San Juan In A Day

IMG_7255

San Cristobal Castle

My great grandparents were born in Puerto Rico, so it was a “must-see” for us while visiting the Eastern Caribbean. San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and an unincorporated territory of the United States, purchased in 1898. Similar to American Samoa, Mariana Islands and Guam, Puerto Rico is an organized, self-governed territory consisting of locally elected governors and territorial legislatures. Founded by Spanish colonists in 1521, San Juan is the second oldest European-established capital city in the Americas. Half of Puerto Rico’s 2M people live and work in San Juan. Old San Juan is a colorful neighborhood of cobblestone streets and historic Spanish Colonial buildings from the 1500s. While visiting San Juan, we had to explore the historical, defensive fort San Cristobal.

IMG_7256

First stop, San Cristobal Castle~ Castillo San Cristóbal, also known as Fort San IMG_7251Cristóbal, is part if the San Juan National Historical Site and was built by Spain to guard Puerto Rico against land attacks. San Cristóbal was completed in 1783 on 27 acres of land and is the largest fort that the Spanish built. Built on a hill, Cerro de San Cristóbal contains cisterns (tanks to store water) that are 30 feet high and 60 feet wide which were used during the ages of the Spanish Colony. The cisterns doubled as bomb shelters during World War II. Tourists walk around at their leisure, exploring the grounds and reading the historical significance.

IMG_7298

IMG_7301Let’s eat!!!! At Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan, you can eat, drink and even get married!! There are usually people standing around waiting for their name to be called, a sign of how popular and fabulous the restaurant is. The piña colada is the national drink of Puerto Rico since 1978. National Piña Colada Day is celebrated on July 10th in the Caribbean. Ramón Portas Mingot claims to have created the drink in 1963 at Barrachina Restaurant. The piña (pineapple) colada (strained) is made with rum, coconut cream or milk, and pineapple juice. They offer virgin pina coladas for the kids. Try the specialty sampler or monfongo! It was our first experience eating monfongo, which is made of plantains.

IMG_7312

Special Sampler with grouper, calamari & plantain

Barrachina Restaurant Old San Juan is recognized as the king of “Paella”. They have been serving up creative Spanish and International cuisine for over 50 years.

IMG_7313

Monfongo

Mofongo is an African-Puerto Rican dish made of fried plantains. The plantains are picked green, before they are ripe and mixed with garlic and salt. Mofongo is served in a variety of ways but most commonly with fried meats and soup. The dish is often  packed with vegetables, chicken, beef, shrimp or octopus. Mofongo relleno has seafood inside along with braised meat or seafood poured over the top, pictured above. I would describe it as very firm, dense and not much flavor.

IMG_7324

Shopping District

Shopping!!! There are several places to shop in Old San Juan, Calle (street) Fortaleza,IMG_7286 Calle San Francisco, and Calle del Cristo to name a few. Calle del Cristo has higher end shops such as Coach, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Tommy Hilfigger, Dooney & Bourke, Crocs, and Polo. You’ll also find galleries with Puerto Rican crafts, local cigar shops, clothing and shoes stores as well as boutiques and souvenirs.  Calle Fortaleza, also known as SoFo, has shops, restaurants and hotels for up and down the street for blocks. It is considered the main shopping district for Old San Juan. Calle San Francisco is the place to shop for artisans, skateboard & surf wear, street fashion and bistros. The Mall of San Juan, Plaza del Sol and Martemar Plaza are located in Calle San Francisco.

IMG_7291

$$ Saving Tips: The portions at Barrachina are huge, so be sure to split. We took a guided tour through Old San Juan, but it’s really not necessary to pay for a guided tour if you just want to shop and walk the streets of Old San Juan. The streets are accessible from the cruise ship and there is a lot to see and do. Bring your own sunblock, hat & bottled water as it is very hot! We were there mid-March and it was humid and sticky.

