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Montego Bay Jamaica Cruise Port: What to Expect!

Sand on Dead End Beach, Montego Bay Jamaica
Sand and tiny crab on Dead End Beach, Montego Bay Jamaica

Nestled on the northwestern coast of Jamaica, the famed Montego Bay is not only a popular tourist destination but also a port for cruise ships. Passengers looking to immerse themselves in the vibrant Caribbean culture can do so in Montego Bay. With palm-fringed, white sandy beaches, a backdrop of verdant mountains, and a lively town that resonates with the beats of Reggae, Montego Bay charms visitors with its laid-back island vibe. For cruise enthusiasts looking to experience a slice of Jamaica, the Montego Bay Cruise Port is the gateway. Here's what to expect when you anchor at this tropical paradise.

Recently the US government put out a warning on travel to Jamaica. This does not prevent cruise ships from coming to the island, and personally I think that is a good thing. I did not have any problems while I was in port visiting. The dangerous areas of the island are not near the tourist areas, and one of the reasons Jamaica was put on the list is because of the health care in Jamaica, which has nothing to do with travel safety unless you become ill while on the island. Jamaica is a country that survives on tourist money. As a cruise traveler, do not avoid coming to Jamaica, just be aware of your surroundings like you would in any area you are traveling too.

Arriving at the Montego Bay Jamaica Cruise Port

The Montego Bay Cruise Port is a key entry point for those arriving by sea, offering a warm Jamaican welcome from the moment you step off the gangway. The port itself is small, and industrial. In fact, you will not see a bustling marketplace of duty-free shops, locally made crafts, and colorful boutiques that showcase the island's crafts and culture. Just outside the terminal building were 3 stands with locals set up selling the basic Jamaica Souvenirs. Everyone is really friendly and there are some people dancing and playing reggae music just outside the terminal building.

The Carnival Glory pulling in the port at Montego Bay Jamaica
The Carnival Glory pulling in the port at Montego Bay Jamaica

The terminal building was right beside our ship, giving cruise passengers easy access to the port area. There was another ship in port that day, The Carnival Cruise Lines Glory was there and docked at a 90-degree angle from us on the Norwegian Cruise Lines Epic.

When arriving at the port we were told what to expect. Cruise travelers cannot just start walking to the city from here. It is actually illegal, as this is industrial and there are no sidewalks. So, if you are wanting to explore Montego Bay Jamaica, you must rent a taxi, tour, or ride a bus away from the port. The city itself is 3-miles away where you can do some duty-free shopping.

Attractions Near the Port

If you're looking to venture out beyond the port, Montego Bay offers a variety of attractions that cater to different interests. The legendary Rose Hall Great House, for instance, is a short distance away and provides an intriguing look into Jamaica's plantation history and tales of the White Witch of Rose Hall. The town center known as "Hip Strip" is where you'll find a plethora of restaurants, bars, and shops, making it the perfect spot to take in the local scene. For the adventurous, a zipline or river tubing excursion at the nearby Good Hope Estate can add a thrilling aspect to your day.

Beach View near Montego Bay
Beach View near Montego Bay
  • Doctor’s Cave Beach is a popular public beach that is less than a 10-minute drive away from the port. You can do water sports here at this location.

  • Dead End Beach is another popular beach area that is located close to the airport. Locals and tourists alike will be there.

  • Gloucester Avenue in Montego Bay is the heart of the strip, and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville is located there. They have food and drink plus their own water slide and water trampoline. Check the website to make sure they are open. They were closed on my visit due to recent bad weather.

  • Shopping is always a popular thing to do when visiting any Caribbean port. Duty free shopping, but personally I felt this area was lacking with shops compared to other island stops in the Caribbean. You will find designer jewelry shops, and several other jewelry shops in this area.

  • Sam Sharpe Square is located nearby, where you can do some people watching, and they tend to have music and performances while cruise ships are docked in port.

