The Jamaica Carnival season is in it's early stages now, but things really pick up around Easter weekend with the Road March being held on April 12.
BUT... I am warning you to not compare Jamaica Carnival to Trinidad's because it's no where on the same scale. Jamaica Carnival is a very small event (that is growing) and not a national festival. The road march and costumes are managed by Bacchanal Jamaica, a private entity, and the fetes and J'ouvert are put on by Bacchanal and other promoters. Even so, it is worth the experience.
|Photo credit: Eloquence.com|
Because of the exchange rate (about J$116 to US$1), Trinis can get more for their money in Jamaica as it relates to fetes and costumes. And since Trinis are feteing like oil is US$200 a barrel, then why not? For instance, a cooler fete can range from US$20-25 and an all inclusive can start from US$70. In addition, you can get a BL costume from US$300 and a FL from US$400. However, keep in mind that the airfare from Trinidad on CAL is pricey with a cost of about US$500-600. If you don't mind a longer route, Copa airlines are sometimes cheaper than CAL (but through Panama).
2. You may not have to pay for accommodation.
Everyone knows a Trini in Jamaica. I mean there are literally hundreds of Trinis living here. You must know one who would be willing to put you up for at least a week (not me of course). But please, if you do go this route, offer to pay for groceries or contribute to the light bill because those aren't cheap. If you can't find someone to put you up (Jamaican or Trini), hotel rooms in Kingston can range from US$140-250 per night. You can check out Knutsford Court Hotel, Jamaica Pegasus, Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, and Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston.
If you plan to get here for the Easter weekend fetes, keep in mind that these do not take place in Kingston and you may have to get accommodation in either Ocho Rios or Portland where basic rooms can cost about US$60-100.
3. You can recycle your costume from Trinidad Carnival.
There is one band for Jamaica Carnival (yes, it's that small) and the costumes are okay and reasonably priced. But if you want more, you can wear your own costume and simply pay for the t-shirt option (US$240) to get the armband. The prices are all-inclusive and come with drinks, meals, and snacks. There is also a cool down area and restroom facilities.
|Photo credit: Dwayne Watkins|
4. The J'ouvert is awesome.
During the season there is Cocoa J'ouvert (March 7) and Beach J'ouvert (on Easter weekend), but on the Friday before the Road March, there are about 3 major J'ouvert events. The 2 major events are Caesar's Army AM Bush and Bacchanal Jamaica's J'ouvert with my pick being Caesar's Army. Last year, AM Bush only catered to 300 patrons, but I'm sure it will be bigger this year.
|Caesar's Army Ambush 2014 Photo Credit: Jamaica Gleaner|
I'm not sure when and where, but Machel will be here; he's always here. He usually does the Pandemonium fete on the Thursday before Carnival, so he might be here for that. And it's not just Machel, but a lot of local soca artistes and DJs are booked for the season.
|Photo credit: Skkan|