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KINGSTON, Jamaica; February 13, 2017: Years prior to the Cuban Revolution in 1959 that saw the communist Fidel Castro regime come to power, Cruise ships from Miami regularly stopped in Cuba and Jamaica as part of their northern Caribbean itinerary. Now with the easing of US/Cuba relations just under 60 years following the revolution and prompting by Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, Cruise executives are excited about the prospects for a surge in interest for the once charmed route which will prove popular and continue the upward trajectory of Jamaica’s cruise arrival numbers.
The development comes as Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), after receiving approval for a one day per week sailing into Havana, Cuba decided to drop Grand Bahama in the Bahamas from its scheduled four-day voyage, sending jitters throughout the tourism industry there. Interestingly, Swiss based cruise giant MSC Cruises has been promoting its itineraries spanning, Havana, Cuba; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico this year. Meanwhile, the Cypriot-owned 1,200-passenger Celestyal Crystal cruise ship has been sailing seven-day Cuba itineraries year-round on a people-to-people cruise and land itinerary out of Montego Bay and Havana.
The Jamaica, Cuba cruise itinerary was just one of the outcomes of a meeting between Bartlett recently with the new President of the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association’s (FCCA) and President of Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCCL), the world's second-largest cruise line operator, Mr. Adam Goldstein in Miami, Florida. Mr. Bartlett was accompanied by Director of Tourism, Mr. Paul Pennicook and Delano Seiveright, Senior Advisor.
“The visit was buoyed by strong growth in Jamaica’s tourism sector last year, with cruise arrivals surging 5.5 percent ahead of the previous year resulting in 1.66 million visitors and a 8.1 percent growth in Cruise passenger earnings totalling US$ 148.6 million or just about J$19 billion.”, Bartlett pointed out.
It also comes on the heels of a historic visit in December by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Minister Bartlett and other tourism officials at the headquarters of Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise operator in Miami.
Senior Advisor, Delano Seiveright in addition to discussions on Cuba, noted that the Tourism Minister also, “focused on ways to facilitate the hiring of more Jamaican crew-members on cruise lines, improving the guest experience at the Falmouth Port in Trelawny, increased utilization of Ports of Calls like Kingston and Port Antonio and new destinations like Black River, St. Elizabeth as well as ways to strengthen the relationship between cruise lines and the Jamaican government.”
Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCCL) head honcho Adam Goldstein noted that Jamaica is without a doubt one of the best cruise destinations in the world with incredible potential for global greatness given the rich culture, accommodating personality of Jamaicans and diverse attraction offerings. He commended Bartlett for his hands on, visionary and expert led approach to tourism development on the island. He however urged the Government to move decisively at centralizing the management of the cruise operations as a means of better focusing resources, quickly fixing problems, improve security and allowing for more substantive growth and a broader spread of the benefits to the Jamaican people.
Underlying Jamaica’s growing cruise industry, the island currently hosts six of the largest cruise ships in the world. Currently, the Port of Falmouth is hosting the three largest cruise ships in the world – Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas, which are all Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL) vessels. In the meantime, Ocho Rios is hosting the Norwegian Epic, the Norwegian Pearl and the Carnival Vista. A fourth ship in the RCCL’s Oasis luxury fleet, which is under construction and set to replace Harmony of the Seas as the biggest ship in the world, is expected to be added to Jamaica’s itinerary in November 2018.
Seiveright noted that Bartlett, reiterated important targets set for the overall tourism sector aiming to secure 5 million visitors by 2021, while also generating US$5 billion in tourism earnings, increase the total direct jobs to 125,000 and add 15,000 new Hotel rooms.
“So far the latest figures show that for 2016, Jamaica recorded total tourist arrivals, stopover and cruise combined, of 3.84 million, 4 percent above the previous year.” – Seiveright.