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In this day and age, when people have a question, they turn to the internet to answer it. A quick search, or post on a message board and you will get more advice/opinions than you know what to do with.
I was just on a forum about cruises and saw many people writing about Falmouth, Jamaica. The consensus pretty much was that there is nothing to do in Falmouth and their advice was not to venture out of the gated port area because it’s “unsafe”.
I have read those message boards on two different occasions- once before my cruise and once again after. After visiting Falmouth, I couldn’t help but disagree with many of those posts for a few reasons:
1. There is always something to do. Sometimes you just have to go out and find it.
It is unrealistic to expect the places you travel to to be like home, or any other place you’ve visited. Falmouth is a small town- its population is about the same as the amount of people on the cruise ships that dock there. It’s a town with an interesting and notorious history, you can see that in the Georgian style architecture. If you venture away from the port gates, you will see that Falmouth has vibrancy and life. It’s nice to just walk around town and take it all in, the old with the new.
While you are walking around, stop and talk to the locals. We went into a few shops that were away from the port and had good conversations with some of the owners. They were willing to tell us a bit about the town and the history of the area. It was refreshing to get the perspective of a local rather than a tour guide.
By no means does Falmouth slap you in the face with fun. You have to look for its charm, but it is there if you open your mind to it.
2. Staying inside the port area, as safe as it may be, causes you to miss out on the pulse and culture of a place.
Can you really say you’ve been to Jamaica if you’ve only stepped off the ship long enough to shop inside the port area? While the port at Falmouth is admittedly beautiful, with architecture that mimics the Georgian style buildings beyond the gate, it is still contrived. The port is nothing more than a themed retail shopping destination. Once you step into town, you experience authenticity, the real Falmouth.
Vendors line the streets selling their crafts, many which reflect Jamaica’s rich heritage. We saw so many beautiful, intricately carved walking sticks. The artisans were pleasant to talk to and loved explaining the stories behind their personal creations. We felt better buying from the locals and supporting their livelihood rather than giving our money to the international chain shops at the pier.
3. Feeling unsafe is a subjective thing.
In all the forums and reviews I’ve read about Falmouth, people made the claim Falmouth was unsafe based on their own personal comfort level in regards to the street vendors.
Yes, in Falmouth, as in many other places around the world, you will get approached by people trying to sell things. Yes, they probably will follow you for a few steps, trying to get you into their shop. And yes, some will even ask if you want to buy pot.
I found this to be very annoying, but unsafe? Not really. When it all comes down to it, they are just trying to make a living by selling things (in the short amount of time the cruise ships are there). Had you been robbed, by all means, call that place unsafe. A little high-pressure sales, as is the norm in many places, is not reason enough to tell people not to visit. I’ve found that in places like Falmouth, you just need to politely disengage, keep on walking and they will leave you alone pretty fast. Once you get past the main port gates and into the heart of the town, this isn’t so much a problem anyways.
Falmouth does have tourist police in the main areas of town (you can identify them by their white hats, white shirts, and black pants). If you are really concerned about your safety, then hire a guide or join a tour. This way you can still experience Falmouth but have safety in numbers. Admittedly, there are some destinations I am not comfortable visiting alone and will only travel to them as part of a group, but Falmouth is not one of them.
Before I went on my cruise, I read those reviews and messages boards striking fear into cruisers about Falmouth. While they made me a little hesitant, for the most part they just made me aware of certain situations. Instead of being scared away, I went in prepared. When travelling, there are always certain precautions you should take, no matter what your destination might be.
Travel is a deeply personal experience. How someone else experienced a destination may or may not be what your experience is. By all means, heed the warnings from other travellers and use them to plan and prepare. But at the same time, take what you read with a grain of salt (that includes what you read here- just my opinions), try not to get scared off of a place and travel with an open mind.
Did you know…
- Falmouth had piped water before New York City.
- The town was named after Falmouth in Cornwall, England, which was the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny, the Governor of Jamaica at the time of the town’s establishment.
- During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Falmouth was one of the busiest ports in Jamaica and a central hub of the slave trade.
- Usain Bolt, Olympian and world record holder for sprinting, is a native of Falmouth.