Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Margaritaville Falmouth Jamaica - My 30th Margaritaville Property


.....and then there were 31.


Quite possibly the easiest Margaritaville property to find and visit is the original one in Key West, Florida.  There you simply find a place to park (actually that’s not such a simple task any more), stumble to Duval Street, and then follow the masses of drunks who still have tan lines as they flow toward the ocean and voila, the original Margaritaville café eventually pops into their blurry eyed view at 505 Duval Street.

Others are a bit more difficult to visit.  The only way you’ll get to the three Air Margaritaville’s in the San Juan (Puerto Rico) airport is to fly in or out of the airport and although flying is an option for Grand Turk its simplest (and far cheaper) to go there by cruise ship as I found out in October.  Margaritaville Niagara Falls requires walking across the international bridge and turning left and Margaritaville Orlando requires you to pay an extortionate parking fee (unless it’s after 6:00 p.m. and you’re a Florida resident – except around Halloween for some reason) and then walk among the throngs of people at Universal City Walk until you hear Buffett music pulsing from a building on the left.



Getting to Margaritaville Grand Turk by cruise ship is a piece of cake compared to driving to Margaritaville Falmouth

Among the Margaritaville properties (cafes, casinos, airport cafes, Landshark landings, etc) I have visited, however, none turned out to be a greater logistical challenge than Margaritaville Falmouth Jamaica. 

For my birthday trip in 2012 I flew to Montego Bay, rented a car, zipped around on the North Coast Highway east to Ocho Rios then back west to the cruise ship pier near downtown Montego Bay and finally to Margaritaville Negril where, if you’re so inclined, you can peek at the naked bodies splayed out on the beach at Hedonism (of course I looked the other way).  A quick stop at Gate 14 in the Montego Bay airport at the end of the trip gave me three new Margaritaville Cafes (I’d been to the Air Margaritaville in the Montego Bay airport twice before).  I flew home thinking that I would not have to return to Jamaica any time soon because I had all of the cafes and there was no reason to go back.  That was, unfortunately, until I visited the Margaritaville home page in April 2013 and discovered that Jimmy had built a new café at the cruise ship pier in Falmouth.  This meant that if I was going to accomplish my most important goal in retirement – to drink a beer in every Margaritaville property - I had to go back.  The Jamaica Tourist Board marketing slogan for Jamaica is “Come Back to Jamaica” and the Falmouth Margaritaville might be why.

Looking at a map of Jamaica you discover that Falmouth is only 30 km east of the Montego Bay airport and if traffic is halfway sane you could be there an hour after stepping off the plane.  You could also, if you were so inclined, hop on a cruise ship and head to Falmouth.  Royal Caribbean has several ships a month that travel from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area to Falmouth with an intermediate stop on the north coast of Haiti.  The Mouse (Disney Cruise Lines) also travels to Falmouth via Haiti but the Mouse charges nearly twice what Royal Caribbean charges for the same trip.

Weighing options for the café I recently found a $232 roundtrip from Orlando – Ratworld International to Montego Bay.  From lift off to landing I could be in Jamaica in 90 minutes.  At the airport I discovered that Avis would rent me a car for $21 US a day, and a non-air conditioned guest house in the hills above Falmouth would charge me $50 a night for the privilege of broiling in one of their guestrooms in 86 degree heat as their dog sat outside the windows barking all god damned night long.  That however is a different story.  In the end I could do a day trip to Jamaica to get this new Café for about $300, or less than the cost of a box seat behind home plate for one Tampa Bay Rays game.

The logistics of getting to Falmouth took their first difficult turn even before boarding the flight in Orlando.  Jet Blue Airlines found it curious that one of their passengers was flying to Jamaica for only a day and before I was allowed to board the plane I had to explain myself to two different gate agents.  Arriving in Montego Bay I was held up by the immigration officer who 1) didn’t believe my story that I was there for a beer, and 2) made me wait forever and a day to talk to a Ministry of Health official because I had made the mistake of being honest on my landing card and said that I had been in Senegal in the last 6 weeks.  Convincing the Ministry of Health that I was not a biological time bomb I moved to Customs who didn’t like my being there for a day, grilled me, searched my way-under-packed day pack (all I brought with me) twice and then reluctantly let me go.