IMG_7283

Old San Juan

 

 

Labadee, Haiti

 

IMG_7099

View From the Ship

When planning a trip to the Eastern Caribbean, initially I was hesitant to spend time in Labadee, Haiti. After researching Haiti, I learned that Labadee is a 260-acre port built in 2009 along the northern coast of Haiti- truly a private paradise. The resort consists of lagoon-like bays, very touristy and guarded by private security. Guests are permitted from leaving the area. Royal Caribbean International leases the beach-rimmed peninsula from the Haitian government through 2050.

IMG_7120

The minute you step foot on the island, you’ll be greeted by the welcome band, playing traditional music and dancing. Make your way through the excursion desks,IMG_7117 pick up a colorful map and you’ll see an open-air shuttle that takes guests to the various stops on the island. I wasn’t feeling great that day and didn’t plan on getting off the ship so my husband and kids explored. I decided to get off later and met up with them. While wandering around looking for them, I felt very safe.

What is a Labadoozie? Wait staff walk around all day selling the Labadoozie made of Orange, Pineapple, and Papaya Juice, Coconut Cream, Dark Rum, Coconut Rum, Grenadine and crushed ice. Royal Caribbean provides all of the food for the barbeque, bottled water, and cocktails (for purchase) on the island from on-board the ship.

IMG_7116

Time for zip lining!!! The Dragon’s Breath Flightline is the longest zip line over ocean in the world! The scariest part may be the ride up to the zip line, 500 feet above the beaches, in an open safari vehicle, along a winding road. The tour includes an orientation and then the practice begins over at the “Little Dragon” zip line. Enjoy the thrilling ride down at 40-50 mph overlooking 2,600 feet of gorgeous beaches and the Caribbean. The zip line ends at the Dragon’s Breath Rock, where you can step off the zip line and play in the ocean or wander on over to a jerk-chicken style barbeque.

IMG_7142

Arawak Aqua Park

The first thing that we spotted upon disembarking the ship, were the inflatables. It was like a huge jungle gym afloat in the Caribbean, perfect for families. Arawak Aqua Park includes fun, floating trampolines, water slides, a riding and rolling log, as well as several other floating toys.

IMG_7143

Dragon’s Splash Waterslide~ This saltwater slide is fun for the entire family! My husband went down at a snails pace and couldn’t quite get the rhythm while our kids came barreling down doing spins. The slide is just under 300 feet long and ends in a 18-foot splash area. The pathway to the slide is called Columbus Coves’ forest where you’ll climb a stone pathway through the jungle to reach the Dragon’s head. The waterslide pass is good for the entire day!

IMG_7114

There is so much to do in Labadee!!! We cruised into the port on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas ship. As you can tell by the pictures, it was an overcast day with bright sun and then rain the next minute. In addition to the excursions that we participated in, there is a DreamWorks Photo Safari, Dragon’s Tail Coaster, Haiti coastal cruise, lounge chair & cabana rentals, yacht sailing, Sandbar Island Adult Party, beach bungalow rentals, full day beach bed rental, kayaking, historical walking tour, sport fishing, snorkeling and jet skiing. We are definitely doing the jet skis next year!

IMG_7111

Shopping!! Shop for beautiful handmade, local artwork, woodwork and crafts. Some of the vendors can be pushy and I read in reviews, that they can be aggressive as well. We did not experience any aggressive vendors. The shopping area is separate from the lounging beach area and the vendors cannot leave the shopping area. I noticed beautiful jewelry, sculptures and purchased an ornament. The shopping area is very clean and strategically placed on the pathway to the waterslide, inflatables, and jet skis.

Interesting Facts~ Royal Caribbean employs 200 locals at Labadee and allows another 300 to sell their wares on the premises. Royal Caribbean pays the Haitian government $12 per tourist.

IMG_7171

Fabulous day in Labadee

We will definitely be heading back to Labadee next year for Spring Break!!! Ironically, it was our favorite port in the Eastern Caribbean.

