John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Tuesday 26 January 2016

[Monday 25 January 2016]

Thomson Dream Mayan Treasures (end)
Thomson Dream Cuban Revolution
[i] (start)
08:00–20:00 Montego Bay
[ii] Ocho Rios & Dunn's River Falls — Full Day takes 7.5hrs
[i] Between our booking this cruise and actually going on it, the name changed from “Cuban Revolution” to “Cuban Fusion”.
[ii] Meet inside terminal building 10 minutes before tour departure.

Cruise News, Tuesday 26th January 2016
—one of three editions issued today, I assume. Continuing passengers got the one below. Passengers arriving today would get one saying, “Welcome on board Thomson Dream”; cf. 19 Jan. 2016. Passengers finally departing would get one saying, “Farewell from all of us on Thomson Dream”; cf. 2 Feb. 2016.

I’d woken up, so got out of bed at 7am…. Janet got up at 7.15am.[iii] We went to the Sirens Restaurant up on deck 11 for breakfast: my usual Rice Krispies, orange juice, bacon, baked beans and what passed for sausages, and coffee.

[iii] 7am… 7.15am: I’m copying these times from Janet’s journal, but I’m wondering, with our meeting-up time for the excursion of 8.05am, whether they should in fact be “6am” and “6.15am”. The opening time of the Sirens Restaurant breakfast buffet was 7.00am today; that would give us ample time to have breakfast, return to the cabin, and get ourselves ready to go out.

We went down to deck 4 ca.8am, and joined the mêlée outside the “posh” restaurant waiting to go ashore. There was quite a delay: some dragging of heels by the Jamaican port officials. In that confined, airless-seeming space, Janet got in a panic, and had to be ushered through to the open door and fresh air. When the crowd started moving at last, I went down the gangway, found Janet there, and we went through the terminal, met our guide, and boarded the coach. The guide was a woman perhaps in her forties and, notwithstanding our being 20 years older than she, she told us all that we should call her, and think of her as, “your Mama”. “If you have a problem, tell your Mama, and then you’ll only have a small situation. If that’s OK, say, ‘Yeah, man!’”
 “Yeah, man!”
 Until we passed the airport we retraced the route we’d taken a week ago. Indeed, when we passed the Catholic school that I’d noticed then, Mama told us that her daughter was at that school, and that she had to provide for her a uniform — white, which therefore needed much washing. Did she say that she washed clothes by hand, that possessing a washing machine was uncommon in Jamaica?
 On the way she proceeded to ask us one by one our names, and one or two things about ourselves, and memorised each name. As she spoke about places we passed through, etc., she occasionally addressed one of us by name, then after a while another. She was fond of saying “No problem” — “Not a problem, just a small situation!”
 We passed a bulk cargo ship berthed near plant for storing and loading bauxite. One or two towns were named after British ones, e.g. Falmouth, Dumbarton.
 The journey to Dunn’s River Falls was some 62 miles westwards along the northern coast, with green hills off to our right. We stopped before we got there at a place where there was a gift shop and café, and used the “rest rooms”. Nearby were stalls selling shoes soled with soft rubber for use in the falls. From the coach I saw one such stall with “Visa” and “MasterCard” signs — and it was only after I’d tried shoes on and agreed to buy them that I realised that that stall was next door! So I had to pay in cash. We did have sufficient US dollars for this. (When I was about to try on shoes, it was suggested that I remove the travel socks I normally wear. I’ve worn them ever since my ankles used to get oedematous. I’ve not experimented to find out whether I still need them.)
 The sun was hot when we got there, but there was shade under tall trees. On Mama’s advice I left my large camera on the coach and took Janet’s small one. There was a bit of queuing up, and quite a lot of waiting and wondering “What’s happening?”, till a guide in a blue shirt led the party forward. We were unprepared for the experience: judging by the very misleading illustration in the “excursion guide”, one looked likely only to have to get one’s feet wet; it looked as though one could roll up trouser legs and keep clothing dry.

