Carnival in Jamaica is surprisingly a pretty big deal, at least for all the masqueraders who hit the road in full costume. I say surprising because people seem to think that Carnival in Jamaica is some kind of oxymoron. “Do they even like soca?” I was asked by those who have never been and curious as to what the road experience is like. Jamaicans who participate in Carnival LOVE soca and they love playing mas.
When I turned up for my makeup appointment, there were several ladies already waiting, all excitedly talking about their costumes. The atmosphere reminded me very much like Carnival Tuesday in Trinidad when you cannot wait to get all dressed up and meet the band.
The streets are lined with spectators; you will be stopped numerous times on the way to meet the band for photographs from the countless professional photographers, tourists and onlookers alike. Practice that smile and pose, I swear there is one photographer for every 30 masqueraders!
Once you get to the band note that this isn’t a band on route to compete, the only competition you will be undertaking is to see how much fun you can pack into 8 hours. The vibe on the road is pure fun, pure enjoyment, pure freedom and pure bacchanal. As huge as Bacchanal Jamaica is, there is more than enough room on the road to enjoy yourself and the band keeps a steady but comfortable pace so you can wine from front to back and never lose your friends.
For the ladies, eye candy galore, the men are fine and there are those who are fabulous. For the men the women in Jamaica are gorgeous, as a collective some of the best put together masqueraders that you will see on the road for any Carnival. There is a very strong Trini contingent that is well represented on the road, which made for even more fun when one bounces up familiar Carnival chasers; a feeling of camaraderie
You will not want for anything on the road; drinks are easily accessible and can even come to you if you like. Snacks are served post lunch, music from all the popular DJs regionally and internationally with free wines distributed generously from enthusiastic masqueraders.
Two points to note. Costuming of your own design is tolerated, if you sign up in the T Shirt section, however, recycling identifiable costumes from recent Carnivals are frowned upon. As for safety, the band takes a route through Kingston where the spectators outnumber masqueraders by far. There is security in the band as well as barriers along parts of the route. As the sun goes down normal safety procedures apply. It is always wise to keep your wits about you, do not stray from the band, stick with your friends and pace your drinking. Naturally stormers will try to infiltrate the band; from what I have experienced they are harmless, only looking to tief a wine on a bumper. Nevertheless some people may be overwhelmed so apply judgement as necessary.
Needless to say I had a fantastic time on the road, I think I went extra hard because I missed out on playing mas in Trinidad and Jamaica certainly made up for it. Thankfully my feet and boots survived this year. The hospitality of the Bacchanal Jamaica family was once again very much appreciated; they do go the extra mile in providing excellent service.
Jamaica 2016, we are there!
Jamaica Carnival Tips
- Ladies flats are the footwear of choice; Bridget Sandals is the statement shoe once in Jamaica. Leave the heels at home.
- The go to street food is Pan Chicken; this foiled wrapped alternative to jerk is simply awesome after a hard night of partying.
- Special sections in Bacchanal Jamaica offer their masqueraders upgraded amenities; we particularly liked the extras from Leh We Go and Frenchmen.
- For hotels we recommend Spanish Court and The Pegasus.
- If you can add on a few extra days post Carnival to enjoy the beauty of Jamaica’s beaches, Maiden Cay is especially divine and accessible from Kingston.