The Guesthouse directions say to “turn right” from the North Coast Highway after seeing a building with “Breezes” written on it.   In gathering dusk it’s difficult to see anything and especially when you don’t know what you seek and eventually I stopped a Jamaican driver and asked for help.  He led me to the Guesthouse that desperately needs to change the way it directs guests to it. 

My first indication that this was not the end of the confusion was when my Guesthouse owner showed actual surprise when I told her I was going to Margaritaville Falmouth for dinner.  “You can’t, mon,” she started.  “It’s open only when a cruise ship is in port and then only for cruisers.  You can’t just drive up and go to the café.”

Impossible, I thought.  None of the other cafes are that difficult - Falmouth can’t be.  However I would discover just how difficult it can be. 

Well after dark and after asking a Royal Jamaican Police officer how to find the pier in Falmouth I showed up at the gate to find it locked.  I explained to the security guard that I wanted to go to Margaritaville and it was then that she confirmed what the Guesthouse owner had said.  “You can’t, mon.  It open only for ships and then only for cruisers.  You can’t just drive up to the café.” 

Damn.

I explained the purpose of my trip and asked if there was any way the officials could make an exception and let me in.  The guard called Dixon, the chief of port security, who drove over to the gate to interrogate me.  After we talked he felt that I was not some sort of security risk and said “Disney has a ship coming in tomorrow, mon.  Be back here in the morning, tell the security officer I said it was ok to come in, and then go have a beer mon.”


A cruise ship operated by a rat

Disney Wonder slid into the Falmouth pier about 7:00 a.m. on November 19 and I watched it from the top of a hill overlooking Falmouth harbour.  I spent much of the morning from before dawn (I got 3 hours of sleep thanks to the barking dog and the lack of air conditioning) until about 9:30 a.m. looking for birds in the rich forests in the hills above Falmouth.  From there I drove to the pier and explained my plight to the security guard.  Of course she didn’t believe me and had to make several calls.  Eventually she tracked down Dixon who said it was cool.  However before letting me inside the security fence she and a colleague conducted a complete check of my rental car.  They looked under the seats (finding nothing) pulled out the back seat and looked behind it (finding nothing) then looked under the floor pads and in the glove compartment (finding nothing).  Next I had to pop open the trunk which they searched (finding nothing) and finally they looked under the hood of the car (again finding nothing).  This was akin to trying to enter a US military facility in the post-9/11 era.  And all I wanted to do was have a beer.

Once past the security fence I had to stop for a secondary security check before being directed to a parking lot near the stern of the Disney Wonder.  I was exhausted and in need of a beer before I got to the front door.

There is hope for the geographically challenged when visiting Margaritaville Falmouth

Margaritaville Falmouth is a familiar scene that has been repeated many times over in other Margaritaville properties.  You enter under a large sign erected on a structure that looks like a pirate ship and ask a server to seat you.  Because of its newness not all the accessories of a Margaritaville Café you’d expect are up and running.  At the far end of the bar, construction workers are building a replica of Dunn’s River Falls at Ocho Rios. The water from the waterfall will fill a swimming pool at the base of the waterfall.  The pool is also under construction. Next to it they were constructing a Jacuzzi that was in the form of a margarita glass (complete with a slice of lime inserted on the edge of the glass).


