My name is Mike,” announces the driver of the zebra-striped jeep
that takes visitors to Bob Marley’s birth and final resting place.
“It is not ‘oh my God’ or ‘whoa.’”
As they embark on a harrowing drive up the one-lane, two-way
mountain road to Nine Miles, the village where the singer was born
and raised, they will quickly figure out what Mike means.
Offered by Chukka Cove Adventure Tours, the Bob Marley jeep safari
is not for the faint of heart, especially if your clients are prone
to carsickness. Then again, they won’t want to miss it, so tell
them to pop some Dramamine and buckle their seatbelts. The jeeps
pass craft stands, tiny villages, banana plantations, sugar fields,
jerk stands and the occasional wild mongoose. It’s a great way to
see the lush island’s rural interior and the scenery is
Passengers may want to chug down some rum punch that the driver
passes around (thankfully, he does not help himself to a swig).
They can also opt for water or soda, but the rum may help smooth
out the bumps, potholes, sheer cliffs and precipices.
Unless they are a diehard Marley fan, the actual tour is almost
beside the point. Visitors view Marley’s birthplace; then traipse
through the small, simple home on Sugar Hill where the reggae
legend lived as a child and frequently stayed as an adult. The
house is now empty, save for a small bed mentioned in the song “Is
This Love”: “We’ll be together with a roof right over our
heads./We’ll share the shelter of my single bed.” Just outside,
everyone takes turns touching a large rock, which was immortalized
in “Talkin’ Blues”: “Cold ground was my bed last night (bed last
night)./And rock was my pillow, too.”
Then guests file through the mausoleum and tomb, surrounded by
photographs, memorabilia and Marley’s guitar and tambourine. Last
stop is the gift shop, stocked with T-shirts, clocks, hats and mugs
the usual stuff.
On the way back, the driver pours more rum punch and distributes
beef patties. Though a Jamaican staple, they seem somehow
incongruous on a tour devoted to Bob Marley, who as a Rastafarian
was strictly vegetarian. Oh well, by now you know “everything’s
gonna be all right.”
Chukka Caribbean Adventure Tours
Tour includes snack and beverages including rum punch.
Price: $52 for travel agents, with $13 suggested
Bob Marley Nine Mile Tours
A similar tour offered by the Bob Marley Movement. Includes lunch
Price: $65 per person from Ocho Rios; $80 from
Montego Bay; $95 from Negril. Includes full lunch and snacks.
Commission: 13 percent
Royal Plantation Spa & Golf Resort
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I was in Jamaica, and I was jonesin’ for a pattie. I had heard
folks rave about the country’s traditional hot stuffed pastries,
but sadly I’m vegetarian and the lunch restaurant at Royal
Plantation Resort in Ocho Rios served only beef and chicken
versions. So, despite my severe case of pattie-envy, I reluctantly
settled for a salad.
But on my last day at the resort, waitress Ivorene Reece proudly
handed me a plate stacked with steaming veggie patties. She had
bought them on her way to work on her own time, with her own money
and without anyone asking her to do so. (And no, she didn’t know
that I was a journalist writing an article.)
That’s just one example of Royal Plantation’s guest-pleasing
service, evident in everything from the housekeeper who sprinkled
orchids on my bed to the boat captain who offered private lessons
to my snorkeling-novice boyfriend to the waitress who ensured that
I would taste a pattie before leaving the island.
Since converting from an all-inclusive Beaches, the rebranded Royal
Plantation has changed its price structure and upgraded its
accommodations, which are decorated with mahogany four-poster beds
covered with crisp white duvets, prints of lush Caribbean scenes
and brightly colored walls and furnishings. But for anyone who
stayed at the 77-room boutique resort during its Beaches days, the
enhancements may seem undetectable except for the bigger bill.
After all, the place was already pretty nice.
The real improvements lie not in tangible amenities but in its
service and ambience. Neatly blending British gentility with
Jamaica’s “no problem” hospitality, the place radiates laidback
luxury and comfortable refinement.
But refined does not mean sedate. A trio plays cheery calypso music
at lunchtime. At night, white-gloved waiters bustle about in Le
Papillon, the resort’s finest restaurant (jackets appropriate), and
guests dance to reggae in the al fresco Bayside restaurant. Caviar
is served in mother-of-pearl shells in the elegant champagne bar,
while chefs put on fiery performances in Flambe on the terrace.
Folks in Jamaica like to say “Irie, mon,” which loosely translated
means “all is well.” I used the phrase a lot during my visit to
Royal Plantation especially when I was downing those tasty
Rates: European Plan accommodations only. From
$320 for an oceanfront suite to $1,450 for the three-bedroom Villa
Plantana. Non-motorized watersports included.
Royal Plan $160 additional, per person. Includes meals, afternoon
tea, beverages, house wines and liquors, in-room bar, greens fees
at a nearby country club and scuba.
Commission: 13 percent