As the rain poured down, the MSC Divina pulled into the dock at Falmouth, Jamaica. Gathering our things for the day’s excursions, we passed on rain gear, though we both had packed some. Zip lines, we thought, would just destroy the rain gear, and with going river tubing getting we pretty much expected to get wet.
Cruise ships stop at several different ports in Jamaica. We visited Ocho Rios on the Pearl, but have not yet seen Montego Bay. Many of the same excursions are offered at all three ports. Dunn’s River Falls near Ocho Rios is one of the top spots, but we found it too crowded and commercialized for our taste and had much more fun on the Jamaican Bobsled roller coaster at Mystic Mountain on our visit to Ocho Rios.
The Divina posted the meeting place and time for their various tours in the daily program for the day of the excursion rather than including that information on the tickets. After checking where to go we met up with our group in the designated lounge. Quite a variety of tours met at the same place and time, so the shore excursion girls handed out stickers with bus numbers according to each person’s chosen tour.
Our group got called along with a couple others. As we headed out of the ship and under a small canvas pavilion the crowd bunched together as more and more people tried to get off the gangway and under the shelter while the ones in front had stopped moving. They all seemed to have stopped under the shelter to pull the looks-like-a-garbage-bag sort of rain ponchos out of nowhere and start putting them on, some saying the ship handed them out. We saw nobody handing those out anywhere nearby, but one person said it was when they got their bus stickers. They hadn’t given us any, or even mentioned their availability when we got our stickers.
Did they have a second sight that somehow let them know we had opted not to bring our own raingear when we could have? Whatever the reason, we saw very few other people without them. Even on our tour nearly everyone else had one so it wasn’t that they thought that tour didn’t need them. We thought it was quite nice of the ship to hand them out, but did wonder why they didn’t quite include everyone.
We had just far enough to go to get to the bus for the rain to have a chance to get us fairly wet. Nobody liked the air conditioning pouring out of vents all along the sides of the bus, so the tour guide turned it off. By the time the bus got fully loaded the sun had started to make an appearance through the clouds and the rain began to slow to nothing and the driver decided to turn the air conditioning back on. Luckily the vents on that bus closed individually like the sort airplanes have so we did not have to sit in wet clothes with cold air blasting directly on us.
On the way to the Good Hope Estate where a tour company called Chukka runs a variety of tours the bus driver kept us entertained with snippets of history, songs, and mini lessons on how to speak Jamaican (ya mon). The weather cooperated as the sky stayed empty of rain and the sun came out for the rest of our tour.
They pointed out the Great House of the Good Hope Estate where people go for tea and other excursions as we drove past it, stopping near a distant small building housing a gift shop. Zip-line comes first, followed by a lunch break (lunch of jerked chicken, fry bread, and juice provided.) Then the river tubing. Or so we were told. We had a short break giving people time to change clothes, use the restroom, or buy or rent footwear they might need for their tour. Before long we got herded to a bus to take us to the start of the
zip line river tubing. Apparently other people had been told of the change in plans while I was in the gift shop or something, but we were pretty much at the river before I knew.
After a nice long float down the river and a stop for lunch at a restaurant behind the gift shop, the zip line guides came around to let us know it was time. We walked over to the start of the zip-lines, or Canopy Adventure as it is officially called. So if you take this tour and end up on a bus, you’re headed to the river. (In spite of the confusion I had a good time.) The guides outfitted everyone with a harness, helmet, and gloves. Then they gave instructions including to check that our “arness and elmet” were fastened properly.
Once everyone was ready to go we all walked to the first platform to start our tour.
The first zip of the course is short and easy to give people a chance to practice before getting to the longer or steeper zips. It also gives first-timers a chance to see what it feels like.
While some people may not enjoy dangling from a harness while speeding through the air down a cable with the ground nowhere near and a tree at the end of the line, I find it quite fun. So do enough other people to make zip lining a popular excursion at a number of destinations.
Each person is strapped securely into a harness that stays on them for the entire adventure. The harness has double hooks and each zip has double cables so if ever one were to break there is always a secondary for safety. The platforms also have cables and the guides keep everyone clipped to one while they wait just in case someone were to fall. I have never seen anyone fall off a platform, though I suppose it falls within the realm of possibility.
Before each zip a guide unsnaps the person’s hook from the platform cable and hooks them to the overhead line. When they reach the other end another guide unhooks them and clips them to the new tree. The guides travel with the group. The first and last person to go at each platform is always a guide. The guides have signals to let people know as they come in for the landing when to brake and when to let up, though on a lot of the zips that day we were told at the start braking would not be necessary and just to hold the harness part with both hands.
Some of the zips landed on the takeoff platform to the next zip and others had a bit of a walk (or in some cases stair climb) in between. I didn’t count the exact number of zips, but they seemed to have quite a few. Weather apparently affects the speed and due to the lines either having dried or not having dried (I couldn’t hear which they said) most zips were not running fast enough to need to brake so we only needed a gloved hand over the cable ready for braking at the end on a few.
We had a good time and nobody crashed into any platforms, though there was one where they had to tell everyone to raise their legs as they came in for a landing or they would have. Nobody hit any trees either. (I did see that happen at a different time and place when a person too heavy for the guide to stop would not brake when told to do so. On subsequent zips they paid close attention to the guide’s signals. Leaving mid-course is not an option even if you do run into a tree.)
The ride ended at the same bridge the river tubes passed under. They had jugs of water waiting so everybody could have a drink. Soon a bus came and picked us up there.
Back at the gift shop people who wanted them could purchase photos taken of them on the tubes or zips. They also had a variety of other products including T-shirts proclaiming survival of the Chukka zip line, which most of the guides wore.
The tour bus took us back to the cruise ship port at Falmouth, which has a number of shops inside a fenced and gated area apart from the actual town.
More Posts About Jamaica
Jamaican Bobsled Roller Coaster (Ocho Rios)
Dunn’s River Falls (Ocho Rios)
River Tubing (Falmouth)
Swimming with Horses (Montego Bay)