KINGSTON, Jamaica – Weeklong Jamaica-only cruises could soon be a reality as cruise lines seek to explore more cost-effective ways to stay afloat during a still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The move, which Ministry of Tourism officials have been championing for some time, would see a cruise line creating an itinerary where it would take them to all the Jamaican ports of call over a five-to-seven-day period.
Leading the charge is Marella Cruises, whose newest flagship fleet, Marella Explorer 2, is currently homeporting in Jamaica’s tourism capital, Montego Bay.
“It makes a lot of sense where we could do a Jamaica-only itinerary, where we could come into Montego Bay then move on to Falmouth, Ocho Rios, Port Royal and Port Antonio [not necessarily in that order],” said Marella Explorer 2’s Captain, Kostas Lampropoulous, during a tour of his mega liner by local tourism officials.
“When we are talking about fuel, water… it’s a lot more [cost effective] to do so and is something that we are looking at. We have a great relationship with Jamaica… . We enjoy coming to Jamaica, and we see Jamaica as an important partner,” he added.
Captain Lampropoulous noted that the Marella Explorer 2, which leaves the island today (April 13), will be back on April 19 before taking a hiatus until November.
He said that the plan is to also increase homeporting activities on the island, making Jamaica a first-call and first-choice destination for Marella Cruises.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of Jamaica Vacations (JAMVAC), Joy Roberts said the Tourism Ministry has been lobbying all the major cruise lines regarding the possibility of creating Jamaica-only itineraries, considering that the island is the only Caribbean destination with so many ports of call.
She said the revelation by Marella Cruises that it was exploring such a possibility was proof that “we have been doing something right” and is great news for the future of the cruise sector.
“There is also the value-added advantage of homeporting which is what Marella Cruises have been doing here in Montego Bay,” she noted.
“Montego Bay, with the Sangster International Airport a main and convenient draw, is ideal to have ships for overnight stay and where they could move on to other Jamaican ports. This has been a dream of ours and our Hon. Minister, Edmund Bartlett,” Roberts said.
Homeporting is when a ship uses a port/marine terminal as its home, regardless of its port of registry. This allows passengers to begin/terminate a cruise in the home port and positively impacts ground transportation and tours. Passengers may also fly into the island to board vessels.
Among the benefits of home-porting is the creation of jobs for locals, as support services are provided for the vessels such as fuel, water, food and merchandise. Ground transport and small business operators will also profit as passengers disembark and go on tours and shop.
On March 14, the Marella Explorer 2 resumed home-porting in Montego Bay. It visited Port Royal and will be back on a weekly cycle until April 19.
Between August 2021 and March 16, 2022, Jamaica’s ports received 104 calls comprising 141,265 passengers and 108,057 crew.
“Our goal is to bring three million cruise visitors to Jamaica by 2025. We have established the infrastructure, and we will continue to engage the marketplace to accomplish this critical objective. To do this, the Jamaica Tourist Board and Jamaica Vacations (JAMVAC) will intensify marketing efforts to position Jamaica as the destination of choice for cruise travelers from markets such as the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East,” Bartlett said.
“The cruise industry is critical because it provides employment for a significant number of our small and medium-sized tourism enterprises. Once the ship docks, the dollars begin to flow into the hands of the average citizen, and that, in my opinion, is the strength of cruise tourism. It does, I feel, provide the quickest means of wealth transfer due to the very straightforward jobs required. It has an immediate economic impact on ordinary people’s lives, which is critical to the survival of small towns,” he said.