Shore Excursions

The shore excursions from Montego Bay offer a diverse range of experiences that reflect the distinct Jamaican culture. Some of the most popular are listed below.

Horseback riding on the beach
Horseback riding on the beach

Dunns River Falls: One of the most iconic tourist spots is Dunns River Falls, a cascading waterfall that invites you to climb its terraced rocks, led by experienced guides who will help you traverse the flowing waters. This is a signature experience in Jamaica, offering both a physical challenge and a natural, breathtaking beauty. This is one of the best things to do if cruising into Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, or Falmouth.

  • Martha Brae River Rafting: Those seeking a more relaxed activity can opt for a peaceful bamboo rafting trip on the Martha Brae River. Glide along the crystal-clear waters on a traditional bamboo raft, an activity known for its tranquility and the opportunity to enjoy the lush, peaceful scenery. The Horseshoe-shaped Martha Brae River is a great experience for bamboo rafts.

  • Blue Hole: For an off-the-beaten-path adventure, the Blue Hole (also known as Secret Falls) is a hidden gem where you can jump off small cliffs into the deep-blue mineral pool, or take a refreshing swim under the cascading waterfall, all surrounded by the rainforest. This is one of the great outdoor adventures.

  • Catamaran to Rick’s Cafe and Negril Beach: Take a catamaran boat and explore the bay and beach with a visit to Rick's Cafe. It will make for a great place to see locals and tourists alike, jump off the cliffs into the ocean.

  • Appleton Rum Tour: This is a great tour, with a sample of great tasting rum. A popular choice for those who love to drink rum and are interested in the process of making rum.

  • Bamboo Beach Club: If you are looking for a beach day this is one of the trips that can be booked through a third-party vendor like Viator. You can soak up the sun and grab great alcoholic drinks and lunch which is included in the price.

  • Bird Sanctuary: If you are looking for something completely different, I suggest a visit here. See many tropical birds, learn about them and their rehabilitation.

Resort to visit with a day pass in Montego Bay
Resort to visit with a day pass in Montego Bay

There are plenty of other shore excursions to do in Montego Bay like, for example, take a horseback ride, or a beach day at a local resort. Check out the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall Resort where you can get a day pass to enjoy the pools and beach. Getting a day pass is a great way to see an all-inclusive resort for future reference if you are planning an actual stay at the resort in the future. Remember there is Sanger International Airport located here in Mo Bay.

Comparing Montego Bay to Other Jamaican Ports

Get a fresh coconut from vendors right on the side of street
Get a fresh coconut from vendors right on the side of street

Montego Bay is one of four primary cruise ports in Jamaica, with others including Ocho Rios, Falmouth, and Kingston. Each offers a unique atmosphere and a distinct set of local attractions. Ocho Rios cruise port is known for Dunn's River Falls and the nearby Mystic Mountain attraction but technically it is a 2-hour drive from Montego Bay cruise port, while the town of Falmouth is a well-preserved colonial town with a rich history and located only 45 minutes away from the port of Montego Bay. Kingston, the capital city, appeals to those interested in Jamaican music and culture, with landmarks like the Bob Marley Museum and the vibrant Devon House complex.

Despite its competition, Montego Bay stands out for its accessibility to a wide range of activities, both active and leisurely, and its proximity to other popular Jamaica destinations, making it an excellent starting point for cruise travelers.

Random tip in case someone from the cruise line does not tell you, it is illegal to wear camo here in Jamaica. 

The Montego Bay Experience

No matter the itinerary of your cruise, Montego Bay is alluring in its blend of natural beauty and spirited culture. From the laid-back beaches to the adventures waiting in the rainforest, this is a port that ensures every type of traveler can find something to cherish. With the tropical sun warming your back and the rhythmic sound of the Caribbean Sea just steps away, each moment spent exploring Montego Bay feels like a true vacation escape.

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I really enjoyed myself here

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