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Port Antonio, Jamaica

Dec 5, 2018 – Port Antonio, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I sleep in until 8AM, get dressed and go to the dining room for breakfast. I have a cappuccino with some pastries, fruit, and a spoonful of scrambled eggs. The ship arrives in Port Antonio on schedule at 10AM. There’s a pretty serious crunch as the ship makes contact with the concrete pier in the stern. The crew make some repairs while we’re docked.

I find this sailing ship is a photographer’s dream if you look up at the fantastic rigging and sails, and it is also a nightmare, because there are lines and masts everywhere obstructing clear views overboard!

I am on the shore excursion Highlights of Port Antonio. First stop in our minibus is to view Trident Castle, a German-built modern castle located on a beautiful cove, which mainly caters to weddings. We don’t go into the castle, but instead carry on to the Jamaica Palace Hotel, which is our first stop. It is a very striking hotel, and has surprisingly reasonable room rates starting at US$120/night. We are given a Rum Punch welcome drink, and a tour of the extensive grounds including their art gallery.

Jamaica Palace Hotel plaza and villas

Along the way, we learn about the resident crocodiles in Springs area, and how the national fruit Aki opens naturally and is eaten with salt fish (the national dish). We make a stop at the Blue Lagoon, which I find underwhelming. Trident Castle, Jamaica Palace Hotel, and Blue Lagoon are all touted as being used as locations for movies.

Frenchman’s Cove, beach, and freshwater stream

Our last stop is Frenchman’s Cove, where there is a private beach for us to lounge on and swim from. There is a freshwater stream beside the beach flowing into a saltwater cove – both of which are very pretty. Unfortunately, the water in both is quite cold, so I don’t bother trying to swim or snorkel, instead preferring to sit on the beach in the shade of a palm tree. The beach is not crowded, and we have a couple of hours here to enjoy ourselves before returning to the ship.

All 44 sails are set as we leave Port Antonio and then they are taken down again once the Sun sets and the ship is underway. Being a square-rigged sailing ship, the Royal Clipper needs a following wind to actually proceed under sail. The southeast winds we are encountering are virtually on the nose of the ship, hence the reason for the sails being taken down when the ship is underway, although the stay sails are often left up to improve the ship’s stability.

At dinner this evening, I’m seated with a Texan couple who are both real characters. She submitted a request for one of the desserts appearing on the menu this evening – Floating Island with prune. I ordered it, and found is was pretty nice – thin custard on the bottom, merengue, and a dollop of pureed prune.

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Boarding the Royal Clipper

Dec 4, 2018 – Boarding the Royal Clipper & departing Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

I sleep in until about 8AM, meet my friends downstairs for breakfast, and then it’s time to return to my room to pack. We check out at 12PM, check our bags with the hotel and go across the street to the Starbucks at Doctor’s Cave Beach for coffee, snacks, and to hang out for awhile. We return to the hotel lobby and leave for the ship a bit after 3PM for a 4PM check-in.

We have to clear Jamaican customs and immigration before we embark the ship. They shake us down for a Departure Fee of US$35 each, applicable to anyone who stays in Jamaica for more than 24 hours! Once aboard, the usual cruise ship check-in takes place, where they take passports, preauthorize a credit card to pay the shipboard account, photograph everyone, and issue a passenger ID card to run the accounts on and for leaving/returning the ship at the various ports-of-call (in place of a passport).

Unfurling one of the four stay sails as the ship departs Montego Bay

After everyone is aboard, there is a lifeboat drill, which is conducted in English, German and French, so it takes quite awhile! I go to dinner with my friends, where we are seated with an American and two Brits. The meal is lovely – I have escargot and a salad to start, sea bass for my main course, and three almond cookies with strawberry sauce for dessert. I finish with a cappuccino, which costs 2.50 Euros (CD$3.75).

The crew set two of the four staysails during the evening departure of the Royal Clipper from Montego Bay. They play Conquest of Paradise every time they raise sails on the trip, which gets a bit tedious after awhile!

Champagne is served on deck as we depart the port. It is a lovely evening with warm tropical breezes in my face. Despite not having stabilizers, the ship rides surprisingly well as we pull offshore for the overnight passage to Port Antonio – a small town further along the coast of Jamaica.