 

 

The Amazing Race Excursion, St. Maarten

 

IMG_7351

Fill the cup up with sea water using a single sponge

 

IMG_7339

17426091_10155079419786838_4407032217884582428_n

Ferry Ride

We’re always looking for something fun an exciting to do as a family while on vacation. Our kids are very athletic and love to be outside. So, after reading about Tri-Sport Eco Tours – The Amazing Race, we were all in!! Since our favorite family game is Clue, a scavenger hunt was right up our alley. The Amazing Race tour is the perfect way to sightsee while running (or walking) through St. Maarten. 3 hours of fun for $75 per person. A staff member was waiting at the meeting location to lead us to the ferry for a short ride over to the race starting point.

IMG_7393

IMG_7348

Reading the Challenge Card

Enjoy the gorgeous views while sailing on over to the starting point. The waters of St. Maarten are emerald-green with tropical breezes and colorful umbrellas lining the white sand beaches. We were fortunate to meet fun and energetic competitors on the ferry. Upon arrival, the guide suggested that we team up in groups of 4-10, so we teamed up with two other people. Then, it was time to choose a team name. After careful brainstorming, we came up with Team Mana (magical power).

IMG_7384

Philipsburg

Next, the guide starts handing out the first clue and reviewing the rules. Pay close attention, to ALL of the rules as we learned the hard way and took a penalty. E.g. don’t use your phone to research answers on the quizzes. You may use your phone to snap pictures of sites and structures that you’ll need to remember later. Keep in mind, there is a quiz at the end of the competition so be sure to read the information on the monuments and statues. The guide ran through the rules very quickly and people were talking all around us.

IMG_7386

Team Mana

Team Prep~ Get to know the strengths of each person on your team. For example, my knee wasn’t real strong at the time so we chose another team member for the intense exercise drills. Choose a team leader and know who can interpret the clues fast and reiterate to the rest of the team. Since our family of four was on the team, we chose a ‘non-family member’ to spit out the clues to avoid any arguing. Ha! Most of all, designate a photographer to capture all of those candid moments.

IMG_7368

Ready, Set, Race!!! Let the race begin through 2.5 miles of downtown Philipsburg. Each team is IMG_7340issued clues and must use those clues to find the location of an item, which may be in a shop, store window or a symbol on a building. The guide encouraged our team to walk the race and take in all the sights; however, our team consisted of an IronMan and an avid runner so we all chose to run the race!

IMG_7374

Racing through Philipsburg

The website mentions bonus point challenges consisting of mental and physical challenges such as building a sand castle or sampling foods. We were not presented with bonus challenges.

17425836_10155079667561838_3385843965800799351_n

If you have questions during the challenge or if you’re heading the wrong direction, there are friendly staff in bright green shirts along the way to assist. At one point our entire team was running the wrong way and the other teams were following us, so the staff turned us around. Ha!

IMG_7377The finish!!! Keep in mind that the team who crosses the finish line first doesn’t necessarily win. The final score is calculated based on the finishing time AND the total points for the challenge.  Our team crossed the finish line first but did not result in the most points. Either way, we’re winners in our own right and scored a bottle of rum! It was refreshing to have a cold cup of rum punch (punch for the kids is available) at the finish. The staff is really fun and friendly. Although, I do believe the rules could have been outlined or explained more clearly.

IMG_7390

Winners!!

IMG_7354Tips~ Definitely wear tennis shoes, a hat and apply sunblock. A bottle of water is provided, but I highly recommend bringing your own. It was a long, hot day and we were running a lot and would not want to be limited to one bottle. Eat a hearty breakfast as only a small snack is provided at the end and there isn’t much time to go out to lunch afterwards if returning to a cruise ship. Most importantly, have FUN and LAUGH a lot.

