To Hell & Back on a W. CaribbeanAuthor: Lisa C
Date of Trip: January 2014
It's true, I'm a cruise junkie - After just three simple Carnival Cruises (and one Celebrity w/my parents..) I find I can't wait to plan my next one...it's like an elixir or your favorite soft drink, I can't get enough! So booking my W. Caribbean approximately 8 months in advance, I was left to plan, plot and perfect those always-all-too-short "Island Adventures" - We (my stalwart Travel Group) had booked on Carnival Freedom out of Ft. Lauderdale, sailing to Key West, FL, Ocho Rios, JA and Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands - Let's just say I am not always up for the usual shore excursion fare, I am more than willing to come up with a hodge-podge of short on-my-own excursions, and hiring a local man to do the driving is my preference. In Key West there was no need to schedule a man, van or any tour - the town can be covered by foot (or pedicab!) easily - Going from our cruiseport to the Southernmost Point was only 2.8 miles round trip. A few ladies in the group decided to join me for the Butterfly Gardens, an absolutely wonderful and peaceful experience, and afterwards I repaired to sun on the Southermmost point. If you like Bars, Key West is your kinda town, there are at least 50 along Duval St, Sloppy Joes, Hard Rock, Hog's Breath Saloon, The Garden of Eden (clothes optional)...you will find a bar for everyone's tastes here! Just sitting outside anywhere along Duval Street is a people-watcher's paradise!
Next Stop, my heart's favorite hideaway, Ocho Rios, Jamaica - Eight Rivers is the name's meaning, and a conflux of everything that is wonderful about Jamaica can be found here - we had a nice 'city tour' with Maurice, my man and van, and then were delivered to the infamous Dunn's River Falls, where white water churns and cascades down a rocky mountainside to a lovely deserted white beach, and beginning at that beach, your friendly Jamaican group guide is more than happy to hoist you upwards, hold your hand and photograph you sliding into the natural waterfalls until you reach the top 600 ft. above feeling like a champion! Some gripe about all the tourists, holding hands and slogging along, but honestly it is truly group building at it's finest, everyone counts on one-another to help get everyone safely to the top. The tradition is to top of the trip by downing a cold Red Stripe Beer, one of Jamaica's famous exports! A few of us were slightly delayed as we innocently wandered into the area where many locals have huts displaying their colorful wares and it was hard work to disentangle ourselves from their hearty salesmanship efforts! Sailing away from Jamaica with a view of James Bond Beach (007 is painted on a rock - a part of Goldfinger was filmed here many years ago!) the golden sun was setting behind the mountaintops, then the island slipped out of view slowly in the horizon.
Cayman Islands has always sounded so enchanting, I had heard there was also a local tourist spot that was a 'must see'..a place called Hell. I was the only one in the group (imagine that) that actually wanted (pined in fact) to go to Hell. So upon our arrival everyone piled into a van to be driven to Georgetown, the town center since our ship had docked on the lee side of the island due to winds. Once in town, each gaggle of my group disappeared into Diamond stores and/or Buffet Bars and I was left to wander, where as luck would have it, I found a Man, and a van, and he was actually trying to attract passers-by for his $20 tour of the island...to include Hell ~ I was feeling pretty lucky, so I said 'Will you take me to Hell and back?', having waited 5 long days to say just that (!) I was glad that he said of course he would if I could wait until he attracted another 5-6 tourists to fill his van. His name was Terry, and I immediately liked him so I was fine to wait - meanwhile another local man was selling coconuts on the roadside so I bought one and enjoyed some natural coconut water while I waited. Once we had our quarry, off we went in Terry's little white van to the West end of the island, seeing the 7-mile beach, with many nice little comfortable looking hotels alongside of it, and 1st stopped at the Tortuga Rum Factory for a taste of rum cake! Then it was off to the Turtle Farm, which was across the street from the Dolphin Adventures, so I slipped in to watch several groups swimming and riding upon a very genteel and happy dolphin, but I skipped the turtles. Honestly I couldn't wait to get to Hell. So after much ado and getting everyone back in the van one last time, we were off to see this interesting little side-trip of a place - the only reason it is called Hell is that there are some very unusual limestone formations that are on-land and all black and pointy out of the ground, just what you might imagine the walls in Hell would look like - So too, the only thing going on in this 'town' is a tourist trappy trippy little souvenier store with more items that incorporate Hell into and on them than any other place on earth (only in actual Hell are there more Hell promotional items found!) and a plethora of postcards; next-door to this little thriving enterprise is an official "Hell" Post Office, where you are expected to dash inside and mail your friends and family postcards 'from Hell' - and I did! I returned to the ship full of smiles and extra Hell-ware to share - I had a wonderful experience onboard the Carnival Legend and they are truly getting Better and Better everytime I cruise Carnival - But, the highlight and the best trip on a cruise ship yet was that trip to Hell and back - I'm actually taking anOTHER Carnival cruise onboard the Pride in November, 2014, with yet another W. Caribbean itinerary going to Mexico, Belize and...BACK TO HELL! I can hardly WAIT!
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