Cruise tourism set for big comeback – Bartlett

Cruise shipping, a key component of Jamaica’s tourism sector, which suffered the greatest fallout of all tourism activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is gearing up for a major comeback.

While opening the sectoral debate in parliament on Tuesday (April 20), Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett said Jamaica was seeing “a glimmer of hope” in cruise shipping, despite a pandemic-induced standstill in the global cruise industry.

Even as major cruise lines engage the US Center for Disease Control for the right to sail the seas again, Minister Bartlett reported that: “We are pivoting in this crisis to take advantage of a new collaborative approach that will bring greater value for passengers, cruise lines and Destination Jamaica.” The plan, he said, was not only to attract the cruise lines back to the ports of Jamaica, but facilitate greater benefits from partnerships by way of spend and inclusiveness. 

Discussions with cruise partners have already produced an agreement with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) for the home-porting of its vessels in Montego Bay, starting August 7, this year. This development he says, will be a game-changer.

“Home-porting will provide much greater opportunities to strengthen linkages with other key sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.  Cruise ports will see increased spend, which will benefit small businesses and entrepreneurs in the industry,” said Minister Bartlett. He has projected that with the reopening of cruise likely in June 2021, Jamaica could anticipate receiving 570,000 cruise ship visitors. Since March, 2020, there has been no cruise arrivals to the island.

This first time home-porting arrangement by a major American cruise line will mean revenues for supplies, including water taken on in Montego Bay, and passengers overnighting in hotels. This as homeporting often generates more airlift in and out of destinations and drives additional business for local services such as bunkering, fresh water provisioning, hotel accommodation, garbage disposal and sludge removal.

The Minister explained that NCL will operate two itineraries, one of which will see a ship stopping in Ocho Rios before heading on to Cozumel in Mexico and Honduras, then returning to Montego Bay. The other schedule also includes Ocho Rios, but from there passengers will sail to the ABC Islands, namely, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.

Each vessel, which typically has an occupancy of approximately 3,800, passengers, will operate at 50 per cent capacity and passengers will be required to be fully vaccinated and tested prior to boarding.

Mr. Bartlett also outlined that there were plans for another “upscale luxury liner”, The Viking, with capacity for 950 passengers, to also home-port in Montego Bay, starting in August. “What is significant about that home-porting,” he said, “is that they are going to have a Jamaican itinerary, starting in Montego Bay, going to Falmouth, then to Ocho Rios, on to Port Antonio and Port Royal, returning to the western city.”

While convinced that Jamaica could effectively provide its own cruise ship itinerary, Minister Bartlett pointed to the need to improve the ports on the island’s coasts “so we can have a full itinerary for vessels.”

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