Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Solid growth in cruise ship visitors has catapulted the country's cruise arrival figures to a whopping 33.6 per cent increase for the period January to August 2012.
Historic Falmouth, Trelawny, is up 62.6 per cent, Montego Bay, St James, which was believed to be falling behind is up 48.7 per cent and the former cruise ship capital, Ocho Rios, St Ann, remains flat, showing a decline of 0.9 per cent.
"In terms of performance by port for the January-to-August period, Falmouth welcomed 412,812 visitors compared to the 253,940 recorded for the same period last year. Montego Bay saw 248,224 visitors compared to the 166,956 cruise visitors for the same period in 2011," an elated Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr Wykeham McNeill told The Gleaner.
Ocho Rios decline
He said, in the case of former cruise ship capital, Ocho Rios, which is now being rebranded under the theme, 'Where Eden meets the Ocean', there was a decline of some 3,000. The town hosted 275,968 visitors between January and August this year, compared to the 278,573 visitors recorded over the same period last year.
In 2011, the town experienced a 30 per cent decline in cruise arrivals.
Currently, McNeill said discussions are on between Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and the Port Authority of Jamaica. Coming out of those meetings NCL has agreed to increase their commitment to the Ocho Rios port.
"More specifically, starting in January 2014, the Norwegian Epic which is NCL's largest ship, with a 4,500 passenger capacity, will be calling on Ocho Rios."
Noting that Ocho Rios has tremendous potential, he said: "The thing that drives cruise shipping is soft adventure and there are three huge ones in walking distance from the pier, plus a myriad of others".
He is also of the belief that all stakeholders must come to an agreement about what needs to be done and where the funding will come from.