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A ship at last! - Kingston gets first cruise call in three years

Published:Tuesday | December 6, 2016 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Tourists making their way from the Monarch of the Seas at the Kingston Wharves yesterday.

A Spanish liner with nearly 3,000 tourists aboard docked in Kingston yesterday, the first time in three years that a cruise ship has docked in the Jamaican capital, raising hopes that it might be a precursor to the future.

"I have to congratulate you for being pioneers and bringing back the attention to Kingston into the cruise-ship world, and you don't need to change the port because it's extremely interesting," Carmen Rives Ruiz-Tapiador, charge d'affaires at the Spanish Embassy in Kingston, said during a ceremony aboard the vessel after it docked at Kingston Wharves.

The Monarch of the Seas, owned by the Spanish Pulmantur cruise-ship line, sailed from Cartegena, Colombia, and was initially to call at Montego Bay. However, all berths at that port, as well as those in Falmouth and Ocho Rios were occupied, hence its diversion to Kingston.

Instead of the old Victoria Pier, where vessels used to berth when cruise ships were regulars in Kingston, The Monarch of the Seas, with its 2,700 passengers and 800 crew, pulled into Kingston Wharves, which is primarily a container and break-bulk port, an occurrence that Rives Ruiz-Tapiador said would itself have been an attraction for the tourists.

"I think [from] a tourist perspective, it's very interesting to land in a cargo port and learn all about how you bring all these containers in and how people work," she said to an audience that included the ship's captain, Arkadiusz Branka; representatives of the ship's agents in Jamaica; Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett; and other government officials. "That's also an attraction by itself."

In the event, tourists didn't roam around Kingston Wharves' cargo docks. Those who had pre-booked excursions at tourist attractions on the island's north coast, which they might have missed with the diversion to Kingston, were shuttled to those venues, aided in large measure by the opening of the Chinese-built North-South Highway that cut travel time from Kingston to Ocho Rios from over two hours to 45 minutes.




Others who didn't have planned excursions were taken on trips to Kingston and St Andrew sites such as the Kingston Craft Market, the Bob Marley Museum, Tuff Gong Recording Studios, the National Gallery, and Fort Clarence.

"Kingston already has an interesting range of activities for cruise passengers," said William Tatham, vice-president for cruise shipping and marinas at the Port Authority of Jamaica. "The feedback we'll receive from this Monarch visit will go a far way in helping us refine our strategy for cruise possibilities in the future."

But for Rives Ruiz-Tapiador, who has built up expansive knowledge of the Jamaican capital and its attractions from more than a year of cycling around the city, the cruise industry need not wait for that feedback.

"I truly believe that Kingston has a lot to offer to the world. Jamaica has something amazing that I don't find [elsewhere]," she said.