Overnight route of Royal Clipper from Montego Bay to Port Antonio, Jamaica
Overnight route of Royal Clipper
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Montego Bay, Jamaica

Dec 3, 2018 – Deja Resort, Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

My source of early morning cappuccino at Starbucks
My source of early morning cappuccino at Starbucks

I had a good sleep last night, as I recover from the 20+ hours traveling to get here. The resort’s espresso bar isn’t open when I get up shortly after 7AM, so I go across the street to the Starbucks to get my cappuccino – essential to start my day!

I decide to go for a swim at the adjacent Doctor’s Cave Beach, which as Deja Resort guests, we have privileges at. So I change into my swimsuit, put on some shorts and beach shoes, grab a beach towel and get an entry ticket from the front desk. I have a lovely swim in the warm ocean before the crowds descend on the place an hour or two later. After a shower and a change of clothes, I go downstairs for some breakfast, and have a second cup of coffee.

My friends call to say they are going to the beach and invite me to join them. I sit on the deck in the shade while they have a swim, and then we sit and chat for an hour or so after they get out of the water. A Jamaican man at the top of the stairs checking admission tickets seems to want to talk with us about Bob Marley and the start of reggae on the island and overseas. He’s very nice but rather talkative, so we end up staying there a bit longer than we had otherwise planned!

I have a cappuccino in the resort’s espresso bar, and later some lunch downstairs – more delicious fried fish, rice and veggies. I take it easy this afternoon at the resort, alternating between napping, working on my photos and journal on my laptop, and staying cool sipping Jamaican Red Stripe draught lager. Beer and wine, mixed drinks, espresso, and food is all served as part of the all-inclusive service at the resort. This is a pretty sweet deal considering we paid less here for a room than available elsewhere in the area.

After we have dinner at the resort, I finish my journaling and photo work on my laptop before going to bed. We board the ship tomorrow afternoon, so I want to be well-rested and ready to go.

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Toronto to Montego Bay

Dec 2, 2018 Flight from Toronto, Canada to Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

After landing in Toronto at 6:24am, I have about three hours to wait for my next flight on WestJet to Jamaica. My departure gate is only a few gates away from the one I arrive at, so that makes it easy. Since there was no breakfast service on the incoming flight, once I find my next gate, my first task is to find some cappuccino. Of course Starbucks is always very handy, so I have a tall cappuccino and some banana nut bread.

Cheese Blintzes

My friends show up at the gate about an hour later and want some breakfast, so we go to nearby Caplansky’s Deli. They have some eggs and coffee. I have cheese blintzes, which are stuffed with ricotta cream cheese, and come with blueberry compote – very good and only $6!

Our Boeing 737-800 WestJet flight is soon boarding, so we join the usual organized confusion at the gate, but board with no problems. Our female captain says our flight time will be 3:56 to Montego Bay, flying at 35,000’. It takes the crew well over an hour to serve snacks and beverages to the Economy section. I buy my usual hummus and crackers, knowing that will be all I get for lunch.

We fly over Chesapeake Bay less than an hour after our departure. A couple of hours later after flying offshore from the US Seaboard, there are lots of beautiful tropical islands to take photos of (see banner image above) as we overfly The Bahamas. We next overfly Cuba. There is a northern tropical island offshore, but Cuba isn’t spectacular, since it is a huge landmass and it is covered in clouds.

Airport ground crew waiting for clearance to unload the aircraft WestJet at Montego Bay
Airport ground crew waiting for clearance to unload our aircraft at Montego Bay

After we land in Montego Bay, we are asked to remain in our seats for quite a long time, despite being at the gate. It becomes apparent why when the police come aboard and escort a family off the aircraft before anyone else. There was a heated discussion while we were in the air between a flight attendant and a woman assisting her grandmother to the forward washroom. Obviously the flight attendant decided to bring the matter to the attention of the captain, who must have called the authorities in Jamaica.

Joe in front of Deja Resort in the warm sunshine

After that drama plays out, everyone debarks and then we hit the extremely crowded Immigration Hall, where everyone waits a good half hour to enter the country. We retrieve our checked bags and clear Customs in short order, however finding our hotel shuttle in the confusion outside the terminal proves to be a challenge. I call the resort, and they promise to send their shuttle. Almost immediately after I hang up, my friends spot a sign in a vehicle window reading “Deja Resort”, so we hop in and are driven the short distance. Our rooms aren’t ready, so we wait about a half hour in the lobby.

After travelling for over 20 hours since I left home, it feels good to be free of airlines, airports, and throngs of people, and to be standing on solid ground under the tropical Sun! After having some fried fish, rice and veggies for dinner, I’m ready for bed.