17362012_10155079747076838_5333431232115884155_n

Book your tour at:

https://www.trisportsxm.com/the-amazing-race-tour-9.html

Château de Versailles

Versailles5

While visiting Paris, The Palace of Versailles was top on our list of sites to see. I grew up following my mom around from home tour to home tour, and listening to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous playing in the background, so maybe it is in my blood? When I became an adult, I loved attending home tours put on by benefits and charities. To this day, I am fascinated by palaces and mansions.

Plan on taking your time going through Versailles. Don’t plan Versailles and other sites on the same day. Similiar to that of the Lourve, Windsor Castle, or Vatican, it is not something you can rush through.

The Palace of Versailles is located 13 miles outside of Paris which takes approximately 38 minutes by car. It is a World Heritage Site and noted as a great achievement of French 17th century art. To say that this blog post covers a fraction of the Palace would be a gross exaggeration. To put it in perspective, the Palace is capable of holding up to 20,000 people, 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,250 fireplaces, and 67 staircases, spread over 26,000 acres. Throughout the years, Versailles has undergone many phases of restoration and construction. I won’t dive too deep into the various renovations. I recommend booking a tour to avoid the overwhelming feeling when you step foot onto grounds and ask yourself, “Where do I begin?” We booked a tour which included transportation to and from Paris. The great thing about group tours is that generally, they include free time to explore.

Versailles8

I love the picture above so much, that it is the screen saver on my laptop to which I view daily. One thing to note, we toured the Palace of Versailles in December and from the pictures it was overcast, gloomy and cold. I always use my own photographs when blogging, which takes me right back to the exact moment, temperature of the day and experience. I travel vicariously through my own memories via photographs.

If planning a trip to Versailles, do research to consider the best time of year, weather and crowds. I loved visiting the Palace in December. While I don’t have any other time of year to compare it to, I can say that it was not crowded. There is something magical about entering the palace, bundled up in heavy coats and boots with gloomy skies. The only disadvantage I can think of, is that we were too cold to spend much time walking about the beautiful gardens.

Background~ When the château was built, Versailles was just a small village in the 11th century. Today, Versailles is a wealthy area outside of Paris. The fascination with the palace is not just its mere grandeur, it is the history of political power, The French Revolution, Louis XIV and the royal family dating back to 1682.

Versailles

Gate of Honour

The picture above is the Gate of Honor which can be seen from the three main avenues that meet to form the Place d’Armes. 10 million people walk through this gate annually to tour the estate! The original gate was made of 80m of wrought iron and gold leaf. The picture above is an exact replica which cost £4 million, over two years to contruct and 100,000 gold leaves formed in the shape of crowns, makes of Apollo, and cornucopia. The original Gate of Honour was created in the 1680’s.

Versailles13

Queen’s bedchamber in the Grand Appartement de la Reine

The grand appartement de la reine was the residence of three queens of France to include Marie Therese d’Autriche, Marie Leszczynska, and Marie-Antoinette. The apartment represented heroines from years past while adding balance to the room’s decor.  The apartment consisted of seven rooms with doorways in line on the left-wing while the right-wing was almost an exact layout of the grand appartement du roi.

Versailles3

Ministers Courtyard

The palace has a massive cobblestone courtyard, above, which opens up to gorgeous, detailed, architecturally designed buildings to make up the Ministers Courtyard. The name represents the two long ministerial buildings standing on either side. The Versailles chapel, located in the center of the courtyard is assessable from inside the palace. I enjoyed walking through the courtyard and looking up, taking in the size and detail of each structure.

Versailles4

Bronze Statue of the Rhone River

Fe Brun and Le Nôtre collaborated on the numerous fountains at the palace.

