The Suite Life of a NAVIGATOR – Jamaica

Ahhhh, the Caribbean. Where the sun and rain both give it their best.

Morning came, and with it the pitter patter of rain outside the balcony on the window. Dang. Weather wasn’t as cooperative as I had been hoping this trip. From the fog in Ft. Lauderdale, the wind, the choppy seas, and mostly cloudy skies. Mother nature had just picked our week to be gloomy it seemed.

While using my iPad to check emails and posts on Facebook, I read something that made my heart sink. Locals in Haiti had staged a protest at Labadee. Not only did they protest, but they did so effectively enough to drive away the Freedom of the Seas cruise ship that was trying to make port. This did not bode well for our visit of Labadee the next day. Mom in particular was looking forward to a cabana she had reserved on Barefoot Beach. I was looking forward to the Dragon’s Breath zip line and rollercoaster. I also intended to try and swim to a nearby sunken plane with my new snorkel mask. All was in Jeopardy, and my gut told me we’d find out our stop was cancelled later in our day at Jamaica.

The rain continued to fall as we backed into port in Falmouth, Jamaica. Mom woke up, got around, and then we headed up to Windjammer for some breakfast. As we sat there by the aft windows, we could see the rainwater cascading down the tops and sides of them. Today we were booking in a Dolphin excursion which was based out of Ocho Rios. Hopefully the weather would be better there.

Brian and Kristin were still snoozing when we got back to the suite to get our stuff and head out. They had planned to just walk around and find something or chill.

We were running a little behind stepping off the ship that morning. As we stepped off the gangway, I had to walk ahead of Mom to grab the tour staff and let them know she’d be there. The rain had let up, but it was still a little dreary. huddled under tents were all kinds of people waiting for their excursions or tours. I found our line for the dolphin tour and it turned out that there was no need to rush. Once Mom caught up and we found our specific line, we stood there for probably another 20 minutes waiting for others. We were not the last. While waiting, Freedom of the Seas pulled along the pier on the opposite side of the port.

On the bus, heading to Dolphin Cove, we had a local tour guide speak to us. She was very nice but it seemed that nobody really wanted to listen, get involved, or question/answer her. A child sitting near the front did ask the driver a few questions. The trip took probably a little over an hour each way. We passed new housing developments, a quarry, fishing villages, you name it. We also passed the entrance to Dunn’s River Falls literally right before turning into Dolphin Cove’s entrance.

One thing I should point out is that our excursion is listed as the Dolphin Encounter in the shore excursions book. It is also shown to be minimally strenuous. This is not completely true though as there are many stairs to go up and down throughout the property. However, supposedly there is a separate way with off them. You will need to ask when you get there, otherwise you’ll be going up and down lots of stairs.

At the base of the stairs was the reception area, dining area, and nearby, the dolphin pens. We were divided into groups and given a new guide, Davidka. She first took us to the other side of the property to watch trainers handle sharks. When we arrived they weren’t quite ready so we were taken to the Love Bird enclosure. Within this, there were easily 30-40 love birds flying around. Upon entering, they’d perch all over you. Davidka handed out treats that would attract them, some of which, I gave to mom and others. We spent 15-20 minutes enjoying the birds company in the enclosure before heading back out for the shark show.

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The shark show didn’t really consist of a whole lot since, well, you probably can’t really do a whole lot with them. The sharks in question were the more docile nurse sharks. The trainers would bait them, grab them, and then roll them upside down into a catatonic state. They’d be given a fish and then let go until the next trainer scooped one up. It lasted 5, maybe 10, minutes. It was good for a couple photos but it was basically a time-killer while waiting for other stuff.

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Once the guys were done flipping over sharks, we had a couple minutes to spare before heading over to the dolphins. Behind the staging areas there were wooded areas with paths. On these paths and walkways were places where to could have photo-ops with parrots and small souvenir stands. One such stand had Blue Mountain coffee and/or liquor samples. I don’t know exactly what they added to my coffee sample, but dang, it was good! I took a couple samples of rum and then took a few selfies with some parrots (they’ll usually charge you for photos of/with the birds). The sun was also coming out as well. This was going to be a great day.

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When it came time to hang out with the dolphins, we met along the pier beside the swimming areas. There was a local cat just hanging out on the benches who seemed to enjoy everyones company, quite the mellow fellow. While we were seated trainers came around and gave us instructions on what they would be doing, what we would need to do, and what the dolphins would do as well. Everything was really easy. First we would place our hands together like the Allstate Insurance logo. The dolphins were supposed to come up into our hands like we were going to kiss them (I was not going to kiss a dolphin). Then, we would put our hands out to hold their pectoral fins. Lastly, we would hold our hand out high and they would touch it with their noses, errrr… beaks?

