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Jamaica Travel News

The following is a round-up of travel news culled from the Jamaica Gleaner and the Jamaican Observer newspapers.

Make the historic Cuba Cruise

Five days after the winter tourist season commences, Jamaica will be part of history when Louis Critsal Cruises sails out of Montego Freeport en route to Cuba.

This is the first time that a cruise line will operate ships between the two neighbouring countries.

During an interview on Monday, Cuba Cruise’s marketing and media coordinator, Melissa Medeiros, confirmed that the first ship from the tourism capital will depart on Friday, December 20, and operate every Friday until March 21, 2014. Read more here.

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Jewel Paradise Cove Opens

The 225-room Jewel Paradise Cove hotel in Runaway Bay, St Ann, officially opened last weekend to become the third hotel in the Jewel brand owned by Sagicor Life Jamaica.

Jewel Paradise Cove joined the Jewel Runaway Bay, and the Jewel Dunn’s River in Mammee Bay, St Ann, as Sagicor extended its interest in Jamaica’s tourism product. Described by the company as its most contemporary spa resort, the redesigned adult-only property sparkles from its multimillion-dollar upgrade, offering services that are centred on its health, spa, and fitness theme.

Private balconies and patios have been added to the rooms, another evidence of the physical enhancement that has been made to the property. Of the 225 rooms, 15 are junior suites that have been totally refurbished to offer more luxurious accommodation for the guests. For more.

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Jamaica on Target to Make Stopover History

THIS year is shaping up to be the best in the history of stopover arrivals, with preliminary figures suggesting that Jamaica could welcome more than two million visitors to the island by the end of the year, according to Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill.

“The 15th (today) is the start of the season but if we continue tracking at that pace, as we are doing now, we will have a landmark year as for the first time in history we would surpass two million stopover visitors for 2013,” McNeill told editors and reporters at the Jamaica Observer Press Club held at the newspaper’s head offices in St Andrew on Thursday. Read more here.

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$20-billion Boost For Tourism Sector

Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill has said that over $20 billion in investments have been earmarked for Jamaica’s tourism sector.

“What we have on the books in terms of investment is about 20 billion in the tourism sector and it brings about 840 rooms on stream which are either new rooms or old rooms that have been completely refurbished,” McNeill said. Read more here.

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Shorter Wait Expected at Airports

With thousands of visitors expected to travel to Jamaica during the 2013/2014 winter tourist season which begins today, efforts are underway to lesson the lengthy wait in long lines at the island’s two international airports.

According to Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill, the process has already begun with the removal of the outgoing immigration service, which had contributed to the bottleneck, from both the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. Read more here.

5 Reasons to Get Out of Negril and explore Westmoreland

Negril’s legendary 7-mile white sand beach and its laid-back attitude draw thousands of visitors annually. Most are content with relaxing on the beach that straddles two parishes, Westmoreland and Hanover, but there are several reasons to get out and explore what lies beyond the sand on the Westmoreland side.

The eighth largest of Jamaica’s 14 parishes, Westmoreland takes up the south western end of Jamaica. It was first settled by Taino and Ciboney Indians, remains of whom have been found in Negril and Bluefields, which lies several miles up the coast from Savanna la Mar, the capital. Christopher Columbus stopped in Bluefields, known then as Oristan or Oristano, and a settlement was formed there in 1519, making it one of the oldest settled areas in the island.

Westmoreland is also home to a large population of the descendants of indentured laborers who came from the Indian subcontinent to work on the island after slavery was abolished.

Nature

Royal Palm Nature Reserve: Part of the 10,000-acre Great Morass, the wetland area extending from Westmoreland into the neighboring parish of St. Elizabeth, this 300 acre expanse of towering Royal Palms, is the largest stand in the world. The half-mile boardwalk allows you to see up close many of the more than 300 species of reptiles, birds, and butterflies, and over 114 species of flowers. There are also extensive deposits of peat. Open daily, 9-6. Cost: $15 adults, $7 children. Located in Sheffield, a few miles from Negril. 876-364-7404

Mayfield Falls: Billed as Jamaica’s #1 eco-tourism destination, Mayfield Falls boasts waterfalls, 21 natural pools, 52 varieties of ferns, and flowers, butterflies and birds. 876-610-8612

Roaring River Park & Cave: The park and cave are located on the Roaring River Estate that was once owned by the Hay and Beckford families and later taken over by the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCo). The property gets its name from the river that provides water for much of the parish of Westmoreland. The limestone cave and a blue hole, which sits on private property, are both major attractions for the area. Guided tours of the cave and community can be provided by residents of the community for a fee. Located near Petersfield, a visit to Roaring River can be paired with a trip to Abeokuta (below) a few miles away.

5 Reasons to Get Out of Negril - Abeokuta

5 Reasons to Get Out of Negril – Abeokuta

Abeokuta Private Nature Park: When slaves came to this part of Jamaica, they brought with them the memory of the place in Nigeria where they had come from. To them, this small corner of Westmoreland reminded them of it and they named it Abeokuta. Now a nature park, it was officially opened in 2003 by the Nigerian High Commissioner to Jamaica. On the grounds are the ruins of an old great house, an aqueduct, which channels water from a river a quarter mile away into a near Olympic-size pool. The pool is possibly one of the oldest swimming pools in Jamaica. From Abeokuta, you can see as far as the coast. 876-891-0837 Located near Dean’s Valley.

Blue Hole Mineral Spring: I have not checked out this spring yet but it looks very inviting. Pool and mineral spring. Wabba 876-860-8805 Near Negril.

Sports

Negril Hills Golf Club: 18 holes, par 72, 6,333 yards, tennis court, pro shop and restaurant. 876-957-4638. Negril

Culture

Seaford Town: One of Jamaica’s best known German communities, Seaford Town, welcomed immigrants from Germany in the 1830s. A small museum documents the history of this community.

