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Major Cruise Ships and Cruise Ports in Jamaica

by Deon Clarke | Associate Writer



The Norweigian Escape

When Did the First Cruise Ship Come to Jamaica?


It is unclear when the first cruise ship arrived in Jamaica. But, here’s a story. Records show that the very first cruise ship in the world, The Prinzessin Victoria Luise, built for the Hamburg America Line and launched on June 29, 1900, met its demise here. The ship served as a cruising passenger ship for the rich who wanted luxurious seafaring and continued operations until December 16, 1906, when it was accidentally grounded off the coast of Jamaica while on a West Indian cruise.

The ship was originally set to dock at Port Royal but the captain, Captain Brunswig mistakenly took the lighthouse at Plumb Point for that at the western-most point of Port Royal. The ship hit the rocks at about 9:00 pm and frightened passengers disembarked and were rescued early the following morning. All survived, however after the evacuation, the captain locked himself in his cabin and shot himself, probably due to embarrassment. Due to major structural damage and constant battering of waves, the ship was declared to be a total loss on December 19, 1906. Certainly not a cruise to Jamaica one would expect. Since then, many cruise ships have come to Jamaica, enjoying what the island has to offer.

The Six Cruise Ship Ports in Jamaica


Jamaica, the heartbeat of the world is connected to the ocean via six cruise ports in the towns and cities of:

  1. Ocho Rios – This port is equipped to handle the largest cruise ships and offers a full range of services and facilities. Nearby attractions to visit include; the famous Dunn’s River Falls and botanical gardens such as Shaw Park Gardens. In addition, Fern Gully and Mystic Mountain, along with the many beautiful, pristine beaches all provide a mix of adventure and relaxation for cruisers. The Ocho Rios cruise port is the country’s largest port and is centrally located among some of the top Jamaican attractions. It welcomes most of the cruise passengers, usually around 800,000 per year.

  2. Montego Bay – Located in Freeport, Montego Bay, this port is also equipped to handle the largest cruise ships and offer a full range of services and facilities. Welcoming around 300,000- 400,000 cruise visitors yearly, this is the second largest cruise shipping port. Visitors to Montego Bay can enjoy the reputed curative waters of the famous Doctor’s Cave Beach, championship golf courses with amazing views, and legendary great houses such as the infamous Rose Hall Plantation Great House. Take a stroll down the lively Hip Strip that provides numerous activities, iconic entertainment hotspots, local and international cuisine, shopping, and gaming options.

  3. Falmouth - Equipped to handle the largest cruise ships and also offering a full range of services and facilities, the Falmouth Pier is one of the newest ports. Visitors can enjoy scenic architecture and history. Falmouth boasts the largest collection of Georgian buildings on the island. Rafting on the Martha Brae River or exploring the Cockpit Country for a once in a lifetime experience is also offered.

  4. Port Antonio - This port located at the Errol Flynn Marina pier is an idyllic call for boutique cruise ships and mega-yachts. This one is the smallest of the ports on the island. It’s a visitor’s paradise for true nature lovers, where its captivating scenes have proven worthy of even Hollywood films. Visitors can enjoy bamboo rafting river tours or just immerse themselves in the sapphire depths of the Blue Lagoon or just stroll along the silky white sands of Frenchman’s Cove while visiting this coastal town.

  5. Kingston - The seaport is located at The Kingston Harbour, which is a natural deep water harbour that can accommodate large passenger ships and boutique yachts. The Kingston Cruise Port is like a melting pot with a fusion of impressive history, art, and cuisines. Visitors can expect to take a trip to the Bob Marley Museum, the ruins at Port Royal, stop for a tour and delicious ice-cream at Devon House and grab an appetizing meal at Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records.

  6. Port Royal - Port Royal Cruise Port, Jamaica’s newest cruise ship port welcomed its first cruise ship, The Marcella Discovery II on January 20, 2020. A historic moment for Jamaica as no ship had docked there in over 40 years. With a history dating as far back as the 1600s, visitors can expect to experience historical flair, as they explore the ruins of the town destroyed by a major earthquake in 1692.

