We're going to CSS for the last week of February and are considering which excursions to take; we want to avoid trying to do too much, when relaxing and swimming on the beach looks to be an outstanding alternative!
So the main question is: if we were to go off-resort for one day, would it be better to go to the Dunn River Falls, or to Chukka ziplining?
Some other questions about these:
--- How far in advance should we decide when/where to go? - can we decide the day before, say, based on the weather?
--- Which days does the Dunn River Falls trip go? every day?
--- What does it take to set up a trip to the zip-lining --- it's an outside company, do they come to CSS or do we have to take a taxi to Ocho Rios or something to join the group? Can the CSS concierge set this up?
--- What days are cruise ships in port? We'd like to avoid getting overrun by hordes.
--- How much of the day is taken by either trip? One review suggested you could do the ziplining in either the morning or afternoon.
--- (Dunn River Falls) Is this something where you get to sit and relax and enjoy the falls a bit? or do you just walk through and then have to get out of the way of the next hundred people?
--- (Zip lining, Dunn River Falls if appropriate) They apparently try to sell photos/video of your visit to you. Are there any restrictions on our own still or video cameras?
I would defintely make an effort to go to Dunn's river. The ziplining will cost extra, as its not included with the resort, and I would check reviews first. I have heard that it can be a lot of waiting around with the ziplining.
We will be at CSS the 21st to the 27th, so I hope to see you around! We have done the "too-many off-site excursions" trip before, and there is so much to do at CSS, I totally understand your point of view. We have done both Dunn's and the Magic Mountain ziplining/bobsled/canopy "Tranopy" tour on different trips to CSS. Both were amazing and fun, for different reasons. This time, we are re-doing Dunn's as we have friends joining us who have never climbed and are afraid of heights. The zipline trip was my favorite excursion we have done, but it was expensive and took pretty much the whole day - left at 10:30a (i think) and got back around 3:30p. There was a nice pool with awesome view of the bay and a slide that we really enjoyed and the bobsled (although too short) was a heck of a ride. During the zipline, I never noticed how much time was passing, even though it wasn't quite what I was expecting, it took forever to get the smile off my face!
Dunn's Falls trips go every day, departing CSS at 10AM. You can usually sign-up the day before, but they do fill up so you're not guaranteed unless you arrange in advance. I like to figure out our plan for the week the evening we arrive so we can fit in activities around the R&R, spa, scuba, etc.
You can arrange the zipline tour at the excursion desk in the CSS lobby. There are 2 desks next to each other - one for CSS dinner reservations and Dunn's reservations and the other has tone of brochures for all the non-included outside excursion options. Booking through CSS may be more $$, but transportation to and from the resort is included.
Sundays are your best bet for Dunn's to avoid Cruise ships. There is a link around the Msg board somewhere - i am sure someone else will post it.
You can either hike the falls or just walk the steps along the edge. Hiking up the falls has lots of little stops for photo ops and checking out your progress. It's a lot of fun and something you should do once.
You can certainly bring your own camera/video for either the ziplining or Dunn's Tours. I haggled and got the DVD of our Dunn's climb and had lots of photos and some short videos from my waterproof camera.
The big question - which do you do? Really, I would say both if you will be there for 6 or 7 days. There is time. We have to fit in more scuba and snorkeling this time, so we're just doing Dunn's and I would rather spend the $ at the spa. In the long run, it also depends on when you think you're coming back home to Jamaica and which experiences are calling to you more. Sorry that's not very definitive, but I hope all this helped a little bit!
I agree with kiki that you probably have time to do both, if you're so inclined. Neither activity you mentioned must be an all-day affair (there are different packages with the zipline that can be shorter than what kiki mentioned).
If I had to give my personal opinion, for a first trip I'd say Dunn's River. It's included, it's not very long, and it's definitely way up on the to-do-in-Jamaica book. Ziplining, though very fun, is something not unique to Jamaica or Ocho Rios (as Dunns is), so if you decide for whatever reason not to return, you may still have a similar opportunity.
I would check out the reviews of the Zip Lining excursion on Trip Advisor. I posted our nightmare account there and there are others also.
The main problem with our trip was that from the time we boarded the bus (we were the 2nd pickup) to the time we got off the bus was TWO HOURS. We were considerate enough to be ready when the bus came, but almost everyone else had to be found to make the bus ride. I still can't believe the bus driver waited for them.
The secondary problem with the Zip Lining was the fact that you had to wait for everyone in front of you to go and when you were done, you had to wait for everyone else to make in over before you had to wait fro everyone in front of you again. We called it the Wait Lining excursion. All the while, we were dehydrating and no water was given to us until the very end. It was truly a miserable 1/2 day.
We had a wonderful time at Dunns. We bought the video and they did a great job.