I once lived in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Years later, almost forty, I had made a promise to return to Montego Bay to see friends.

Montego Bay, the capital of St. James Parish on Jamaica’s north coast, is a major cruise ship port with numerous beach resorts and golf courses outside its commercial core. Popular beaches include Doctor’s Cave Beach and Walter Fletcher Beach, home to an amusement park. There’s snorkeling and diving at coral reefs in the protected waters of Montego Bay Marine Park.

We docked at the passenger terminal, a tricky maneuver at best, alongside the cargo terminal in Montego Bay and walked into town. The majority of shipping to the island comes into Port Kingston or Montego Bay. The rest of the island is too shallow for most commercial shipping entry.

You will definitely want to egress the ship and pay a visit to Montego Bay, a lively city famous for its gorgeous beaches, historic plantations and friendly island charm.

When you first arrive in town, you will disembark in the Montego Bay City Centre. Here, you can find a wide range of duty-free shops, where you can buy everything from premium liquor to brand-name jewelry and watches.

Two attractions near Montego Bay allow you to experience the city's important agricultural history. At the Rose Hall Great House, you can take a tour of an authentic sugar plantation dating back to the 18th century - learning about both the sugar-growing process as well as Annie Palmer, the fabled “White Witch" that lived there. 

Meanwhile, the Appleton Estate gives you a chance to try some of Jamaica’s finest rums, crafted using a recipe more than 250 years old.  I bought a bottle of Appleton’s Special Reserve to be opened only in case of unexpected fatherhood.

I lived in Montego Bay for two years as part of a rental car program we initiated for the ships such as ours.  After two years we decided to pull out of Jamaica and a few other islands, the program had set it sights on.  But I lived at the Casa Blanca and met some really nice friends whom I went back to see on this trip after thirty something close to forty years.

In those days Jamaica had the highest death rate per capita in the world if you were involved in a car accident.  In other words, if you went off the cliff, hit another car or met a hauler, most likely you went to the morgue instead of the hospital.   Left side cars as in England, takes getting used to, really poor single lane roads, with no markings, high tonnage Aluminum haulers, driving way too fast and not being familiar with the vehicle.  Today the ships tours take car of everything and bus service is frequent and almost every thing is walking distance for the day you spend there.

When you visit Montego Bay, however, you won’t want to miss exploring its amazing natural landscape. If you want to have a heart-pounding adventure, pay a visit to the Great River. 

This rushing body of water is one of Jamaica’s best destinations for rafting, tubing and even zip line tours through the canopy of the jungle. 

Another rainforest attraction is Dunn's River Falls, a 600-foot cascade featuring a natural rock staircase and plenty of plunge pools and thermal springs.

To truly experience what Montego Bay is about, you have to lie out on one of its gorgeous beaches. Doctor’s Cave Beach is named after the physicians who discovered that its waters had rejuvenating properties, and you'll certainly feel like a kid again when you splash in the waves there. 

Negril is home to the famous Seven Mile Beach, which is a great place to relax and soak up the Jamaican atmosphere.

When I left the island back in the eighties, I made a promise to my friends whom I spent enjoyable times with during my tenure running our car rental business.

Two of my friends, Shackat Dalley who owns a dive service in Montego and his mother the Hon. Hazel Dally, a store keeper, owner of a bed and a small hotel, knew me back in the early eighties when I first arrived there and knew no one other than my employees, all Jamaican, most from Montego Bay.   They were incredibly talented learning how to do all repairs like body work and engines, better than our US guys.  

After the lease cars went out to the cruise ships based on appointments made by the ship, we had little to do all day except repairs, siestas, fishing and diving.

Basically wait till they returned to the dock and me and my drivers and mechanics then shuffled the cars back to our property, getting ready for the next ship to port.

Being a certified diver, we did what most divers do we dived all day, over the islands many bays and off shore, places you don’t normally dive at,  and there was never a shortage of fish and lobster for lunch.

Shackat’s mother,  the Hon Hazel Dalley had a unique gift shop right on the main drag in Montego bay.  Many Presidents stopped there, even Fidel Castro stopped there, she was a gracious and lovely lady and totally wrapped in the tourism for her island.   And when I learned this cruise was going to stop in Montego Bay. We booked it quick. I had made a promise one day I would come back to see them.

When I walked through her door, after close to forty years, she recognized me, and we spent a pleasant hour together before the call to board the ship came.  Shackat was out diving with a charter and I missed my friend.  But I will return. I keep my promises.

The pictures were taken on this cruise.   It was April, she passed on in December.  She was a Philanthropist and businesswoman.   The 89-year-old woman, affectionately known as ‘ Aunt Haze', died peacefully at her Sunset Boulevard home in Montego Bay, St James today.

Her niece, Lorna Cheong, said Dalley “ Went out like an angel", after being ill for the last three months, showing signs of recuperating, then deteriorating last week.  Her death has been described as a deep loss by several members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, who had accepted her as a member of their family. She was a Justice of the Peace and just about everyone in  Montego bay knew her.  She will be missed dearly.

The justice of the peace, who was conferred with the Order of Distinction for her work in tourism, was tagged a comprehensive lover of every policeman and woman by Superintendent of Police Paul Stanton, who knew her for more than 20 years.

"It’s a deep loss. She was the cream of the crop, when you talk about good corporate citizen, she epitomized that, and she boasted the highest level of integrity,” said Stanton, adding that Dalley gave unconditionally.  The businesswoman operated the Dalley’s Variety Store on Gloucester Avenue for more than 50 years.