    After disembarking Marcella Discovery II via the SeaWalk, the over 2000 passengers and 800 crew members were able to experience authentic Jamaican cuisine, music and culture at the different booths in the courtyard of the port. They were also able to take various tours, including trips to the Bob Marley Museum, Trench Town Culture Yard, New Castle for a rich Blue Mountain coffee experience, and also the newly refurbished Fort Charles (currently managed by PAJ), which is the site of the renowned Giddy House.

Which Cruise Ships Come to Jamaica?


The Cruise Ships that visit the Ports of Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Falmouth (some on a regular basis) are as follows:

    The Carnival Cruise Line:
  • Carnival Breeze
  • Carnival Conquest
  • Carnival Dream
  • Carnival Fantasy
  • Carnival Sunrise
  • Carnival Horizon
  • Carnival Freedom
  • Carnival Horizon
  • Carnival Liberty
  • Carnival Miracle
  • Carnival Pride
  • Carnival Splendor
  • Carnival Sensation
  • Carnival Vista

    The Royal Caribbean International Cruise Line:
  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Brilliance of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Independence of the seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Rhapsody of the Seas

    From the Celebrity Cruise Line:
  • Celebrity Silhouette
  • Celebrity Summit

    Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)
  • The Norwegian Bliss

    MSC Cruises
  • MSC Meraviglia

Viking Cruises are expected to be added to this list in short order. Viking Cruises are poised to offer home-based cruises starting from Montego Bay, then to Falmouth, then to Ocho Rios, next to Port Antonio, then Port Royal and back to Montego Bay.

How Many Visitors Come to Jamaica by Cruise Ships?


Data from the Jamaica Tourist Board revealed that in 2019, cruise ships were responsible for over 1.5 million of the more than 4.3 million tourists to visit the island. This figure was expected to increase, however, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the cruise line industry all over the world came to a grinding halt. Only a few months ago we are seeing cruise lines slowly emerging from their watery abyss. So, with new guidelines and protocols in place, hopefully, the numbers will rise gradually.

How Has the Covid-19 Pandemic Affected Cruise Ships to Jamaica?


Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner for Jamaica. As you would imagine, the Covid-19 pandemic seriously affected growth prospects. In 2019, Jamaica experienced a 9% growth in the sector but took a downturn due to the pandemic.

The Government has had the challenging task of balancing lives and livelihood and no doubt cruise ship arrivals have been significantly affected as the ports were closed for quite some time. The cruise ship industry soon found that with vaccines and strict protocols, they could navigate the Covid-19 storm and slowly resume voyages.

On Monday, August 16, 2021, Jamaica welcomed its first cruise ship, Carnival Sunrise to Ocho Rios. It was the first to dock in Jamaica since the industry shutdown in March 2020. Since then a number of cruise ships have visited with strict protocols in place, including having visitors travel only within the resilient corridor outlined by the Government.

A recent controversy regarding the Carnival Sunrise which docked in Ocho Rios on September 13, 2021, during a “lockdown period” has sparked outrage by some interest groups and islanders alike. Some are of the view that Jamaicans have to stay home during the three-day lockdown (Sunday to Tuesday) while tourists can come and enjoy themselves. Others such as craft vendors are of the view that they were left out of the earning potential as visitors were only allowed to go to a few selected attractions. The Government sought to explain that they were only seeking to honour their contractual arrangements with the cruise line.

We are learning together how to weather this Covid-19 storm and along the way, mistakes will be made. We only hope to not repeat these mistakes and use them to learn and make better choices going forward.

I also recommend you read My Top Tips on Planning Memorable Cruises to Jamaica

Regards,
DC

References:

  • “Port Royal Welcomes First Cruise Ship”, Jamaica Information Service, https://jis.gov.jm/port-royal-welcomes-first-cruise-ship/
  • 'Somewhere beyond the sea', Jamaica Gleaner, https://old.jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0076.html

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