Cruise line looks to dock larger vessel next summer
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU:Disney Cruise Line has committed to docking a larger ship in Falmouth, Trelawny, but this hinges on Jamaica's delivery of quality guest experience.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Gleaner last week, Disney's director of global port operations and developments, Russell Daya, said it took his company 10 years to do business with Jamaica because of the island's perception in the marketplace.
Daya was hosting local port officials, government ministers and community leaders at a plaque-exchange ceremony in honour of Disney Wonder's inaugural visit to Jamaica.
Disney Wonder brought in 2,700 passengers and 1,000 of them left the ship for tour excursions to a number of the island's attractions, including Chukka, Mystic Mountain, Dunn's River Falls and the Martha Brae River.
The ship proposed for next summer, The Fantasy, has the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers, said Daya.
"This is like a stepping stone to long-term development. We are convinced that the experience is here that our people will love," he stated.
Daya added that his team came to Jamaica before making the decision to dock here, "and we were pleasantly surprised at the number of changes that had taken place, which led to a better guest experience".
According to Daya, his company is quietly confident that Jamaica is going to deliver on that experience that will allow it access to the second ship.
MEETING OF GREAT BRANDS
Excited about the prospect, Tourism and Entertainment Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill deemed the inaugural call a meeting of two great brands.
"Disney is a recognisable brand with everyone knowing Mickey Mouse and its impact on the market, while Jamaica's music and culture has had similar effect on the global village," said McNeill.
His comments were endorsed by chief operations officer-designate at the Port Authority of Jamaica, Professor Gordon Shirley, who said alchemy occurs when you mix two magical brands.
Committing his support to the Disney Wonder line which will call on Jamaica on a fortnightly basis, Shirley said getting the cruise line to Jamaica required careful effort.
The ship, which has Falmouth as the first stop on its Caribbean itinerary, will call on Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico, before home porting in Galveston, Texas.
The ship's captain, Thord Haugen, and the signature attraction, Mickey Mouse, were on-board to greet the intimate team of Jamaicans.
Haugen said visiting a new port, such as Falmouth, is exciting for his passengers and crew, because it offers another new destination to explore.
"When we were coming into Falmouth this morning, we were greeted by the beautiful site of the mountains in the background," was how the ship's captain described the welcome he received from the historic town.