Most of your essential Parrothead gear can be obtained at the Margaritaville Store in Falmouth....including beach chairs



November 19 was the roll out of the new menu at Margaritaville Falmouth and I was the first person to open the new menu.  For breakfast I chose shrimp tacos washed down with Landshark Lager beer (what the hell, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere isn’t it?).  As I waited for my food I chatted with some of the bartenders and servers, each of whom was amazed that I drove into the pier area and was not off the ship. I told one bartender that this was my 30th Margaritaville property and he began to question me with lots of Buffett trivia.  (Things like “Where is Landshark Lager brewed?”  - Come on….make it difficult if you’re going to quiz someone.  The answer is Jacksonville).  I answered each of his questions and then finally I asked him “So, what’s the name of the dolphin in the song “Jolly Mon Sing?”  He didn’t have a clue and finally said “Mon, you’re a master of Buffett trivia, mon.”  After all the running and all of the concerts I better be!  (And the answer to the dolphin question is “Albion” but you can only find that out if you read the “Jimmy Buffett Scrapbook” from cover to cover – and then preferably twice).


The new menu unveiled on November 19, 2013.  Shrimp tacos and beer were the breakfast of Jamaican champions that morning.

Bar activities included a beer drinking contest (I would have had my clock cleaned if I had tried – I’m not 21 anymore) and a Buffett trivia contest (otherwise known as a piece of cake).  As with every other Margaritaville I’ve been in the employees were happy and obviously excited to be there.  One kid said “You know the Ritz-Carlton in Mo’ Bay, mon?  I used to work there but quit so I could work at Margaritaville instead.” 


The morning started slowly at Margaritaville Falmouth but things picked up once people began to disgourge themselves from the Rat Ship moored at the pier.

Rumor has it that negotiations are underway to allow locals to visit the Café and to do so even when there is no ship in port.  “We are worried that locals will get drunk and trash the place” I was told.   Hopefully they will behave themselves so everyone can come here.

I left Margaritaville Falmouth with a slight buzz (imagine that!) and drove back to Montego Bay. My original plan was to go to the Montego Bay downtown café to take a picture of its entrance sign but instead I decided to simply return my rental vehicle to the airport, slide into the Air Margaritaville at Gate 14, and wait for my flight back to Orlando.

Completing all of the formalities of checking in and going through security I climbed the steps to the upper level and asked which way to the Air Margaritaville Café.  “Which one, mon” I was asked by the cute Jamaican in the information booth, “there are two of them you know, mon.”  

There are???? That’s the first anyone told me!


The original Air Margaritaville Cafe in the Montego Bay airport is at Gate 1

I knew about the Gate 14 café but the one at Gate 1 was news.  It turns out that Gate 1 is the original Air Margaritaville in the Montego Bay airport.  I immediately darted down the corridor to Gate 1 and had my required beer at this Café making it my 31st Margaritaville property. 
Air Margaritaville Cafe at Gate 14 of the Montego Bay airport

Next stop was the familiar Café at Gate 14 where I spent much of the remainder of the afternoon.  There I had over-priced coconut shrimp and two Landsharks for lunch and as I sat at the bar listening to Buffett music I remembered how I drank my first Landshark in that bar in 2007 and as I did I looked out the window and saw a perfectly formed waterspout dancing across the ocean just a few hundred yards away.  The importance of waterspouts in Parrothead lore comes from the verse in “Tryin to Reason with Hurricane Season” where Jimmy talks about “watching for waterspouts.”

Air Margaritaville at Gate 14 is the perfect place to drink Landshark Lager and watch for waterspouts out on the Caribbean while you wait for your flight back home

Soon Jet Blue was announcing the departure of their flight to Orlando – Ratworld International.  I boarded, took my seat, and was placed next to a Buddhist monk who grunted rather than spoke, belched and farted loudly, and who threw the wrappings of his robe over his shoulders several times, and each time the robe slapped me in the face it revealed how many years it’s been since the robe was last laundered.

