off towels, etc then headed to lunch. I had my daily Guy’s burger and the boys and Elle ate off the buffet. Elle tried to eat a taco from the Blue Iguana, but they closed at 2:30 and we got there at 2:40. He offered to make her one anyway, but we try to respect the crew’s working hours, especially when so many other options exist.

After lunch, we napped almost until dinner time and then dropped Jack at CC while Max ate with us. For the first 3 or so nights he asked to join us in the restaurant because he liked it. Later he said he was tired of restaurant manners and wanted to eat at CC.