ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, says Jamaica’s hosting of the six largest ships in the world is proof that the island is poised to become the region’s number one cruise destination.
Bartlett, who recently returned from a five-day trip to Nassau, Bahamas, where he attended an important meeting of the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) Council of Tourism Ministers and Commissioners, said having the world’s largest cruise vessels simultaneously calling on a single destination is a rarity and something of which Jamaicans should be proud.
“This speaks of the unwavering support the cruise lines have for Jamaica and our tourism product,” he said.
“We have to remember that we are in a very competitive region where these ships can go anywhere. There is nothing in the rule book that says they have to come to Jamaica. The fact that we have these large and expensive mega liners calling at our ports should tell us that we have come a long way and should continue to build on our tourism offerings,” he noted further.
Currently, the Port of Falmouth is hosting the three largest cruise ships in the world – Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas, which are all Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) vessels.
Ocho Rios is hosting the Norwegian Epic, the Norwegian Pearl and the Carnival Vista.
A fourth ship in the RCCL’s Oasis luxury fleet, which is under construction and set to replace Harmony of the Seas as the biggest ship in the world, could be added to Jamaica’s itinerary in November 2018.
Bartlett pointed out that the Falmouth Port, which is easily the largest in the region, has the capacity to accommodate all the Oasis class vessels.
“Popular destinations like the Cayman Islands, where at best the ships would have to be tendered, can make no such claim. The onus is now on us to create the kind of environment where we can fully capitalise on having these large vessels calling on our ports,” he pointed out.
The Tourism Minister said the beautification work being carried out in Falmouth is very important, adding that “we have to ensure that the people of Falmouth also benefit from what is happening in the town”.
“We also have to ensure that when the visitors get off the ships their expectations of a day in Jamaica are fully realised,” he added.
“We want to see them walking the streets and interacting freely. It is very important that we make their stay as enjoyable as possible where they can become future stopover visitors,” he said.
The work in Falmouth, being carried out by the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), includes cleaning, landscaping, planting of flowers, social and community outreach, and the enforcement of public-order statutes.
Minister Bartlett noted the recent meeting with cruise line owners in Miami, led by Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, was “a turning point” for the island’s cruise sector.
“That was the meeting where Mickey Arison, the owner of Carnival Cruises, the biggest cruise line in the world, made the point that it was the first time he could recall having a Jamaican Prime Minister attending one of their meetings and also the importance of having discussions at that level,” Bartlett explained.
“I personally left that meeting knowing that the onus is now on us to deliver and not to disappoint,” he added.