The island's Ocho Rios and Montego Bay are already among the Caribbean's most visited ports of call. But others are far lesser known. Port Antonio, which today is hosting a visit by Swan Hellenic's Minerva II, is just starting to take-off in popularity among smaller ships (its harbor is too shallow for bigger ones). And as such, it's full of off-the-path sites, far from the well-trammeled places of Margaritaville and Dunn's River Falls that are frequented by huge-ship cruise passengers whose vessels are based in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay.
Among the Port Antonio-based highlights include the Blue Lagoon, for swimming and Nonsuch Caves, which were first used by the Taino Indians in pre-Columbian times, and hiking in the Rio Grande Valley. The area is also known for its gorgeous beaches, such as Frenchman's Cove and San San Beach.
Kingston, the sprawling, urban capital of Jamaica, is an even more unusual place for ships to call. Today's visitor, only the second ship to visit this city in 2003, is the Portugal-based Princess Danae. Ashley Gambrill, a spokeswoman for the Jamaican port authority, says executives from Arcalia Shipping, the cruise line, insisted on calling at Kingston, which is not traditionally thought of as a major tourist destination. "We were a bit surprised," Gambrill says. The 469 passengers from Princess Danae focused on a cultural and historic Jamaica experience with visits to places like Port Royal, once the "pirate capital of the Caribbean" and the original settlement of Spanish town.
Today's record all-ports-in-Jamaica milestone is the second high point of the month for the Caribbean island. Earlier in December, Jamaica announced that it had recorded one million cruise passengers in 2003 -– the most it had ever attracted in a one year span.