With 31 Margaritaville properties under my belt I have 5 more to visit to have been to all of them that are currently open – Sydney Australia, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Chicago, Mohegan Sun Connecticut.   A new one is set to open sometime soon in Destin, Florida on the Redneck Riviera and it will likely be the next new one I get.  I can hardly wait.  I’m taking a cruise out of Tampa in February to Grand Cayman and Cozumel primarily to get a picture of the entrance sign for each of those Cafes and in the mean time I’ll keep my eyes glued to www.buffettnews.com for the latest information on the latest developments in the Parrothead nation.

It's always 5 o'clock in Margaritaville

Among those I have not visited the biggest logistical hurdle will be Sydney Australia solely because it’s a 14 hour nonstop from Los Angeles to Sydney just to get there.  However that will likely be easy in comparison to the hoops and hurdles needed to drive up to Margaritaville Falmouth.

The real irony of this story happened a few hours after I returned home from the airport at the conclusion of this trip.  Out of curiosity I opened my Royal Caribbean cruise app on my iPhone to find out what the current price was for a trip to the pier in Falmouth.  As my luck would have it they had a ship that sailed out of Fort Lauderdale that morning bound for Haiti and then Falmouth.  It was a standard 5 night cruise and the cost was $199!    It would have been so much easier on that ship.


 Margaritaville Properties (and the date visited) Through November 19 2013
Canada
Niagara Falls
Café
August 6 2012
Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman
Café
July 8 2010
Jamaica
Falmouth
Café
November 19 2013
Jamaica
Montego Bay – Downtown
Café
October 30 2012
Jamaica
Montego Bay Airport - Gate 1
Airport Café
November 19 2013
Jamaica
Montego Bay Airport- Gate 14
Airport Café
October 7 2007
Jamaica
Negril
Café
October 31 2012
Jamaica
Ocho Rios
Café
October 29 2012
Mexico
Cancun 
Café
March 17 2009
Mexico
Cancun 
Airport Café
March 20 2009
Mexico
Cozumel
Café
March 19 2009
Panama
Panama City 
Airport Café
February 9 2013
Puerto Rico
San Juan  Airport – Concourse C1
Airport Café
September 14 2012
Puerto Rico
San Juan Airport – Concourse B33
Airport Café
September 14 2012
Puerto Rico
San Juan Airport – Concourse C9
Airport Café
September 14 2012
Turks and Caicos Islands
Grand Turk
Café
October 2 2013
USA
Arizona
Glendale
Café
April 13 2010
USA
Florida
Key West
Café
July 20 1986
USA
Florida
Orlando
Café
July 7 2009
USA
Florida
Panama City Beach
Café
February 3 2009
USA
Florida
Pensacola 
Landshark Landing
October 7 2012
USA
Florida
Pensacola 
Hotel
October 7 2012
USA
Louisiana
Bossier City
Casino
June 10 2013
USA
Louisiana
New Orleans
Café
March 22 1996
USA
Mississippi
Biloxi  
Casino
February 4 2013
USA
Mississippi
Biloxi  
Landshark Landing
February 4 2013
USA
New Jersey
Atlantic City
Casino
May 10 2013
USA
Ohio
Cincinnati
Café
April 20 2013
USA
South Carolina
Myrtle Beach
Café
April 25 2013
USA
South Carolina
Myrtle Beach – Landshark Landing
Landshark Landing
April 25 2013
USA
Tennessee
Nashville
Café
July 10 2011

 Margaritaville Properies Not Visited (Includes those under construation/planned and not yet open.


US Virgin Islands

St. Thomas
Hotel
USA
Connecticut
Mohegan Sun
Casino
USA
Florida
Destin
Café
USA
Florida
Fort Lauderdale
Hotel
USA
Hawaii
Honolulu
Café
USA
Illinois
Chicago- Navy Pier
Café
USA
Nevada
Las Vegas
Casino
USA
New York
Syracuse
Café
USA
Oklahoma
Tulsa
Café
USA
Tennessee
Pigeon Forge
Café
USA
Texas
San Antonio
Café

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