Sun | Nov 17, 2019

Port Royal gets another ship call

Published:Wednesday | August 21, 2019 | 12:23 AMKarena Bennett/Business Reporter
The SeaWalk floating pier is anchored on its arrival in Jamaica on Tuesday, February 12.
The SeaWalk floating pier is anchored on its arrival in Jamaica on Tuesday, February 12.

Port Royal has secured a second cruise ship to call at the port, but not until 2022.

Crystal Cruises, an American cruise line based in Los Angeles, California, has listed the Port Royal cruise port as one of 219 destinations it will explore in 83 countries in 2022.

Development of the port, which will be served by a floating pier, is ongoing. The pier itself is expected to be installed by this weekend, and more work is to be done on land.

The first ship call to the historic city, known for its 500 years of colourful and tragic history as a pirate haunt, will be made on January 20, 2020, by the Marella Discovery 2 ship. The ship is operated by British cruise line Marella Cruises, which falls under the TUI Group.

The Port Authority of Jamaica is investing about US$40 million in Port Royal, inclusive of the cost of the SeaWalk floating pier, a cruise terminal, restoration of Fort Charles, a museum and a live archaeological dig.

Hit by earthquakes, Port Royal’s attraction includes parts of the city and its archaeological treasures that lie under the sea. Its promotion as a cruise port began in 2018 and is being jointly marketed with Kingston as new tourist destinations.

“We have four calls planned for Marella Cruises next season, January through to April, which is good because it’s going to take time to build Port Royal, and every call is going to be an opportunity to deliver more and get the word out,” Vice-President of Cruise Shipping at the Port Authority, William Tatham, told the Financial Gleaner.

The cruise ship has the capacity to carry up to 1,800 passengers and is expected to bring mainly European visitors to the island. Port Royal is to become a second Jamaican stop on its itinerary.

Marella Discovery 2 will leave the docks in its home port of Montego Bay to spend a day at sea before heading to Puerto Limón in Costa Rica. The vessel will then sail to Gatun Lake in Panama, then on to Colón in Panama, followed by Cartagena, Columbia, another day at sea, before its maiden call at Port Royal. It then heads back to Montego Bay.

“A lot of Jamaicans sail on the Marella, because it home-ports in Montego Bay and it is English-speaking,” said Tatham. It doesn’t go to the United States so there is no visa issue, and Jamaicans have discovered that this is a wonderful opportunity to explore.”

Tatham anticipates that by the time Crystal Cruises arrives on its first call, the Port Royal cruise port will be teeming with activities and the new museum open for visitors.

“For Crystal, it’s exactly the sort of things that their clientele will be looking for – a very rich experience which is more than the traditional seas, sand and sun. Crystal is a very high-end cruise line. It is considered one of the most luxurious cruises in the world and they tend not to do the traditional type cruising, like a Carnival ship that comes out of Miami. They have more extended cruises,” Tatham said.

Crystal’s cruise offerings include ocean, river, yacht and expeditions. Its ocean fleet includes C rystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity.

The cruise line’s 2022 itineraries promise to explore “some of the world’s greatest wonders of man and mother nature alike”, with opportunities to visit 157 Unesco world heritage sites.

Over the past four years, the cruise line has made calls on Ocho Rios and Montego Bay cruise ports. It has two calls for Port Royal for the 2022 season. Aside from Jamaica, the luxury cruise line will make four maiden calls in Le Lavandou, France; Marina di Carrara, Italy; Celukan Bawang, Bali, Indonesia; and Galle, Sri Lanka.

Crystal Cruises also has scheduled fall and winter sailings through the Panama Canal, Costa Rica and Caribbean islands aboard Crystal Serenity; and excursions to St Kitts; St Barts; St Lucia; Grand Cayman; and Costa Rica.

Crystal Cruises will bring visitors mainly from the United States.

The all-inclusive 2022 voyages are now open for booking, with discounts for cruises booked by August 31, 2019.

Tatham noted that the Port Royal cruise port has already garnered interest from a wide range of cruise line both from the US and Europe; however, some of opted to take a wait-and-see approach before investing in the voyage.

“This is not unusual. Because we have a long-standing relationship with Marella, they had the confidence that we were going to deliver on what we committed. But traditionally in the cruise industry, if I say I have a port, the operators want to see the port or they want to see it up and running with successful calls,” the cruise official said.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com