Versailles11

The Mercury Room

The Mercury Room, also known as the Mercury Salon, is located in the King’s Grand Apartment. The room is fascinating as it houses the original, royal bedchamber in the State Apartments. It is referred to as “the bedroom”. The room is decorated with tables, mirrors, andirons (metal supports that hold wood in a fire-place) and chandeliers made of silver. The nook is separated from the rest of the room by a terrace made of silver. While much of the furniture in the Mercury Room has been recreated, the bed is the original bed that was placed by Louis-Philippe when he transformed Versailles from a royal residence into a museum.

 

Versailles7

The Palace of Versailles, as we know it today, was completed by the death of Louis XIV in 1715. There are two enormous asymmetrical wings on either side of the Royal Court totaling 1,319 ft in length. 

Versailles9

Chapels at Versailles~ I love touring cathedrals and chapels throughout Europe, taking in the columns, colored marble, ornate detail throughout, and of course the murals. The ceiling in the chapel is breathtaking.

Since the palace began, five versions of the chapel at Versailles have evolved. The current chapel, located at the south end of the north wing, is The Chapel of the Palace of Versailles, the last major project for Louis XIV. The Chapel represents French Baroque architecture and ministerial decoration. The Chapel was dedicated to Saint Louis, patron saint of the Bourbons.

Versailles12

Galerie des Glaces

The Hall of Mirrors~ I have to say the most popular room seems to be The Hall of Mirrors, whose construction began in 1678. The picture does not do it justice. Obtaining a picture without anyone in it is nearly an impossible feat! As you can see, I managed between the tours. The official name is ~ The Galerie des Glaces, perhaps the most celebrated room in the château of Versailles. Jules Hardouin-Mansart replaced Le Vau’s large terrace, facing the garden on the west, with the most famous room of the palace, the Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors north side displays art work inspired by the Salon of War, depicting the king’s victory against a European coalition.  While the south side of the Hall, displays art work inspired by a Salon of Peace. It is famous for many of the ceremonies of the French Court during the Ancient Regime. There are numerous renditions around the world, but there is only one Hall of Mirrors. Comparable to being in Florence and settling for the replica of the Statue of David.

Versailles6

Gardens of Versailles

The Gardens of Versailles~ The gardens represent a French formal garden known as jardin à la française. The garden has a specific style in a way of calling nature to order. Notice the symmetric lines, the garden was designed by Andre Le Notre for Louis XIV. We would have loved to have spent more time exploring the gardens but it was so cold in December. Nonetheless, they were very beautiful even in December.

Interesting Facts~ 181 films have been shot at the Palace of Versailles. A television series called Versailles set during the construction of the Palace in Louis XIV’s reign premiered on November 16, 2015 in France and later in Canada, Britain and the U.S. Dior filmed one of the most glamorous commercials in the Hall of Mirrors featuring actress Charlize Theron advertising the fragrance J’Adore at the Palace of Versailles in 2012 to Depeche Mode’s song Enjoy the Silence.

Versailles2

Versailles is definitely worth the time that it takes to tour the grounds. Make a day of it!

See the world

Eiffel Tower in December

 

Eiffel5

There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris ~ Ernest Hemmingway

When you think of Paris, the Eiffel Tower has to be the first thing that comes to mind. My mom and I planned a trip to Paris and London in 2014 and had an amazing time running all over the place. I truly believe that you will never regret making memories through travel with the ones that you love. First stop, Eiffel Tower!! After all, it is the one of the top recognized structures of the world and the most visited monument with almost 7 million people per year. After touring Paris in the winter, le croissant and French onion soup are a close second! The Eiffel Tower, named after Gustave Eiffel, is built of wrought iron and located on Champs de Mars. The iconic tower was built from 1887-1889 for the World’s Fair.

Upon checking into our hotel, located on George 5th, the Eiffel tower was located to the right a couple of blocks down. We were fortunate enough to be able to walk to the tower during the day and at night, walking anywhere in December can be bone chilling cold.

