Baptist churches and white beaches
A brief history: sugar, rum and slaves
Miles and miles of coral reef

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A breath-taking bay

It’s easy to visit Falmouth on your Caribbean and Antilles cruise to Jamaica. A city whose most impressive constructions – the sagging Tharp House, the porticoed post office in the middle of Market Street, and the old courthouse, built overlooking the sea in 1895 – are still in commercial or municipal use, on your arrival you are immediately struck by the conical roof of the 1810 Phoenix Foundry.

To the east, along with several dilapidated stone warehouses behind the locked gates of Central Wharf, it’s where sugar, rum and slaves were shipped and traded during Falmouth’s heyday. Nearby, the stately Baptist Manse is thought to have been inhabited by Baptist minister and anti-slavery campaigner William Knibb.

Once ruined, the manse was carefully and extensively restored ten years ago and now the renovated structure houses a spacious and light-filled gallery upstairs, with various art-based community projects taking over the ground floor.

The chunky William Knibb Memorial Baptist Church is another place of worship you can enjoy during your cruise excursion. Some 35km from Falmouth, Jamaica’s second largest city, Montego Bay nestles between the gently sloping Bogue, Kempshot and Salem hills.

It's made up of two distinct parts: the main tourist strip Gloucester Avenue, and the city proper, universally referred to as “downtown”; a split so sharp that most tourists never venture further than the dividing roundabout. The "Hip Strip" wouldn't exist were it not for Montego Bay's prize asset: a dazzling bay with miles of coral reef (now designated a marine park) and some beautiful beaches.

Much of the coastline has been snapped up by the hotels, but there are three main public beaches along the length of Gloucester Avenue, all with showers, changing rooms, snack outlets and watersports concessions and a minimal entrance fee.

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    Stunning landscapes
    Stunning landscapes

    Rightly famous for its beaches and music, beautiful, brash Jamaica is much more besides. There’s certainly plenty of white sand, turquoise Caribbean sea and swaying palm trees, but there are also spectacular mountains and rivers, tumbling waterfalls and cactus-strewn savannah plains.
    Far more than just a resort, the island also boasts vibrant towns and cities such as sprawling Kingston, which inspired the music of Bob Marley and countless other home-grown reggae superstars.
    Jamaica is a country with a swagger in its step; proud of its history, sporting success and musical genius; but also with a weight upon its shoulders.

    As the birthplace of the “all-inclusive” hotel, Jamaica is well suited to those travellers who want to head straight from their cruise ships to the beach. But to get any sense of the country at all during your cruise to Jamaica, you’ll need to do some exploring.

    It’s undoubtedly worth it, as this is an island packed with first-class attractions, oozing with character and rich with a musical and cultural heritage; if you’re a reggae fan, you’re in heaven.