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Cruises to Montego Bay

Montego Bay (Photo:Lucky-photographer/Shutterstock)

About Montego Bay

The north coast town of Montego Bay makes for a very lively and colorful welcome to Jamaica for the many visitors who arrive here by air or sea. MoBay, as it's called, offers a steady schedule of food and cultural festivals, and some of the Caribbean's most entertaining beaches (offering water sports, waterfront bars and more) fringe its shores. Add in golfing, duty-free shopping and easy access to the island's active adventures, and visitors can have as lazy or as action-packed of a day as they choose.

Jamaica's second-largest city after Kingston, Montego Bay is a market center for locals, in addition to being a package tourism hotspot for Canadians, Americans and Europeans. You might not know it with the abundance of U.S. hotel chains and even chain restaurants like KFC, but the town has a storied past that dates back centuries to the arrival of the original inhabitants, the Taino Indians, and later Christopher Columbus and Spanish control in 1494. For 300 years after, the British ruled Montego Bay, and the town was a center for plantations and the slave trade. It wasn't until the late 1800's that tourism really began to gain a foothold there. It's an industry that still supports the local economy today, along with banana, sugar and bauxite exports.

One of Montego Bay's most important historical events occurred in 1832, when Sam Sharpe, a slave who preached nonviolent resistance, was lynched in the center of town in what is now Sam Sharpe Square. (There are memorial statues there dedicated to his courage.) Sharpe was hanged for leading the Christmas Slave Rebellion of 1831, but by 1838, slavery was abolished. Today, MoBay's population is a diverse one, with people from other Caribbean islands, European and North American ex-pats and an influx of Chinese, too.

Visitors come, largely, for the idyllic tropical weather and beaches, which are among the prettiest in the Caribbean. However, cruisers will find that many of these sandy hotspots are accessible only to the guests of whichever mega-resort or all-inclusive hotel is backing them. That said, there are several scenic beaches for whiling away onshore days, both along the Hip Strip in MoBay and closer to the cruise port.

The town is a hotspot for reggae music and hosts some of the best live concerts in the Caribbean. But, high on most tourists' to-do list (in addition to sipping fruity cocktails and beach-lounging, of course), are visits to the area's duty-free shopping venues and terrific golf courses.

The port makes an excellent base, too, for arranging tours and excursions to nearly every other major Jamaican attraction, including Dunn's River Falls near Ocho Rios, Negril's famed Seven Mile Beach and the many old plantation homes (called Great Houses) in the area.

  • Why go to Montego Bay?

  • Montego Bay Cruise Port Facilities?

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Crown Princess
Crown Princess (Photo: Princess Cruises)
Crown Princess

10 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

2,116 Reviews
Leaving:Fort Lauderdale
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
$1,099
$999*pp
$100/night • inside Cabin

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MSC Divina
MSC Divina
MSC Divina

18 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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MSC Seashore
MSC Seashore (Image: MSC Cruises)
MSC Seashore

14 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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Norwegian Joy
Norwegian Joy (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Joy

7 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Montego Bay
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line

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Carnival Glory

7 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

1,959 Reviews
Leaving:New Orleans
Cruise Line:Carnival Cruise Line
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Carnival Vista

7 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Galveston
Cruise Line:Carnival Cruise Line
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Carnival Dream

14 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Galveston
Cruise Line:Carnival Cruise Line
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Carnival Breeze

7 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Galveston
Cruise Line:Carnival Cruise Line
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Carnival Glory

8 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:New Orleans
Cruise Line:Carnival Cruise Line
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Carnival Dream

14 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Galveston
Cruise Line:Carnival Cruise Line
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Carnival Glory

14 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:New Orleans
Cruise Line:Carnival Cruise Line
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MSC Seashore

7 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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MSC Divina

14 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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MSC Divina

18 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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Viking Star

14 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

1,878 Reviews
Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises

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MSC Divina

11 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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MSC Divina

14 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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MSC Divina

11 Night
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Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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MSC Seashore

14 Night
Cruise to Montego BayDetails

Leaving:Miami
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises

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Why go to Montego Bay?

Pros:

After a day on the beach, visitors can snag souvenirs and tasty jerk chicken right at the terminal

Cons:

Locals are pushy, crime is a concern, beaches are crowded and Dunn's River Falls is 90 minutes away

Bottom Line:

Take precautions, and go with the flow

Montego Bay Cruise Port Facilities?