Eiffel4

A quote from one of my favorite movies, Sabrina~ “La Vie En Rose: It means seeing life through rose colored glasses, but only in Paris where the light is pink”

As you can see, in the picture above, the Eiffel Tower in December is often surrounded by gray clouds, blistery cold wind and rain or mist. The tower stands 1,063 ft tall, which equates to an 81-story building, making it the tallest building in Paris. As the elevator takes passengers to the observation deck, it can be a little scary looking down. If you are afraid of heights as my mom is, close your eyes. At one time, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest man-made structure in the world and remained such for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York was built in 1930. The Eiffel Tower is the second tallest building in France.

Eif

View from the lift

As we reached the site of the Eiffel Tower, I was taken aback by the number of guards carrying automatic weapons pacing back and forth, of course this was in 2014. I was familiar with high levels of security as well as police in the United States at touristy areas, but couldn’t remember at that time seeing military with semi-automatic weapons. I wasn’t sure if I felt safer or if it made me more aware? The picture above on the left is standing on the observation deck and the picture to the right is standing in line.

Eiffel8

The tower has three levels which visitors can explore. The first & second levels have restaurants while the upper level, also known as the observation deck (906 feet high), is a fantastic place to take pictures. If you love to climb, tickets are available for visitors to access the tower via stairs. Keep in mind it takes 300 steps to reach the first level. No thanks! I could barely climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but then again those stairs are leaning. We opted to take the elevator (lift) complete with large glass, viewing windows.

Eiffel1

View from the top

$$ Saving Tips~ There are several different modes of transportation to/from the Eiffel Tower. Check with the concierge if you are staying at a hotel or preview a map. We walked from our hotel. It is not necessary to book a tour of the Eiffel Tower, but may be convenient if you are traveling with an elderly family member or small children to ensure less walking, waiting and standing. Many of the tour companies pre-pay the tickets to bypass standing in the line. Some of the tours include dinner at the restaurant within the tower. Others tack on sailing the Seine River. If traveling in the winter, there isn’t a need to purchase the fast pass Eiffel Tower tickets because the lines are short. Save your money and purchase the regular ticket. It was a total of 20 minutes from the time we stood in line until we were at the top of the tower.

Eiffel3

Touring Tulum

tulum-3

tulum5

Ferry Ride to Tulum

Tulum is the site of the pre-Columbian, Mayan, walled city ruins which lie on 39-feet tall cliffs dating back to 13th & 15th centuries. Tulum is located along the Caribbean Sea in Quintana Roo, Mexico and is one of the best-preserved of all Maya coastal sites. Tulum is one of the last cities inhabited by the Mayan people. Old World diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned.

We sailed into Cozumel and then took a ferry ride to Playa del Carmen, which is located in the state of Quintana Roo. We hopped on a tour bus in Playa del Carmen for an hour ride to Tulum.

tulum

Tulum was formerly known as Zama, The City of Dawn, due to it’s position facing the sunrise. Sitting along the Caribbean Sea, Tulum means wall, fence, or trench. Designed as a fort, with access to land and sea, it was a site to defend against invasions, worship and operated as a crucial trade hub. The population is estimated to be 1,000-1,600 inhabitants.

387

Europeans discovered Tulum during the Spanish expedition of 1518, Juan Diaz specifically. As described in the novel, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Tulum was described as tall, impressive buildings according to the authors John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood. Maps and sketches were created of the site and discovery of an inscription date of AD 564 on the stele (stone), showing that the stone was most likely transported to Tulum from someplace else.

tulum-2

On your way out of Tulum there are amazing food options! We had the best tacos of our lives served with a plastic bag of pico de gallo to pour over. They serve HUGE margaritas with a salt rim. If you are on a tour, be sure to pay attention to the departure time, especially when drinking those margaritas. We almost missed our tour due to the language barrier and….possibly tequila.

$$ Saving Tips~ Be sure to have pesos, Tulum does not accept US currency. I would advise against using a credit card, unless you speak Spanish. I love sharing all of our “lessons learned the hard way” with travelers. We used a credit card for lunch after we ordered and ate the food, of course, then realized that the waiter could not relay what the credit card machine was saying. He was handing us the pin pad but our credit card doesn’t have a pin, didn’t know if it was asking for a zip code or what? Then he went back into the kitchen to tell the cooks in Spanish and they all were staring at us but apparently, no one spoke English. It took so long to figure out that we almost missed our departure time.

