Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Jamaica's cruise-shipping season begins on high

Published:Sunday | January 22, 2017 | 1:42 AM
Visitors walking the streets in the resort town of Ocho Rios, St Ann.

Chairman of the National Cruise Council (NCC), Michael Belnavis, is describing the start of the cruise-shipping season as phenomenal, noting that the island’s main ports have been seeing a huge increase in arrivals.

According to Belnavis, the ports of Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios have been simultaneously receiving almost two ships per day, a noticeable jump from what happened last season.

“There were three ships in Montego Bay alone, on January 17, and on January 18 the MSC Opera and the Norwegian Epic were in port. The entire town is excited and visitors are walking the streets,” he told JIS News.

Belnavis, who is also the mayor of St Ann’s Bay, said both the Ministry of Tourism and the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) should be lauded for a job well done, adding that the two government entities have been working to get cruise shipping on the right footing.

“The PAJ has been doing a fantastic job in ensuring our port facilities are first class, enabling them to accommodate the huge mega liners that have been calling,” he said.

“In the meantime, the Ministry of Tourism has been busy with the marketing aspect of things, and we are now seeing the results,” Belnavis added.

He said plans by the PAJ to carry out infrastructural work in the resort towns can only add to the country’s appeal as a major tourist destination, and this should further enhance the fortunes of the cruise sector.

“We take note of the work the PAJ is currently doing in Ocho Rios, in its renovation of the town’s main fishing village and also the planned upgrade of the neighbouring Reynold’s Pier,” Belnavis said.

“The agency has also commenced work in Falmouth and will be looking to start very soon on the master plan for the Montego Bay Port. I say, without any fear of contradiction, that cruise shipping has never been better in Jamaica,” he added.

Belnavis pointed out that the visit by a Jamaican delegation, headed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, several weeks ago to meet members of the powerful Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) at a function in Miami, has positioned Jamaica as a preferred destination that will continue to have world-class vessels calling at its ports.

He noted that he has been having constructive dialogue with the organisation’s president, Michelle Paige, who has been expressing the sentiments of her FCCA colleagues that Jamaica remains high on their agenda for the foreseeable future.

“One of the things I can tell you is that they are really happy about the fact that their guests are now able to walk the streets with the minimum of bother,” Mr. Belnavis informed.

“This is a huge tribute to our anti-harassment efforts and the fact that we have been able to find alternative means of employment for some of the known harassers. When the visitors are able to walk without being followed or badgered, then it is a very big win for everyone, especially since more persons will be more inclined to come off the ships,” he said.