Falmouth, Jamaica's newest cruise destination, is one of the first ports built from scratch to accommodate the world's largest cruise ships, Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Allure of the Seas. I had a chance to see it first hand last week.
This location may be fresh to cruising with its brand new dock facility opened in February 2011, but it is actually an historic port from the island's past. It boasts a central location on the north shore between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, perfect for allowing access to a larger range of the island's available shore excursions.
The launch of Royal Caribbean International's Oasis-class ships was the impetus for the cruise line to assist Jamaica in reintroducing this port to ships. While the island has full control over the actual land and which ships make berth here, Royal Caribbean arranged for the financing necessary for Jamaica to afford this new development. The master planning is also being overseen by the cruise line with the ultimate goal of creating a mixed use facility.
According to Royal Caribbean's web site, the line, "has been working with the Port Authority of Jamaica on a multi-phased plan to restore and preserve Falmouth's 240-year history while developing modern port facilities that will solidify its position as a premiere Caribbean destination. The first phase of the plan, which is nearing completion, includes a two-berth pier, retail and restaurant services and a transportation center. Subsequent phases will include onsite attractions and experiences, hotel and residential components and additional retail and restaurant options."
The port is truly impressive. The buildings are all new but are made to resemble the local architecture, and the dock is large enough to accept two mega cruise ships. On my latest Caribbean cruise, both the Voyager of the Seas and the Freedom of the Seas were docked across from each other, separated only by the reclaimed piece of triangular land.
While many buildings were still under final construction, appearing ready for future storefronts within just months, the expansive dock already sports a large selection of shops, eateries, and outdoor craft vendors within its heart and open to visitors. The facility, complete with a transportation and tour center immediately inland from the shops, is very clean and well controlled. Currently, the entire facility is fenced off from the surrounding area and requires that passengers display identification when returning to the complex.
Adjacent to the port is a smaller dock that the Captain Hook Adventure shore excursion leaves from, and just a short drive from the port is an historic sugar plantation that has since been leased and converted for adventure excursions. Here there is an exciting zip-line course as well as a river with mild rapids to cool off in during a tubing float. Other activities at the plantation include ATV, canoeing, and hiking tours along with visits to the plantation house itself.
Plus, with Ocho Rios only 45 miles out, about a 70-minute drive away, excursions to attractions like Dunn's River Falls are easily within a day's reach. And even closer by, Montego Bay is all of 22 miles from Falmouth or about a 40 minute drive away.
Exclusive to Royal Caribbean International sailings currently, Falmouth, Jamaica will become ever more common to Caribbean cruise itineraries as the port is expected to receive ships from other lines too such as Holland America very soon.