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We were led into thigh-deep water with platforms below. One by one, we’d get to do the tricks with the Shakira. Yes, our dolphin was named Shakira, who I might add was very patient. Some people needed a couple tries and the dolphin would just chill until you could try again. The dolphins were definitely used to their daily routine. When it came to our turns there were no issues. We each had our interactions with Shakira while a photographer would snap away with their camera. After we each had our turn, the dolphins would do a few passes where we could feel their skin as they swam in front of us. Afterwards a few tricks as well. Even though it isn’t mentioned in the excursion guide, its certain you will get wet, aside from your thighs down. It is a very enjoyable experience though!

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After we had our allotted time with the dolphin, we had a little over an hour to walk around the property. Mom and I chose to buy a couple souvenirs and then have some lunch. The smell from the bbq stand that was nearby was more than enticing. We sat in a covered dining area and ordered food. Mom ordered a grilled chicken sandwich and I had a 1/4 jerk chicken with sides. I also complimented them with 2 Red Stripe.

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When lunch was over and our time was up, we headed to our meet-up area where Davidka came along shortly after. It was time to get back on the bus for the ride back to Falmouth. Over the course of time we had been there, Mom’s legs and joints were really starting to bother her, and we wound up needing to shuffle seats. The ride back was nicer with people talking about their experiences over the last few hours. I wound up actually taking a nap.

Once we returned to Falmouth, I set off to see if I could find some wifi and more Red Stripe. Mom went looking for the Blue Mountain coffee or something for my aunt. I went to the Margaritaville on site and enjoyed some time at the bar. There was a decent DJ, who’s choice of music had people in the grotto pool dancing. The bar was surprisingly not very packed, so service was quick. Sitting outside the bar area, were a fair amount of ship staff and crew on their laptops or phones, communicating with those back home. -One thing I’d like to point out at this time, is that no matter how much you enjoy the work of one of these people, let them be when they’re trying to communicate with loved ones back home. They don’t have a whole lot of time to do this, so just let them be. NOW, those who are having drinks and having a good time, by all means, join them! – That said, there were plenty of ship passengers to hang out and party with.

After a while in Margaritaville, I too went looking for any souvenirs I may have overlooked, but didn’t find much. It was probably just over an hour before sail-away so I figured I may as well head back onto the ship.

Back in the suite to drop things off, I showered and changed before heading outside to take a looking around before leaving. Mom was also in the suite. It was at this point I decided to mention the strong probability that we would not be making port the next day in Labadee. She was disappointed but understood that if the call was made it would be in the best interest of the passengers. Besides the protestors were mostly in the Barefoot Beach vicinity and had we made port, it would not have been fun.

After having given Mom the bad news, I went outside. Walking down deck 4 on the port side, I watched those who were lined up, returning to the ship. I also looked across to the the Freedom of the Seas which seemed to be fairly empty. Heading up to decks 11 and 12, for a better vantage point, I spotted Brian and Kristin. I asked them about their day which for them was easy. They had wound up hanging out in Falmouth for a while before boarding the ship again. If I had been them, I would have stopped into Juicy Patties for lunch! I also told them about what was probably going to happen with Labadee.

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When the time for sail-away came there was a delay for a medical debark. Poor person, not only are you leaving the ship early, but on an ambulance, in the view of hundreds of people. I hope that I, or any of you reading this never have to experience such a thing first hand.

With the ambulance gone, we pulled the lines, and began setting off. Navigator and Freedom of the Seas traded horn blasts as we slowly pulled away. I quickly headed back to the suite to see us leave Jamaica from the amazing balcony we had. Mom was standing out there already and I joined her. Within a few minutes, we were also joined by Brian and Kristin. Shortly after, the captain came over the PA to make the announcement. We would not be making port in Labadee, Haiti the next day as predicted. Instead, we’d have another day at sea. Whomp, Whomp. We all watched as Jamaica shrank in the distance, the further we headed out to sea.

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At dinner that night, we had yet another good experience with the food selection. Our head waiter even made a rose out of a napkin for Mom. After dinner we headed over to the Schooner Bar again for trivia. This night was Abba, which I was useless for. We wound up doing better than expected, but compared a group of Swedish guests, not many stood a chance.

After trivia, I headed to windjammer for some extra dessert. I walked around the ship some as we were slowly creeping through the sea to kill time before a full sea day. The ship had begun rocking again as the seas weren’t very smooth. I had a little wine before heading to bed. It was a great day in Jamaica!

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