The world-famous Dunn’s River Falls are a Jamaican national treasure and it’s easy to see why. Offering up plunge pools, waterfalls and thermal springs, this place is seriously easy on the eye. And don’t be surprised if it looks familiar — it featured in the very first James Bond film, Dr. No. This tour gives you the chance to don your swim gear and explore the place up close. First up, experienced guides will lead the way as you climb the waterfalls. Soak up the backdrop of ferns, bamboo, ginger lilies and orchids along the way, and pause for a natural massage under the cascading water. If you’d rather not join in with the climb, opt to relax on the viewing platform and take it all in from dry land. Later, there’ll be time for a buffet lunch before taking the scenic drive back to port. Just so you know— There are approximately 200 steps to climb the waterfall and non-skid footwear is required which you can purchase locally, approximate cost 10US$ per pair. There is also a minimum height of 3 foot for this tour. This tour is not suitable for guests in wheelchairs or walking difficulties. It is approximately 1 hour 40 minutes drive from Montego bay.

The first sight of the falls from the wooden viewing platform did not at first disenchant me from this notion.

Tuesday 26 January 2016 11:30:48
Dunn’s River Falls

Farther along it became evident that one would get wet to above the knees.

Tuesday 26 January 2016 11:40:56
Dunn’s River Falls

Tuesday 26 January 2016 11:40:56 (detail 1)
Dunn’s River Falls

Tuesday 26 January 2016 11:40:56 (detail 2)
Dunn’s River Falls

It was a surprise as we proceeded, when the falls abruptly ended and we were out on the beach.

Tuesday 26 January 2016 11:46:54
About to enter Dunn’s River Falls

One of the staff took Janet’s camera off me, and added it to his collection, for we were led into the water in a single file, holding the hand of the one in front and of the one behind. Between each waterfall or set of waterfalls there was a pool — and one of them was at least four foot deep. The blurb said: “There is… a minimum height of 3 foot for this tour.” Ha! Unless three-foot-high people were prepared to swim they would drown!

