Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bryan Family Christmas Cruise, Part 5: Just a situation, mon

And now for our final port of call - Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Of course we were greeted by the sounds of reggae and Bob Marley wannabes hustling us for tips.  Welcome to Jamaica, mon!  We muscled our way through the cruise ship crowd and found the right group of shore excursion people, hooking up with our driver Don who proceeded to fight traffic and zoom us through the craziness that is Christmas Eve traffic in Montego Bay.  We wound our way around several problems...only in Jamaica, it's not a problem, it's merely a "situation."  I don't think my Type A-ness fits in with the island vibe very well.

Now, Jamaica's not quite as sparkly and clean as some of our other dreamy beach destinations - in fact, on this one we were driving past the iffy parts of town AND then quite a way into the countryside to go on a plantation tour.  At least we had an entertaining driver!  But you know, I just can't get used to the "drive on the left" business...and people are crazy-aggressive drivers there.  We found that it was best to just hold on for dear life and hope for the best.

Our first stop on this island tour was St. James, an Anglican church established in Montego Bay in 1775.  I thought it would be pretty cool to attend a church service here if for no other reason than to listen to hymns on steel drums - very island.  We stayed for a little while and took in some of the history and architecture, and I even climbed up a rickety little staircase to check out the bells.  Cool.

After whipping past fields of sugarcane and limestone quarries, we made our way past a burnt-out van or two (yeah, a little sketchy on some of these roads) and arrived at Mount Olive basic school.  Yup, school over the holidays.  I was wondering just what exactly this part of the tour would include - I mean, it's kinda weird to drag the kids in on Christmas Eve so they can show us their latest projects and sing to us.  We came to the conclusion that it was basically a ploy to suck money and sympathy out of us.  Interesting.  The kids were kinda cute, though.

Looking both scholarly AND a tad confused by our setting.

Nice colouring of the flag, kids!

Dad gets a chance to show off his social graces.

Sing it, kids!

After this...interesting...stop, we continued on our way to Johns Hall for our "plantation tour."  Yes, I'm throwing that one into quotation marks because...well, it just wasn't quite what we were expecting.  We did watch some fresh coconuts get whacked by a machete and then share their delicious freshness with us...

And we got to see some cool plantation-y things like tiny baby bananas...

...and coffee beans, which I think are exceptionally cute and kinda Christmasy before they get all roasted and delicious...

...and we got to chew on sugarcane, which was both tasty AND fun...

but the whole thing was very scripted and much less "oooh, wow, a way cool plantation!" than it could have been.  And for what we paid, I think everyone would have appreciated about three times the amount of food we got for lunch.  Although it was cool to try things like breadfruit (fruit!  that tastes like BREAD!  it was so cool) and salted codfish with ackee and real jerk chicken.  Of course, a certain Jamaican beer might make you care a little less about the whole thing.

And we did get some beautiful scenery out of the whole thing!

After one more life-on-the-edge driving experience to get us back to the pier, we headed back onto the big boat to get set for a couple of days at sea after some island time.  I chilled on the deck with my book for a while and captured yet more pictures of yet more sky and water and island.  I just couldn't help myself.

After dinner, some people were hanging out in our seats at the bar (yes, OUR seats!  we'd claimed a corner of the Aquarium Bar as our own to hang out and listen to good live music), but we waited them out and finally made it to a chill place.  The rest of the night?  Dad and I went to the crazy show in the main theater, we played a few rounds of Christmas Eve card games, and then we called it a night.  Santa's coming!  All the way out into the ocean!  At preciesely 8:30 am in Studio B!  Oh, the cruise.

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