Sunday, May 23, 2010

Travel with me to Montego Bay

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Our flight from Columbus, Ohio to St. Louis was uneventful, but our change to another carrier would be delayed for 3 hours and would cause us to miss our next connection in Charlotte, N.C. to Ft. Lauderdale where we would embark our a cruise through the Caribbean, South America, and then through the Panama Canal with various stops in western Central America.

Being an experience flyer I called the airlines with my dilemma and sought help in making a new connection. One was available and we were moved to first class due to the carrier’s inability to provide the regular schedule. It was great since we did not get in until 1:30 a.m.

At 12 noon we boarded a shuttle to our 17th cruise along with two other couples we met there, who were long time friends and travel partners from Ohio. In a short time, we were headed to our first stop in Montego Bay.

It was not our first time to visit Montego Bay, but was as excited as we were 20 years before when we led a team to teach VBS to more than 1100 children.

After we ported we hired a van and suggested the driver take us to the city.

A few remains of old sugar plantations and great houses were still noted as we drove to the center of the city where colorful craft and souvenir shops were plentiful. The coastland near Montego Bay is occupied by numerous tourist resorts, most newly built, some occupying the grounds of old sugar cane plantations with some of the original buildings and mill-works still standing. The most famous of these are the White Witch's Rose Hall and Tryall, both of which now feature world-class golf courses.

The name "Montego Bay" is believed to have originated as a corruption of the Spanish word “Manteca” ("lard"), allegedly because during the Spanish period it was the port where lard, leather, and beef were exported. Jamaica was a colony of Spain from 1511 until 1655, when Oliver Cromwell's Caribbean expedition drove the Spanish from the island.

Even from the downtown one still had a spectacular vantage point of our cruise ship.

Montego Bay still lives up to being a friendly city since the locals embrace tourism as part of their own
lives. The city buzzes with cafes, shops and markets. The beach area, which runs for two or so miles, is dotted with one resort hotel after another.

The roots of this country date back to Spanish Rule in the 16th century when it was known as sugar town that had been largely built with slave power. This ended near 1832 with Samuel Sharpe, a slave and Baptist minister led a strike against plantation owners causing the British to abolished slavery shortly afterwards. In 1975, Sharpe was proclaimed a national hero of Jamaica, and the main square of the town was renamed in his honor along with a local college.

Due to the extreme heat, my wife and I caught a van back to the ship while our friends remained to visit the famous Blue Moon Hotel where Queen Elizabeth stayed when she would visit Jamaica before its independence.

On the way back to the ship our driver took us through some of the area we had not previously seen. There were many beautiful old, but stately homes, well kept with manicured yards and fenced for protection. During the conclusion of the drive he drove us into a flea market area hoping we would leave a little American money in Jamaica. But nothing suited our taste, or we were consumed with the need for air conditioning.

Montego Bay, or Mo Bay as it is popularly known, is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. Over the years it has attracted the rich and the famous and even royalty. Many of their luxury villas still grace the hills with fabulous sea views. The bay offers wonderful beaches and the town has lots to offer. The main tourist part of town, paced with vendors, stalls, and hustlers; is east of Sam Sharpe Square nearer the waterfront, and most of the main resorts and hotels are to the north, between the town and the Sir Donald Sangster International Airport which parallels the Caribbean Sea.

Montego Bay is the capital of St. James Parish and the second largest city in Jamaica in area and the third by population.

It is a tourist destination known for its duty free shopping, cruise line terminal and the sheltered Doctor's Cave beach with clear turquoise waters which is one of the most famous beaches on the island. The city is backed by picturesque low mountains.

The heat kept us from enjoying Jamaica as in days past, but our friends came back to the ship with glowing smiles and the satisfaction of enjoying all they saw.

“And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty…” - Ezekiel 16:14

Dr. Alton Loveless is the former CEO/President of Randall House Publications, Nashville, Tn.; He is a freelance writer and has written for assorted publications printed both nationally and internationally. To see photos and read other stories click on

No comments: