New Jamaica port open for business

It’s been a long time in the works, plagued by construction delays and setbacks, but the new cruise port in Falmouth Jamaica is finally open for business.

To celebrate the much-anticipated event, area schools were closed, local dignitaries and cruise line executives were on hand, Reggae star Shaggy performed and a marching band ended the day giving cruise passengers a royal send-off. The star of the show though was Royal Caribbean’s giant new ship, Oasis of the Seas, making its first call at the new port.

“I was here for the inaugural cruise ship visit by Voyager of the Seas one month ago and (Jamaicans) were amazed at the size of Voyager” said cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron CEO of adding “but they were blown away by the larger size and unique design of Oasis of the Seas.”

On hand too was Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding noting “Today is truly a remarkable day, the realization of a dream.” reports Seatrade Insider.

The new $180 million Falmouth port project is a joint effort between the Port Authority of Jamaica and Royal Caribbean International that is already making an impact on tourism, providing local jobs and much-needed tourist spending to the island.

The two-berth Historic Falmouth Cruise Port development sits about half-way between existing ports of Ocho Rios and Montego Bay and hopes to bring cruise ship passenger numbers back up to over 1 million after dropping to 910,000 last year.

Photo courtesy Seatrade Insider

$ billion cruise port “not ready” for ships on the way

Royal Caribbean’s new cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica looks “more like a bomb went off on the site than a high-class tourist trap” says the Jamaica Observer today after a recent site visit.

That’s bad news for cruise passengers set to start visiting the new port January 7Th off Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas.

“The port facilities, especially the shops, are not ready. I would say the earliest they would be ready is about mid-March, and fully operational around late April, and the terminal building, a hundred per cent open at the end of June (2011),” said Jes Olsen, project director for the Dutch construction firm in charge of building the pier.

That’s about a year behind the originally projected opening date. Still, Royal Caribbean will send the first ship, Navigator of the Seas, to the port January 7Th. The Falmouth project was built to accommodate giant Oasis and Allure of the Seas beginning May 2010. Those ships won’t call in Falmouth until March.

“It is a very huge project. It’s a ‘design/build’ project, where the developer has certain things in mind and he can change his mind along the way. Also the unknown factors, we had a lot of coral to move which delayed the start-up of the project. We moved about 140,000 live corals.” adds Olsen.

With nothing to do at the port itself, the guests who disembark will have little choice for activities off the ship other than ship-sponsored shore excursions. Plans for setting up a temporary craft market on the site have yet to materialize.

Jamaica Observer photo

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.