When you are the birthplace of Reggae, home of Dancehall & the most recognizable international entity of the country is Bob Marley, people aren’t normally going to associate Jamaica as a hotbed for the expansion of Soca & the Carnival culture. Which is why when you say “Carnival” you don’t automatically think of Jamaica..... and that is why Carnival in Jamaica has been under the radar for awhile (not anymore) & possibly the best value Carnival in the Caribbean, honestly dare I say the world.... 

Look at the bigger picture and it makes sense why JA is on a trajectory to be MASSIVE in the world of Carnival - with the size of Jamaica, population density & major infrastructure already in place to handle a massive amount of tourism at any time, the level of service is high & extremely affordable rates during Carnival season, which clearly isn’t the case for the airfare & hotel rates for many other islands come Carnival season where demand exceeds supplies and prices go through the roof.

Anyone living in Jamaica basically gets to enjoy roughly the first 4 months of the year as a prep for Carnival.  Band launch season comes right after Christmas.  Many of the Soca loving Jamaicans travel to Trinidad for Carnival and they return to JA without the tabanca that plagues so many of us because they get to roll right into their Carnival warm-up season – with events like “Tabanca Tuesdays”, “I Love Soca JA”, “Soca vs Dancehall”, “Cocoa J’ouvert” and so much more.

Unlike some of the other islands where you’ve got 3 or 4 fetes competing with each other at virtually every time slot leading up to the road march, Jamaica up until literally this year it had been in the development stage where primarily JA promoters held events and there were some voids altogether which allowed for a more relaxed pace to actually have some down time to take in the culture, hit the beach, lime, or not feel the insane frantic pace & endless debates of which fete you may have paid for but end up having to skip to collect costumes, etc. 

2017 has already been referred to by some as the year of the “Trini Takeover” depending on your perspective..... because the fete schedule is rapidly expanding and this will be the 1st year Carnival Goers will have to choose between fetes again and again while in Kingston, thankfully the Easter Weekend pump in Ocho Rios is still very much JA vibes, the influx/competition & expansion of Carnival fetes really is taking place in Kingston – primarily the 2nd half of the week when the largest number of Carnival participants will have flown in from foreign.

If you reach for Easter Saturday your first stop has to be quite possibly one of the most epic settings – Frenchman’s Rise Up Breakfast Party --- I mean picturesque postcard doesn’t do it justice (this is very much still on my “to do” list – every friend I have that’s attended this event has a similar reaction of essentially feeling it was designed for a movie & being one of the most unique locations for a Breakfast Fete, thankfully this year I’ll be in Ochie ;)

Then you get to follow that up with Bacchanal Jamaica’s Beach J’ouvert (ummmm – yeah, you read that right – you get to have a J’ouvert a week before road march so no excuses about make-up, hair, etc. for de road & better yet – IT’S ON THE BEACH .....you already know how I’d suggest cleaning off afterwards – skinny dip anyone?)

Easter Sunday ..... even on Easter they’ve got multiple fetes.

Trini Jungle Juice hosts – “SUN RUM FUN” Cruise which you already know is off the chain since it’s brought to you by the company that covers & does all things Carnival.

For those who can’t get a ticket for TJJ’s booze cruise – there’s another high-end all-inclusive event that takes place over in Port Antonio – Marbana.

Easter Monday the action shifts to Kingston – with the Resident Soca DJ of Jamaica - DJ Richie R.A.S. hosting his event “Dusk” – Soca In The Hills ..... Beverly Hills, Kingston. Caesar’s Army Mai-Tai will be at essentially the same time.

Tuesday, you can truly relax and enjoy what Jamaica has to offer – whether you want to eat lobster at Hellshire Beach, find your way to Blue Lagoon, or head to the Bob Marley Museum.  Tuesday night is Tabanca Tuesday Pan vs DJ.

Wednesday night you’ve got I Love Soca Jamaica Coolest Cooler Fete”.

Thursday afternoon there’s AFLOAT cruise (a mix of the most recognizable JA & Trini faces in the Soca scene are putting this together so this is bound to be lit).

Thursday night it used to be that your lone decision was to take it straight into the neighborhood with the Frenchmen Blocko .....vibes are nice, plenty people have just flown in from foreign & the energy is electric.  Now, you’ve got options – BF*C Fantastic Cooler Fete as well as Roast mi Gras Cruise have joined the mix.

Friday is also experiencing new expansion going on this year and you will have to make some decisions (as well as possibly figure out when you’re picking up your costume if you’re just reaching from foreign).