There's not a whole lot to see or do at the port itself, save for browsing the usual smattering of shops selling touristy items like Tortuga rum cakes and Red Stripe Beer baseball hats, complete with bottle openers in the visors. There is a small, indoor tiki bar of sorts inside the airy but dated terminal building, just in case you can't be bothered to venture farther afield for a tropical drink, but it lacks atmosphere in a big way. The port does serve its purpose as a departure point for catching taxis into town, and there's a Jamaica Tourism Board kiosk inside, too, where you can get tour advice and area info.

Just outside of the official port complex, behind a chainlink fence, is a rather ramshackle shopping area called the Montego Freeport Shopping Center. It's little more than a collection of beachwear and souvenir shops and empty offices. There is one homey-looking restaurant, Swizzle's, which sells inexpensive jerk specialties; the crowds, however, seem to be mostly due to the fact that there's free wireless Internet with your food or beverage purchase. Though you'll find a few restaurants within about 10 minutes' walking distance of the port (including a juice bar and seafood restaurant), you're better off heading into town for the most options and atmosphere.

Good to Know?

While there aren't too many touts outside the terminal building itself, you're likely to be approached with offers for everything from tours and souvenirs to more illicit things in the town of MoBay itself. A firm "No, thank you," usually does the trick if you're not interested. Marijuana or ganja is smoked openly, but make no mistake: Drugs are illegal in Jamaica.

Mosquitoes and other creepy-crawlies can be particularly brutal in Jamaica, due to its tropical climate. Be sure to use insect repellent frequently to avoid bites and potential illness. And don't forget the sunscreen, either.

Jamaica is known for its high crime rates, so be careful when carrying cash, purses or wallets, and leave any unnecessary valuables stowed in your in-cabin safe.

Getting Around?

On foot: Downtown Montego Bay is a 20-minute walk from the cruise port along a two-lane road that's fairly busy with traffic. Unless the weather is cool and you're up for some exercise, definitely spring for a taxi instead. As long as you're walking in daylight hours, safety is not an issue.

Taxis: Taxis line up where you exit the terminal building, and all of the taxis arriving there are licensed JUTA (Jamaica Union of Travelers Association) vehicles. (Look for the stickers.) Touts will often try to beckon you hither (and off port property) from behind the chainlink fence of the external shopping area, but you're best off going with a licensed JUTA taxi departing from the port itself for haggle-free, set fares. The cost of a cab ride from the cruise port to downtown Montego Bay is $5, and if you get off anywhere along the way, you'll have to pay another $5 to get back into town with another taxi or back to the ship. Rates are listed inside the terminal for taxi fares to popular north coast destinations, too, such as Falmouth and Dunn's River Falls.

Shuttles: If you'd like the option to hit a few of the town's sites (the Market, the beach, the Hip Strip) throughout the day, it's worth buying a Hot Spots Shuttle pass, which allows you to get on and off an air-conditioned bus as much as you like throughout the day for a flat $15 fare. The shuttle departs from the cruise ship terminal, and tickets can be purchased inside the port.

Car rentals: There are no car rentals at the port, but you can take a taxi to Montego Bay's Sangster International Airport, where Hertz, Budget, Avis and several local companies are all represented. Expect to pay between $65 and $150 per day, and don't forget that Jamaicans drive on the left!

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The Jamaican dollar is the national currency, but U.S. dollars are readily accepted at most places, including all of the favorite haunts in Montego Bay. Be prepared: If you pay with U.S. dollars, your change might be returned to you in the local currency. For current currency conversion figures, visit www.xe.com or www.oanda.com.

There is no ATM machine at the Montego Freeport port, but cash machines can be found throughout town. Several stops along the Hot Spots Shuttle have Scotiabank ATM's, including the Harbour Street Craft Market, the Yacht Club and the Hip Strip across from the Jamaica Bobsled Cafe.

Language?

English is widely spoken and understood in Jamaica. But, when the locals talk among themselves, it's with a colorful patois, based on English but with a thick accent and different vocabulary that makes it hard for new arrivals to understand.

Where You're Docked?

Cruise ships dock a few miles outside of Montego Bay proper at the Montego Freeport port -- a rather unsightly complex surrounded by office parks. It's a five-minute, fixed-rate ride into Montego Bay from there ($5).


Montego Bay Cruise Reviews
I took a bus from the Ship, and wasn't overly impressed with Montego Bay.... Read More
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bobthebrit
Been there many times!... Read More
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IsanTom
Este día no salí del barco...aunque no fue tan buena idea ya que en Montego Bay MSC hace simulacros de emergencia para el Staff así que es muy ruidoso quedarse en el barco.... Read More
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Robertorres
Great young rafting guide and great bus escort. Fun worthwhile experience.... Read More
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Fred Pearson

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