My five-day cruise on The Braemar, a Fred Olsen Cruise Ship, was coming to an end. After snorkeling in Belize, visiting the ruins in Guatemala and swimming with dolphins in Roatin Island, Honduras, we were disembarking in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Jamaica music has always honored its African roots, and has altered the course of popular music around the world … Amazing for an island with a population of only 3 million. REGGAE XPLOSION in Island Village, a tourist attraction of shops and restaurants, is the only permanent reggae exposition in the world. The exhibit takes you on an interactive journey through the history of Jamaican music, and chronicles the course of this Cultural Revolution with an integrated montage of priceless photographs, posters, digital video displays, and Intuitive Art. It begins with the birth of mento music, pocomania rituals, and the ska upbeat dances as it evolves into more complex music and dance forms. The history of reggae is documented as it unfolds from its roots, to the magic of Bob Marley, and to its influence on Latin and African artists and hip-hop music.

I attend a celebration of a controversial statue of Bob Marley, created shortly after his death more than 20 years ago, by sculptor Christopher Gonzalez. It took all these years for it to finally found a permanent home on the great lawn of Island Village, not far from Reggae Xplosion. The powerful bronze depicts Marley as a tree, his body the trunk and his legs as far reaching roots. At the dedication, Gonzalez tells the crowd, he created the piece to symbolize the far reaching spread of Marley’s music around the world, and like seeds of a tree, his many off springs. I meet Neville Garrick, curator of the museum and Marley’s close friend, who designed more than 100 album covers, including most of Marley’s. He buys me a beer, and fills me in on his struggles to finance a movie on the life of this music legend.

Artistically, Jamaica is rich in classical and primitive art (known on island as intuitive art). Artist Edna Manley, wife of one of Jamaica’s National Heroes, was the mother of intuitive art and is highly revered for her role in shaping and influencing the movement. Harmony Hall, an art gallery and craft shop in Ocho Rios, devotes an entire room to this art form.


Jamaica is great for a honeymoon; a romantic interlude, a little spa pampering or a party hardy escape any time of the year. The island’s all-inclusive resorts, rated the best in the Caribbean, are as diversified as the spices… some more innovative than others; some less regulated by rules or routines; but all include the best water sports, great food, and all the wine or cocktails you can drink. Super Clubs runs The Grand Lido Sans Souci, Breezes, Hedonism II and Hedonism III, (where the mantra is” freedom of body, mind, heart and spirit”). Here life is a beach and nobody cares what you wear or don’t wear. There are also eight Sandals Resorts on island, and impressive five stars Ritz Carlton Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort in Montego Bay.

The Grand Lido .San Souci Resort is at the top of my recommendation list. Built into the side of a cliff, the hotel’s paths, lush with flowering plants and sweet smelling flora, meander up and down hills and down to the private beach. All accommodations are suites, many with terraces and breathtaking views. Any length stay includes complimentary spa treatments at Charlie’s Spa, named after a rescued 90 year old turtle that now swims around in her own grotto pool. My corn meal scrub is in a gazebo that sits on a rock surrounded by water.

Saturday AM

A flutist plays on the restaurant terrace; I celebrate the morning with ripe and luscious papaya, mango and melon; then move down the buffet to pile my plate with a few typical hot dishes like calalloo, ackee and cod fish (Jamaica’s National dish), and bammie, a local yam. At lunch, I feast on curried goat and rice plus a variety of salads. Between meals, I take advantage of the water sports. I haven’t water- skied in years, and it’s a thrill to glide through the calm warm waters. Snorkeling puts me in touch with schools of colorful fish that nibble at the bread in my hand; and swimming topless in the sea, my body is caressed by gentle waves. .

At dinner, I have my choice of French, Italian or Jamaican cuisine. French Chef Richard Andrieux prepares a special fish and brings a bottle of wine to my table on the terrace. The next night, I sit on a patio at the edge of the beach. My mouth is on fire from the jerk chicken and jerk pork cooked on an open grill. It takes a few glasses of Merlot to cool my palate. The moon is full and low in the sky. I am alone and loving myself.


KiYara means “sacred place of the earth spirits” in Taino, the language of the original inhabitants of Ocho Rios. These gentle people lived their lives in harmony with the natural beauty and bounty of their island paradise. Jamaican native Carolyn Jobson who studied in Sedona has created a tranquil and spiritual spa that embraces nature and the universal spirit of balance. Using only indigenous fruits and herbs and oils, she custom blends ingredients such as avocado, to create original menus of spa therapies, scrubs, wraps and facials. For my exfoliating scrub, she mixes yogurt, papaya, a little avocado oil; lemon distilled water and fine sand. The spa is a new addition to the legendary, intimate and gracious blue Jamaica Inn. Built back in the 50’s by the Morrow family, it was a “dress formal for dinner” comfort stop for such notable writers as Ian Fleming and Noel Coward. Today, sons Peter and Eric maintain the warmth and tradition of the hotel’s 45 beachfront oversized rooms, its cozy bar and outdoor restaurant. I spend a night at the Inn, in the “blue cottage’ on the beach. Still elegant, but less formal than in days gone by, this grand dame of a hotel is reinventing itself to attract younger guests. .

Jamaica, just three and half-hours from New York is a great 3 or 4 night escape. American Airlines and Air Jamaica fly into Montego Bay and Kingston. No matter where you stay, you’re in for a fabulous, fun and friendly time.


. For more information: call 1-800 jamaica or www.jamaicatravel.com