The disabled cruiser visiting Falmouth can spend the day in Jamaica visiting a historical plantation in the mountains before swimming with the dolphins or visiting an accessible beach. With that said, Jamaica disabled access presents some of the biggest challenges in any of the Caribbean islands. Mountains, steep wheelchair ramps, and rough terrain are a few of challenges that the disabled cruiser will need to cope with.
Falmouth has accessible exits to the cruise pier and cruise port. Accessible taxis at the port transportation hub are equipped with a wheelchair ramp so you won’t have to worry about accessibility details and can spend more time enjoying your accessible Jamaica experiences.
None of the major tourist attractions are within walking/rolling distance of the port. For the Disabled Cruiser to reach the top attractions in Jamaica, you will need to book private transportation, as there is no accessible public transportation on the island. At the attractions that have wheelchair ramps, these ramps will normally be much steeper than US and Canadian standards. Since Jamaica is one of the most mountainous islands in the Caribbean, most of the popular tourist attractions have steep hills or steep ramps.
Falmouth, located on the north coast, is the chief town and capital of the parish of Trelawny, Jamaica in the western Caribbean. Well positioned between the popular ports of Ocho Rios (60 miles west) and Montego Bay (18 miles east), Falmouth’s two-berth port is a triangular peninsula that can accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world within a very short walk of the city’s historic Georgian sights.
In the 19th century when Jamaica was under British rule, Falmouth was bustling and prosperous, shipping sugar, rum and coffee to England and serving as an arrival port for African slaves. Its fortunes declined after slavery was abolished and only began to revive when the purpose-built cruise port was built.
A short walk to Falmouth’s streets, the port is well guarded and closed to locals, save for Jamaicans who work at the dozens of shops and handful of restaurants. With a faux-Georgian terminal building leading to a large square bordered by red-roofed, Caribbean-style buildings housing various businesses, the port may strike you either as attractive or as artificial, depending on your point of view. Those homesick for American fast food will find a Dairy Queen and Quiznos. There’s plenty of shopping, from upscale jewelry stores to a crafts market. A dozen large posters relate Falmouth’s history, including the fact that Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt hails from the area.
The town of Falmouth is being developed to better appeal to tourists, but there’s much work to do. Those who do walk the dusty streets to have a look at architectural gems such as Falmouth Court House and St. Peter’s Anglican Church will likely run a gantlet of hair braiders and vendors of everything from local carvings to knitted caps with fake Rasta dreadlocks attached. Being hassled by vendors is a common complaint, although refusing to engage and walking past with eyes forward and a polite but firm “No, thank you” will work.
Many cruisers never go beyond the gates of the port, where a crowded outpost of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville has a pool, swim-up bar, and mini version of Dunn’s River Falls, not to mention a hot tub shaped like the bowl of a margarita glass. A good number leave for the day in a bus or cab to go on one of the numerous excursions offered by cruise lines; there are also local guides and drivers that you can engage on the spot.
Where You’re Docked
The Historic Falmouth Port’s pier is located within Oyster Bay on Jamaica’s north coast. Passengers walk directly off the ship into the purpose built port complex.
The port complex houses shops like Diamonds International and Dufry, as well as Jamaican craft vendors, restaurants and transport stops. Snack and souvenir vendors are set up on the port’s open spaces. Passengers can expect to find duty-free shopping and specialty boutiques, including a store dedicated to late reggae great Bob Marley. Even if you don’t plan to head out on an excursion or walk through Falmouth, it’s still worth leaving the ship to stroll the complex, browse craft vendors and perhaps try a Jamaican patty at a kiosk. Partiers love to splash in the pool and sit on stools at the swim-up bar at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, which has free Wi-Fi.
From here, Falmouth is only a 3-4 minute walk away.
Note: vendors do tend to hassle visitors to buy their goods, a firm “no thank you” should suffice. There is also a police presence in Falmouth.
Good to Know
Over-aggressive vendors. If you’re not interested, resist attempts to engage. Females strolling alone might be victim to cat-calling.
On foot: Falmouth is a few minutes away, with a scrum of vendors gathering by the guarded port gates. You can easily stroll the town in an hour or so.
By trolley: You can see Falmouth’s main sights on a guided trolley tour that leaves from the port. For the Disabled Cruiser the trolley is not wheelchair accessible.
