Executive Director of Jamaica Vacations (JamVac), Joy Roberts, says the 2022/2023 cruise-shipping season will see a major turnaround for Jamaica, following the setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For starts, 2022 going into 2023 will see Royal Caribbean sending their huge Oasis class vessels, such as Wonder of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas to Jamaica,” she noted.
She was speaking from the deck of the Wonder of The Seas – the world’s largest cruise ship – at the Falmouth Port on December 1. Roberts said the inaugural visit by the near 9,000-passenger and crew Royal Caribbean flagship vessel is just a prelude to the return of normality in the cruise sector.
“These are the three biggest ships in the world… big and expensive… and sending them here tells you about the confidence the cruise line has in our cruise shipping sector and the products we have to offer,” she added.
Roberts said that in meetings she has had with cruise line executives over the past few weeks, Jamaica remains the most exciting port of call in the region and will be getting a lot of calls going forward.
She pointed to the allure of the attractions plus Jamaica’s reputation for clean water as major pull factors, noting that major companies such as Carnival, MSC, Norwegian and Disney have all made commitments alongside Royal Caribbean to send their “biggest and best” ships to Jamaica.
Roberts said that along with Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Port Royal and Port Antonio, all the ports of call will be seeing their fair share of traffic between 2022 and 2024 and that she expects full participation from the local stakeholders, including the residents, the police, and the leaders of the public and private sectors.
“We must begin to understand that there is enough of the tourism pie to go around. Nobody should feel marginalised or left out, as tourism is for the people,” the JamVac Executive Director added.
Currently on a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise, the Wonder of the Seas was greeted with much fanfare on its arrival at the Falmouth Pier. From a live reggae band, the coconut vendor, craft traders and duty-free merchants, visitors were greeted to “everything Jamaican”, interacting throughout the day with locals and with many vowing to return for longer stays.
“First time here and it’s beautiful,” remarked Naples, Florida resident, Sidney James. “Will definitely make this one of my vacation stops in 2023… will bring back the whole family,” he said.
Mayor of Falmouth, Councillor Colin Gager said the town had been meticulously preparing for the Wonder of the Seas and other Royal Caribbean Oasis vessels for quite some time, noting that to play host to some of the biggest cruise ships in the world is “nothing to scoff at”.
“The Falmouth Pier, which is part owned by Royal Caribbean, was built to accommodate vessels that cannot dock at any other port in Jamaica. We are pleased to be hosting the largest cruise ship currently on the planet, the Wonder of the Seas, and from all indications, everybody is happy with what Falmouth has brought to the table,” he said.
The Mayor said that the Falmouth Municipality has been assured that the Wonder of the Seas, as well as other Oasis-class vessels, will be making multiple visits throughout the cruise-shipping season, which runs through April 2023.
Wonder of the Seas, which had its maiden voyage from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the eastern Caribbean on March 4, arrived in Falmouth four days after sailing from Port Canaveral, Orlando, Florida, on November 27.
The 18-deck cruise ship has capacity for 6,988 guests and 2,300 crew members.