Tuesday 26 January 2016 12:05:14
Dunn’s River Falls

It was after that, when there was the means to escape up to the walkway beside the falls, that Janet took it. She was already weeping with distress. I continued, though. Shortly afterwards I lost my footing and fell backwards down a couple of “steps” of the waterfall. This was rather alarming because the force of the swiftly flowing water threatened to push me back and down even further if I didn’t grab hold of something quickly. My fall caused a stir of alarm and concern among those around, but I picked myself up and didn’t feel injured: only a sore spot somewhat medially below the right knee, and one on the left hip. I guess the water broke my fall. The pools were muddy, and often an intermediate step down couldn’t be seen; I relied on the young man in front to tell me where it was. There was an English guy in front, and an American guy behind, and they were both helpful. Some of the steps up were too high for me to manage without being pulled or pushed up. The above photo is the only one that was taken of me, for I declined photo-opportunities that others availed themselves of: to fall backwards into a pool at one point, and to “pause for a natural massage under the cascading water” at another. There was quite a sense of achievement when I finally got to the end. I was wet through and didn’t have a change of clothing, but quite quickly in that heat “wet” was turning to “damp”. I followed the signs to the coach that led though an area of stalls selling merchandise, and found Janet sitting on a stone side-wall talking to an elderly Jamaican guy, just in front of the coach park.
 Janet was wearing trousers of a knitted material, which absorbed water and stretched. “I dripped my way to the exit,” she wrote, “stopping constantly to wring out my trousers, and rolling up the bottom as the legs were about a foot too long.” Some of the stalls sold clothing, but she didn’t have enough cash. “I hung about outside and struck up a conversation with a Jamaican,” she continued. She told him that she felt “chicken”, which he disputed. “What do you do with chickens?” he asked. “You ‘jerk’ them,” she replied, which appeared to be the correct answer. (I didn’t quite follow the point of this conversation when it was reported to me.)
 When we boarded the coach I took out my wallet and removed the wet dollars, which were still in usable condition when I’d peeled them apart and spread them out to dry. The train tickets home fared worse, but they were still legible. I’d not anticipated getting completely wet. The journey to the restaurant for lunch was not far. There was a garden at the front and a sun terrace at the back. We were led into a room to the left of the passage, where there was a table to the left of the door with a buffet, and a table farther in to the right for us to sit. (Memory suggests that there was a lot of wood in evidence — even that the building was wooden.) I had “rice and peas” (in fact, beans) and jerk chicken. At the side there were parrots in enclosures. Someone had gone round there with a small dog, and even afterwards the parrots were squawking and screaming like billyo.
 Janet asked Mama whether we could find an ATM that dispensed US dollars, and she replied, “Of course. It’s Jamaica. No problem.” In fact, we then went to the nearby town of Ocho Rios and stopped at the “Taj Mahal Shopping Center” for some free time; and Mama escorted us to the far end where there was an enclosed area with a Scotiabank ATM, and assisted till it without trouble dispensed $200. Hurrah! At last! There were two storeys of galleried shops, gift and duty-free shops mainly, on all four sides, apart from gaps at the near and far ends for vehicle access. What escaped our notice at the time was another shop in the centre of the square modelled on the Taj Mahal. Unrestricted now for spending, we went upstairs to a bar at the opposite end from the ATM (what I earlier called the “near end”). I had a Red Stripe Jamaican lager and Janet a diet cola. There was news on the TV, and someone asked us what we thought of Donald Trump. Our very negative opinion seemed to be approved. One guy there owned a ceramics shop on the block, and went and came back with samples, even though we declined his offer to bring them. We went in one of the gift shops on the left side, ground floor, looking for a back-pack for Janet, and bought a lightweight bag carried with cords arranged for slinging on the back. Standing in the square on the far side of the unnoticed Taj Mahal, we got talking to a married couple from our group. He walked with quite a severe limp with the aid of a stick because of arthritis following a severe accident. Nevertheless, with help, he had successfully climbed the Dunn’s River Falls. I really admired that man.
 We boarded the coach and returned to the Montego Bay terminal, arriving ca.5pm. It was pleasant to be able to tip Mama and Glenn the driver, not sneak past with eyes downcast, especially as Mama farewelled each of us by name.
 We went to the cabin for a change of clothes. There was an invitation to Captain John Westgarth-Pratt’s “gala reception” tomorrow, but we had no more interest in that than we had a week ago.

We went to the Lido Restaurant for dinner. Janet ordered a Fanta Zero (17:58:20), and I had my bottle of house red wine fetched (and put away again later). There was a safety drill at 6.30pm; but reading in the Cruise News, “Please attend if you’ve moved cabins during your first week”, we concluded that we need not attend. We were very disparaging of people passing by carrying their life-jackets. In a real emergency, people wouldn’t be carrying them; they’d have to go back to their cabins to pick them up.… Usually, there’s a show at 8.30pm which is repeated at 10.30pm, but on the first evening of cruises there’s just one show at 9.00pm. So at 8.20pm we went down to the Broadway and sat in our centre-stage front seats. The couple I mentioned earlier, by coincidence, sat in the adjacent set of two seats to our left. I decided to go to the bar of the nearby Medusa Lounge to see if they had Grappa, and they did. Checking also that the Fanta Zero was the zero-calorie, canned-in-Atlanta-Georgia one not the “Naranja” one, I got one for Janet (20:32:20). Before the show started I ordered a Campari and soda and another Fanta Zero from a passing waitress (20:58:13).

Showtime: I’m So Hot!
Join your Cruise Director, Martyn Bell and the
team in the Broadway Show Lounge, which will
be alive with the Caribbean vibe. Colourful, fun
and sooo lively. Make sure you get your seat
early, as we turn up the temperature in
tonight’s show.

The team were introduced one by one, and Matt the baritone was missing, but the 45-minute show was still excellent as always. We returned to the cabin, and were in bed half an hour later, ca.10.15pm. As usual, the sounds from the Medusa Lounge below were intrusive.

[Wednesday 27 January 2016]

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