By taxi: Taxis at the port’s transport hub offer standardized rates to nearby beaches and attractions, as well as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. A taxi to Montego Bay takes about 30 minutes, and Ocho Rios is about an hour away. Or you can step outside the gates and bargain for a lower rate with other drivers. Many will customize a trip for you. For the Disabled Cruiser, Jamaica Wheelchair Taxi is Jamaica’s best provider of transportation for visitors with limited mobility, special needs/disabled and provider of wheelchair access/handicap vehicles for excursions. They have a fleet of specially designed handicap vehicles fully equipped for accommodating and transporting disabled persons; as well as a team of professional drivers/guides who provide a variety of wheelchair accessible excursions.
Stop at the Appleton Estate kiosk in the port for a souvenir bottle of fine rum. Take home a Bob Marley or “One Love Jamaica” T-shirt. More original are hand-sewn Jamaican-style dresses that fit American Girl dolls; look for them in the port crafts market.
If you’re looking to sample authentic Jamaican food, Falmouth makes up for what it lacks in quantity of restaurants with a few solid, authentic options. Don’t miss the chance to sample the jerk style of cooking, a Jamaican staple. Meats or fish are marinated with dry or wet rubs made of a concoction of spices that might include allspice, sugar and scotch bonnet peppers, then cooked over wood coals. The Jamaican national dish; saltfish and ackee; is lesser known by non-locals, but is delicious. Salted cod is boiled and softened, then sauteed with ackee fruit, garlic, onions and spices.
While Falmouth has no central dining district, you’ll find several snack stalls and restaurants within a 10-minute walk from the port. Stalls typically sell patties; empanada-like pastries filled with sauced meats or vegetables. Quench your thirst with the Jamaican grapefruit-flavored soft drink, the zingily-named Ting.
Points of Interest
- Dunn’s River Falls – Jamaica’s world famous waterfall cascades 600 feet down a giant rock staircase to the Caribbean Sea. Climb to the top or use the adjacent walkways if you prefer not to get wet. The Disabled Cruiser visiting the falls will find the pavement is rough and patched with noticeable bumpy gutters right out of the parking lot. The entire trip to the falls is down hill, which means you have to climb back up hill to leave. There is a viewing area of the falls, maybe 500 feet down the path, which is the closest you can go in a wheelchair.
- Coyaba Gardens – Explore the lush tropical jungles, waterfalls and sparkling pools of this beautifully landscaped garden and adjacent historical museum built on grounds dating back to British colonial times.
- Jamaican Estates – Venture away from commercial areas for a tour of one of Jamaica’s historic Great Houses or plantation estates, where bananas, sugarcane, coffee and allspice are still cultivated today.
- Mystic Mountain – The exciting attraction which opened in 2008 serves up incredible views, and features the Sky Explorer Chairlift, Jamaican Bobsled ride, interesting displays, infinity pool and value priced restaurant. Fun for the whole family!
- Dolphin Encounter – Don’t miss an unforgettable opportunity to interact with bottlenose dolphins at Dolphin Cove, a magnificent ocean themed property. Interact with these playful mammals, learn training secrets and enjoy a host of water related activities. While the Disabled Cruiser might be able to swim with the dolphins in Jamaica, it’s not as wheelchair friendly as other Caribbean Ports.
- Beaches – Shimmering turquoise waters, soft white sands and postcard perfect views make the tranquil beaches of Ocho Rios some of the most sought-after sites on the island.
Falmouth Accessible Excursions
To allow disabled travelers to make the most out of their time in this exotic paradise; accessible excursions run by knowledgeable, professional, friendly local tour guides are excited to welcome you and show you around their precious island.
Highlights of Falmouth Accessible Private Driving Tour
This 6 hour Highlights of Falmouth Accessible Private Driving Tour begins when your English-speaking driver/guide meets you at the cruise dock in a comfortable, air-conditioned accessible van, which can accommodate wheelchairs, electric wheelchairs, and mobility scooters, to begin a leisure and scenic drive that includes beautiful tropic views. You’ll then have the opportunity to experience Martha Brae Bamboo river rafting, (not suitable for electric wheelchair users). Martha Brae is a horseshoe shaped island surrounded by a tranquil river that is lined with lush and tropical plants. Next up is a visit to the Rose Hall Great House. The family history and the plantation’s role in history and present day are quite interesting. The Jamaican tour guide is a great host and offers a warm welcome and drive through the scenic mountains of Jamaica with stops at scenic views.
- Martha Brae Bamboo Rafting
- Rose Hall Great House
- Accessible lunch in an authentic Jamaican restaurant
- Accessible shopping
- Scenic drives and photo opportunities
- Private guide/driver
- Guide/Driver familiar with the needs of disabled travelers
- Accessible van transportation
- Accessible step free routes