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03.24.2011


Falmouth Cruise Port Now Open

March 22 was a big day in Jamaica - Falmouth city fathers welcomed Oasis of the Seas - one of the largest cruise ships in the world for the first time. The ship docked at the brand new cruise port - after receiving an astounding $222 million (U.S. dollars) investment. That is a lot of money, especially for a small Caribbean island nation, but it should guarantee the arrival of nearly a million tourists per year for decades to come.

Falmouth pier area
- how it started and how
it is expected to look
when it is finished.

This event exemplifies how vital the cruise industry is to the Caribbean islands. And this particular one has been a particularly challenging yet important one for Jamaica - although the island has been a destination for cruise ships for many years. But it has never been one where a lot of cruisers choose to get off the ship and spend money locally.


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Sadly, many of the larger Jamaican cities have a somewhat nefarious reputation for tourists. The port facilities in Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, for example, have cruise terminals that are largely shut off to the local population. Arriving cruisers are put on to motor coaches within the protected area and directly transported to popular attractions like Dunn's River Falls by motor coach - bypassing the local vendors.

But Falmouth is different. The small city is an historic landmark and considered one of the best preserved 18th Century cities in the West Indies. As capital of the Parish of Trelawney, Falmouth is situated on Jamaica's north coast just 18 miles from Montego Bay. It was founded by Thomas Reid in 1769 when Jamaica had become the world's leading sugar producer. The town was named after Falmouth, Cornwall, in England.


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Often compared to Williamsburg, Virginia, in the United States, part of the appeal of Falmouth is its traditional architecture, with most of original city still standing although it is badly in need of a substantial amount of renovation.

Royal Caribbean had plans for Oasis of the Seas to start calling at Falmouth with its maiden voyage- but those scheduled stops were postponed indefinitely when it was learned the town renovations and construction of the new port facility were both way behind schedule. Local officials were having a hard time motivating the privately owned businesses and property owners in the historic city to take the investment seriously.


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A smaller Royal Caribbean ship, Navigator of the Seas, was scheduled to stop there on January 7, 2011, but the visit was cancelled when it was decided the city was just not ready to receive visitors. This spurred Mayor Colin Gager to write a critical article about the local property owners and investors, suggesting they were being irresponsible in their commitment to the city. Not only do these people have to renovate their own property but they also have to stick to the strict and mandatory parish building rules and regulations in order to preserve the original feel of the historic city.

The first Royal Caribbean ship to stop there was Voyager of the Seas on February 17, 2011. The port was ready and the ship was able to dock, but much of the city center was still under construction. Still, Voyager received a "royal" welcome with locals coming out in costume, performing on stilts and playing music. The ship's visit proved to be a motivating factor - especially when 500 passengers signed up for an excursion to the Good Hope Estate, a brand new attraction created within one of Jamaica's largest plantations. Activities there include horse and carriage rides, a zip-line tour over the jungle canopy, ATV and dune buggie rentals, and tubing down the Martha Brae River.


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Falmouth, Jamaica, was a meticulously planned British city from the start, with wide streets in a regular grid for it public buildings. It actually had a pumped water system before New York City had one. From 1790 to 1840 Falmouth was one of the busiest and wealthiest ports in Jamaica, serving nearly one hundred plantations producing sugar and rum for England. Falmouth harbor often had as many as 30 tall-ships on any given day, delivering goods and slaves, and loading their holds with rum and sugar manufactured on nearby plantations and destined for England.


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Starting in 1840, with the decline of the slave trade in America, Falmouth also declined. All that remains today is the Falmouth Historic District with the largest intact collection of Georgian buildings in the entire Caribbean. Market Street is lined with colonnaded commercial buildings.

Restoration of this downtown area is still underway, but with the arrival of Oasis of the Seas this week and the scheduled arrival of Allure next week it is hoped that the restoration will start to go much faster.

Although the port facilities at Falmouth were a joint venture between Royal Caribbean and the city - Celebrity Cruises will also visit the city on a regular basis and Holland America also has several visits planned there in the coming years.

Discuss Falmouth Jamaica here: Falmouth - Are You Going?.

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Allure of the Seas
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