Hilton High Day Tour: A day tour of Hilton Plantation can be combined with a trip to Seaford Town, a few yards away. The tour includes a buffet lunch of roasted pig. Enjoy a relaxing stroll around the plantation, which is located in Westmoreland’s Montpelier Mountains.

Although Seaford Town and Hilton Plantation are located geographically in Westmoreland, they are best reached from Montego Bay.

Heritage Sites

Manning's School - Thomas Manning Building, photo from website

Manning’s School – Thomas Manning Building

Manning’s School: Although not a tourist site, Manning’s, founded in 1738 on land bequeathed by Thomas Manning in 1710 for a free school, is the second oldest high school in Jamaica. Its main building, now a library, is a Georgian structure that was constructed of timber. It has a vented gable roof, a cupola with fixed jalousie to provide ventilation, and deep verandahs on the sides. Located in Savanna la Mar, the capital.

Negril Point Lighthouse: Built by a French company in 1894 on a 14 foot deep tank which is filled with water to keep the lighthouse stable in the event of an earthquake. The lighthouse is painted white and rises 66 feet above ground.

Negril Hills Golf Club

Negril Hills Golf Club

Chebuctoo Great House: This Georgian style great house was declared a national monument in 2008. Chebuctoo, which is located on a pimento farm in Cave (near Bluefields) got its name from the Indian name of Halifax, with which Jamaica had significant trade in the 18th century, especially in salted fish.

View of the Caribbean Sea from Chebuctoo Great House, photo from the Internet

View of the Caribbean Sea from Chebuctoo Great House

Music

Peter Tosh Memorial: A few miles up the coast from Bluefields is the community of Belmont where a monument to Winston McIntosh, popularly known as Peter Tosh, a founding member of The Wailers and a son of Westmoreland, is located.

Note: My roots go deep in Westmoreland. I also graduated from Manning’s.

 

 

 

#TPThursday: Treasure Beach Jamaica

In my post yesterday, I made a brief mention of Treasure Beach Jamaica, a place I’ve written about several times. Treasure Beach is a small community that is located on Jamaica’s south west coast, in the parish of St. Elizabeth. It is a close knit community where everyone knows everyone else. It reminds me of the district, that’s what we call them, that I grew up in – the kind of place we sometimes think no longer exists.

Treasure Beach is a 2-hour drive from Montego Bay, about 3 hours from Kingston. A number of the residents are involved in fishing but as tourism takes hold, more and more people are recognizing it as an option.

One thing I didn’t mention about Treasure Beach is Calabash, the literary festival that takes place there. It returned this year, so did the people who love literature – about 5,000 of them. Treasure Beach really is the perfect spot to listen to literature. Here are a few of the photos I took.

#TPThursday Treasure Beach - Calabash Int'l Lit Festival

#TPThursday Treasure Beach – Calabash Int’l Lit Festival

On the first night, Chimananda Adichie, read from the piece she had written about moving into the house that had been vacated by the legendary Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe. I’d heard her read the same piece in New York at the event honoring Achebe but here in Treasure Beach, it felt new somehow, and different.

#TPThursday Treasure Beach - Calabash Int'l Lit Festival

#TPThursday Treasure Beach – Calabash Int’l Lit Festival

And if the interviewee is boring, there’s this beautiful backdrop to focus on.

Since the festival lasts the weekend, we usually rent a villa.

#TPThursday Treasure Beach Jamaica

#TPThursday Treasure Beach – Calabash Int’l Lit Festival

Doesn’t everyone have breakfast overlooking the ocean?

I can’t mention food and not mention accommodations in Treasure Beach. One cool thing here is that there is only one main hotel, aptly called the Treasure Beach Hotel, the rest is a mix of villas — small, large and luxurious — guest houses and private homes where you can rent a room, especially during the festival. If you’d like to find out more about villa accommodations in Treasure Beach, Jamaica Villa Rentals is a good place to start.

#TPThursday Treasure Beach Jamaica

#TPThursday Treasure Beach Jamaica – Fishermen

The seas were rough most of the week we spent in Treasure Beach. Finally, on Saturday, it became calm and I spotted these fishermen bringing in their catch.

#TPThursday Treasure Beach Jamaica Sunset

#TPThursday Treasure Beach Jamaica Sunset

No matter how rough the seas are, the sunsets in Treasure Beach are always spectacular.

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday Series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website.

Travel Photo Thursday: My Ship Has Come In

One of the things I look forward to each week is watching the cruise ships as they pull into Montego Freeport.  On Wednesdays, its usually a ship from Carnival’s fleet. On Thursdays, it’s one from another fleet, like Royal Caribbean or MSC Cruises.

To my surprise today, two Carnival ships, the Conquest, and the Magic – the newest Carnival ship to stop in Montego Bay – have come in. The Magic can accommodate 6,000 – 4,500 passengers and 1,400 crew; the Conquest 2,974 passengers and 1,150 crew.

Carnival Magic and Conquest in Montego Freeport

Carnival Magic and Conquest, Montego Freeport

One of four cruise ship ports on Jamaica’s north coast, Montego Freeport was built in the 1960s on what was known then as the Bogue Islands. It has berths for 2 cruise ships. Ocho Rios, Port Antonio and Falmouth, which opened in 2011, are the other three ports.

Carnival Magic and Conquest in Montego Freeport

Carnival Magic and Conquest, Montego Freeport

Carnival Magic and Conquest in Montego Freeport

Carnival Magic and Conquest, Montego Freeport

Carnival Magic and Conquest, Montego Freeport

Carnival Magic and Conquest, Montego Freeport

This is my submission to this week’s Budget Travelers Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday series. Be sure to check out other photo and story entries on their website!