I advise against ordering a Dip n Dots ice cream unless you’ve never had one and are absolutely dying to try it. Our daughter was insistent on having an ice cream on the blazing hot and humid day in March so they ordered one and next thing we knew, we were totally ripped off! Of course, they only accept pesos but it equaled $10 US dollars for one tiny cup.

tulum-4

Taco Time!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port Falmouth, Jamaica

276

After four years of construction, the $220-million, purpose-built Historic Falmouth Cruise Port, opened in 2011. Located on the north coast of Jamaica, Falmouth is the capital of Trelawny parish. It is 60 miles from Ocho Rios port and 18 miles from Montego Bay.

Prior to exploring any port, always do your research first. When sailing with Royal Caribbean, we made it a point to read the customer reviews on Jamaica. Most were fair, some were poor relating to safety and theft. All of the reviews about Falmouth Port were favorable, as vendors are approved, the port is well guarded and only cruise ship passengers can get in. So, we decided to browse around the port and see what it had to offer. Normally we book an excursion or tour when in port, but this time we decided to explore on our own.

260

Jamaican Patty

First stop, Jamaican patty!  What is a patty? It’s a type of pastry filled with meats such as ground beef, pork, lamb, chicken, lobster, or fish and mixed with spices, vegetables and cheese. Patties are similar to a turnover but not sweet. Turmeric is added to give the pastry a golden yellow color. Patties are common in Jamaica, the coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Patties are considered a meal often eaten with coco bread.

jamaica2

Hair braiding

252Why is hair braiding so popular in Jamaica? Cornrows got the name due to the raised braid in a continuous row. In the Caribbean, braids are known as canerows, which is an ancient traditional African hairstyle using an underhand style very close to the scalp. Cornrow braids originate from Africa dating back thousands of years. Cornrows are a specific type of braid, small and tight. They are very popular with Jamaican men and women. Cornrow braids are also appealing to tourists and for this reason, hair braiding is available all around the port.

Margaritaville

Margaritaville

 

Margarita Hot Tub

Margarita Hot Tub

Of course we ended up at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville!!! Complete with a pool, swim-up bar, mini version of Dunn’s River Falls, and a hot tub shaped like a margarita glass (pictured). Even though it is very touristy, we loved grabbing lunch at Margaritaville- something different than the cruise. As you step foot off of the ship and into the terminal, you’ll be greeted by red-roofed, Caribbean-style buildings, housing, and businesses. There were musicians performing in the center of the port and plenty of craft markets, rum and jewelry stores. We felt very safe and no one approached us to sell merchandise.

Despite what you may think, Jamaican music includes much more than just reggae. There is Jamaica folk, ska, rocksteady, dub music, dancehall, jazz, mento and reggae fusion. The music culture is a fusion of elements incorporating Trinidad and Tobago.

Tip~ don’t sample rum unless you plan on buying a lot! My husband was sampling several different types and then we were obligated to purchase and ending up giving it all to our room attendant as we carried on luggage.

jamaica3

For those of you who like to venture out a bit and explore, check out some of the architectural sights such as Falmouth Court House and St. Peter’s Anglican Church. We did not explore outside of the port; however, several tourists complained of being hassled by vendors. I would recommend booking a tour through a tour company and not walk around on your own if you’d rather not be hassled.

jamaica7

$$ Saving Tips~ Discuss cost of hair braids with the vendor prior to getting your hair braided. Please note, you can bring alcohol on board the ship and they will hold it for you until departure but you cannot take it to your room.

280