Back 2 Blue Breakfast Fete will be going extra early morning.  MEDZ Breakfast Boat ride will be hitting the water for an early morning pump .....prescription is clear – rum & bumpa’s.  Candy Coated Cruise will be a late morning/early afternoon option for the late risers.  The newest addition/fete brand to announce their arrival in Jamaica is Soca Brainwash – which will be an all-inclusive.  And since part of this is article is about understanding the VALUE of JAMAICA …… SBW JA tickets are $80 US– go ahead and compare that to the all-inclusive prices for SBW TT at $140 (never mind the resale prices which go over $250 US).

Friday evening Scorch Cooler Fete KILLED IT last year .....all I can say is vibes were electric in 2015 and plenty people were talking about that fete as exceeding expectations – great setting & great vibes (sentiments were echoed again in 2016 *full disclosure I wasn’t in attendance as I had to cancel my trip to JA).

Late Friday Evening/Saturday morning you’ve got a head to head in terms of local and foreign for J’ouvert

Bacchanal JA’s J’ouvert & Caesar’s Army AMBush JA. Honestly, you can’t go wrong .... it’s J’ouvert.

Bacchanal JA’s event is perfect timing wrapping up in time for you to be ready for the single best event of the fete line-up – Sunnation’s Sunrise Breakfast Fete.

If you attend C.A. AMBush JA – you’ll get a chance to enjoy the intimacy of a smaller J’ouvert that many veterans can appreciate & remember from years past in other locations that have now swelled to several thousand ……just doh stick – you may want to skip the food & water slides so you can make it to Sunnation’s Sunrise Breakfast Fete with a decent amount of time left to enjoy.

As if you didn’t pick up on this already – whatever you do – DO NOT MISS Sunnation’s Sunrise Breakfast Fete!  This is hands-down THE BEST Breakfast Fete I have had the pleasure of attending in my life!  The fete is designed from every angle to provide you with “an experience”.  There is a conscious effort to blend the nuances/fine touches of clubs & fetes from all over and combine it for this event (they’ve been doing it for years & trust me if you’ve been to the big-name events at major carnivals those design teams have been scouting this fete and taking notes). 

What I’m describing has been going on for years – well before it was a trend elsewhere. There’s tapestry covering a large area to provide shade, fans cooling you off, misters to help keep you cool as you dance in the morning sun, couches & raised platforms with great sightlines of the main area – mind you these ARE NOT VIP.  It is a conscious decision of the Sunnation crew to not create any barriers for people, it’s simply first come first serve and folks rotate through (often when there is a VIP section people feel slighted and spend time figuring out how they can be in the “in crowd” rather than just enjoying the vibes ….. the fact is everyone at this Breakfast Fete is receiving VIP services & should feel included at all times).  The service – whether at food stations or the bars is truly pleasant & professional.  Tell me you don’t love having omelets made to order & being tipsy before 9 am?

You’ll also have the largest names doing LIVE performances from the BIGGEST Artists as well as DJ’s --- in recent years that has meant artists like Machel, Kes, Voice, Lyrikal, King Bubba, DJ Private Ryan, Barrie Hype, Nuphoric, Lord Hype, Back2Basics, Tony Cross ..... did I mention this all happens for $100 ??!!! Tell me again what other major carnival provides this many artists at an all-inclusive for this price??? (Go ahead, keep thinking on it because you won’t find one – this is by far the best value for a premium breakfast fete anywhere in the Caribbean).

There are more additions to the Saturday calendar than in the past. 

Suits cooler cruise in the afternoon, Lollipoppy fish fry beach lime,  the Sun-kissed all-inclusive cruise to Maiden Cay is definitely one to keep an eye on because this is looking like a real winner for your afternoon/evening option.  Frenchman's Bazodee is the tradition upscale Saturday night move – the premium all-inclusive fete with endless amounts of food & drink and light display/DJ booth to truly grab your attention.

There you have it.  Jamaica has you covered in not just 1 city but 2 over the course of 10 days and we haven’t even started talk about the Road March or cool down fetes. 

Now here’s the part that will blow your mind compared to most fetes at the other major Carnivals ..... most of your tickets are going to be in the $30-$50 range (some cooler fetes & some drinks-inclusive).  Your premium liquor & all-inclusives events $70- $110!!!!   That’s right – the only sticker shock is the fact that you aren’t getting killed with fetes costing $150, $225 or $300 like you are elsewhere (at least not yet....please don’t let it happen for many years to come, we begging).  The hotels are cheaper, food is extremely affordable, the fetes are cheaper & the plane tickets aren’t bad either (plus you won’t get bumped for like 3 or 4 days straight on either side of Carnival Weekend) – all of this is why I have year after year told everyone I know Carnival in Jamaica is THE BEST VALUE IN THE CARIBBEAN – HANDSDOWN!!!!!

Jamaica is growing by leaps & bounds, yet still is the BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK among the “Big Carnivals” and has a flavor all its’ own – how could it not? .... it’s Jamaica – nuff talk.

'Til next time, Soca to de World!
-Jouvert Mike