New Jamaica cruise port to open, finally, sort of

The first cruise ship will call at the new port of Falmouth, Jamaica next week, months behind schedule and not fully operational.

The port construction is a joint effort between between mega-ship maker Royal Caribbean International and the government of Jamaica. Originally scheduled to open last May, ongoing construction delays pushed opening the port back, rerouting giant sisters Oasis and Allure of the Seas to Costa Maya, Mexico instead. In fact, neither Oasis or Allure of the Seas will be stopping by until a currently slated March grand opening of the port as construction.

That’s not surprising as the port’s history and existing infrastructure date back to the late 18Th and early 19Th century when it was a central hub of the slave trade.

First to call at Falmouth will be Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, a smaller ship with fewer guests on board starting January 7, 2011.

Once complete, the port’s master plan calls for 120,000 square feet of retail shopping and two berths capable of servicing the line’s Oasis-class ships. Located on the islands North side between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, most tours and excursions currently offered at either port will be available from Falmouth.

When asked if popular tours from Ocho Rios would be possible from Falmouth tour operator Lincoln Stewart told me in November “Oh yeah mon, no problem but don’t hold your breath, no don’t hold your breath.”

We won’t.

Get out and go: Events around the world (October 21-25)

Here’s a travel factoid for the day: Did you know that it was 32 years ago today that three members of the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd were killed in the crash of a chartered plane near McComb, Mississippi?

…But don’t let that fact prevent you from traveling and experiencing the world!

It’s time to look at the festivals and events happening around the world, and this week has a particularly international selection of happenings. If you’re close and have time, then you have no excuse to get out and go!

  • Montreal – The Travel and Adventure Film Festival begins Wednesday, October 21 and continues until the 24th. The festival celebrates both short and long films.
  • BrisbaneThe Caloudra Music Festival will take place at King Beach Bark in Caloundra, near Brisbane, on Thursday, October 22. This is a family-friendly event aimed at celebrating diversity in the local community and will continue until October 25th.
  • Kyoto – Kurama Himatsuri, Japan’s legendary fire festival, will see boys carrying torches through the streets of Kyoto, eventually converging at the Yuki-jinja Shrine, this Thursday, October 22.
  • Montego Bay – Wata Rose Hall Health and Wellness Festival begins Friday, October 23, and culminates with a triathlon on October 26.
  • BostonHarry Potter: The Exhibition opens at Boston’s Museum or Science this Sunday, October 25. The exhibition showcases the supreme artistry and craftsmanship that went into the making of the ever-popular film series.

If you make it to one of these events, let us know how it was, or if you know of an event that’s coming up, please let us know and we’ll be sure to include it in the next “Get out and go” round-up.

Big up Kingston – Welcome to the real Jamaica

In Jamaican slang they like to use the phrase big up. It’s a term intended to bestow respect, giving a shout-out to its recipient in recognition of specific talent or excellence. In Kingston, Jamaica’s capital and largest city, “big up” is a phrase that rings particularly true. Kingston is very much a city on the brink, a renowned capital of reggae, Caribbean culture and stories of rum and pirates from ages past, all dying to be explored. It’s also a city with a fiercely defined identity – unlike the “tourist Jamaica” of Negril, Montego Bay or Ocho Rios, Kingston is very much a town that exists for Jamaicans: built and defined by its proud local residents.

Kingston is a city striving to define itself in the modern day – picking and choosing among the influences of eras past. Founded in the the late 17th Century, Kingston was birthed by the destruction of the infamous Port Royal, Caribbean capital of English pirates and their legendary violence and hedonism. Over the next 200 years, Kingston would thrive as a central trading port of the colonial Caribbean, ground zero for giant sugar cane plantations and the slave trade

By the 20th Century, Kingston was among the largest cities in the Caribbean, playing a central role in one of the era’s most influential and prolific musical movements: reggae. Yet this flowering of Jamaican culture was not without its flaws: by the the 1970’s economic decline and gang violence contributed to steep decline in tourism. Visitors began to steer clear of the lively capital in favor of safer resort towns on the island’s northern and western coasts.

Kingston in 2009 looks more ready than ever to re-assume its eminent position as a central Jamaican tourist destination. Idyllic beach visit Kingston is not – but with an outgrowth of new accommodations, myriad cultural activities and a wealth of overlooked attractions, Kingston is ripe for exploration and worthy of a second look. Over the next few days, Gadling will be sharing a surprising look at Jamaica’s overlooked capital. Big up Kingston, you’ve earned our respect!

Gadling was recently invited by the Spanish Court Hotel to take a look at Kingston’s newest resort and see all this fascinating city has to offer. Though the trip was paid, all opinions remain our own. You can read all future Big up Kingston posts HERE.

Daily travel deals – all inclusive resorts in Jamaica, Dominican Republic and cheap condo rentals

Welcome to our end of the week lineup of hot travel deals. Today’s lineup includes 2 fantastic all-inclusive resorts and some amazing deals on weekly vacation condo rentals.

The first deal is for the Montego Bay Holiday Inn Sunspree resort. Imagine an all-inclusive Jamaican resort with unlimited dining, drinks and activities. Now, picture that resort in a fantastic beachfront property. Ready to book?

The deal is just $75/night per person, and kids are free. Best of all, there are no blackout dates on this amazing price, so it is also valid during the summer vacation high-season.

Click here for this great deal!

Next in the lineup is another all-inclusive resort, this time in the Dominican Republic. The Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana resort is a brand new location, and has only been open for 5 months. The resort offers 8 different restaurants, tennis, horseback riding, volleyball, beach soccer, table tennis, bicycles, darts, billiards, board games and an exercise room. At night, you can enjoy free entertainment in the theater or nightclub.

Rates start at just $85/night per person, and once again kids can stay for free. This is another deal with no blackout dates! To make the deal even sweeter, book before May 31st, and you get $200 in credits to use at the various amenities that are not included for free. Need another reason to book? How about a $50 rebate on reservations of 6 nights or more?

Click here to book a trip to this amazing All inclusive resort

And finally, if you are tired of spending the night in a hotel, or you need somewhere with a little more room, check out this lineup of affordable vacation condo rentals. Rates start at just $379/week, and most locations have enough room for a family of 6.

Canadian hostages in Jamaican airport

One man with a gun can do a lot of damage. A weapon-wielding nut-job held around 180 hostages on a Canadian plane in Jamaica yesterday. He chose the landing in Jamaica as his time to act. All passengers were eventually released unharmed, but five of the original seven crew members were still held hostage in the CanJet plane at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay. (CNN reports that he’s holding six crew members.)

Only one shot has been fired, but nobody was hurt.

According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald, “It’s likely that two of the crew members may be locked up in the cockpit.”

CanJet says in a statement on its website, “A full security operation is underway and CanJet is cooperating fully with the local authorities.”

At approximately 11:30 PM local time yesterday, a man found his way onto chartered Flight 918, thanks to the effectiveness of fake identification cards at the airport’s employee entrance.

The latest development is that police are negotiating with the hostage-taker. He has asked for passage to Cuba.