Fri | Feb 21, 2020

Ocho Rios exodus

Published:Monday | December 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A Norwegian cruise ship makes a call at the port of Ocho Rios last Wednesday. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Carnival ships mega liners to Falmouth Pier

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer


Jamaica's former cruise ship capital, Ocho Rios, will for the first time in several years welcome only cruise liners to its port, as Carnival Cruise Lines moves its mega liners to Royal Caribbean's Falmouth Port next summer.

Ocho Rios will have an average of three ships per month.

The move will see Falmouth receiving almost 100,000 passengers from the Carnival Breeze.

Ocho Rios' cruise ship numbers have dwindled since the construction of the Falmouth Pier, resulting in the closure of many retail businesses. Harassment is being blamed for the current situation.

"Next summer will be worst in 20 years," bemoans local businessman Joey Issa.

"Ocho Rios, 15 to 20 years ago, boasted more than 800,000 cruise ship passengers annually. Those numbers have dropped to 400,000," said Issa.

He added that those numbers will be reduced significantly with one ship calling sporadically in summer 2015.

"The situation needs to be addressed immediately," said Issa, while participating in a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the Mystic Ridge in Ocho Rios last Wednesday.

Summer business commences about the end of April and winds up between the end of October and the first week of November.

"With the demand for the Mediterranean, the summers have become much longer," said head of cruise shipping at the Port Authority of Jamaica, William Tatham. He admits that Ocho Rios will experience a significant drop in its numbers, and so will several other destinations in the Caribbean.

Tatham said Falmouth will receive an average of 10,000 to 12,000 passengers per week next summer, while Ocho Rios may welcome approximately 2,700 passengers three times per month.

Inevitably, he said, a great number of the Carnival passengers will end up in Ocho Rios owing to the attractions that the cruise line does business with.

"They will be using attractions such as Dunn's River, Mystic Mountain and Dolphin Cove. However, the retail operators may be the ones mainly affected," said Tatham, adding that talks are ongoing with Carnival to have them return to the tourist resort.

"We are very optimistic that changes will come about with the implementation of the Ministry of Tourism of Entertainment's anti-harassment committee," said Tatham.

His comments were bolstered by statements made by Senior Superintendent of Police Yvonne Martin Daley, who says she and her team have had successes in the parish of St Ann through the help of the community.

"Over the past year, we have seen a significant reduction in crime, and we are getting the citizens to work with us," she said during the forum.

The PAJ's 2013-2014 annual report, which was recently tabled in Parliament, indicates that of the total cruise passengers who visited Jamaica in 2013, the Port of Falmouth received 615,857 passengers, or 50 per cent, and the Port of Montego Bay received 223,102 passengers, or 18 per cent. The Port of Ocho Rios received 400,680 passengers, or 32 per cent, a decline of 4.2 per cent relative to the previous year.

During the 2013-2014 fiscal year, a total of 363 cruise ships called at Jamaican ports, nine calls fewer than the previous fiscal year. Of this total, 144 vessels, or 39 per cent, visited Falmouth; 133 cruise vessels, or 37 per cent, called at the Port of Ocho Rios; and Montego Bay welcomed 82 cruise liners, or 22.6 per cent of the total. The remaining ports welcomed five cruise vessels, or 1.4 per cent.