Ja welcomes 'Harmony of the Seas' - Island has now played host to three largest ships in world
Falmouth now has the distinction of accommodating the three largest cruise ships in the world, with the inaugural call of Royal Caribbean's megaliner, Harmony of the Seas.
The ship, which docked Tuesday morning in the historic town, has pushed Jamaica's cruise shipping earnings up, with the country expecting to hit the US$120-million mark in 2016, even as growth points to an impressive 9.6 per cent over 2015.
During a commemorative ceremony officially welcoming the ship, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett noted that cruise shipping was one of the largest partnerships forged by Jamaica.
The tourism minister said the ship's addition to the current roster will provide a major boost for Jamaica's growing cruise ship sector, "which for the period January to September 2016 saw a 9.6 per cent increase in cruise passenger arrivals, with 1,223,608 recorded passengers, when compared to the same period last year".
He said the country recorded cruise passenger earnings of approximately US$111 million, up from some US$98.3 million for the same period last year.
Some 6,400 passengers were on-board the vessel, which is manned by a crew of more than 2,150, who were lauded as loss leaders and among the island's most loyal customers.
Assuring the captain of the boat, Johnny Faevelen, of his commitment to build out the infrastructure that the cruise industry requires, Bartlett said improvement was being made to supporting infrastructure at the ports and in the surrounding towns.
"The ministry's Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), in collaboration with the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) and the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), are in the process of giving Falmouth a major facelift that will enhance the ambience of this historic town," he told the gathering.
Harmony of the Seas will make bimonthly calls to the historic Falmouth Port, and is the third in the series of RCL megaliners to add Jamaica to its itinerary. Both the Oasis and the Allure of the Seas used the Trelawny-based port.
However, if Faevelen had his way, the ship would call every week with 6,000 passengers aboard. His love for Jamaica and its people is an inspiration.
"We love Jamaica, the friendliness of the people; the happiness and the no-problem attitude," he exclaimed.
Tuesday's call was the ship's 43rd voyage since it entered the cruise shipping market on the Mediterranean, and Faevelen said he was thrilled to be in the Caribbean, particularly, with more than half of his guests being repeaters.
"The number of repeat guests on-board should tell a little about the product," he stated, adding that their "crown and anchor" guests were taking up most of the space.
He announced plans related to the construction of a larger vessel which should be on the high seas by 2018.
Of all the dignitaries welcoming the ship, none was more elated than Mayor of Falmouth Garth Wilkinson, who pointed out that with Falmouth being on the forefront, the town had become the engine of growth for the parish.