The new cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica, isn’t ready for prime time.
After discussions in early January with the Port Authority of Jamaica, Royal Caribbean delayed once again the arrival of its ships in Falmouth.
“We concluded that even though we can deliver, there’s no gun to our head,” said John Tercek, Royal Caribbean’s vice president of new business development. “We decided to spend a few more weeks finishing this out. We’ll have more in place and the port will be functioning better by the time we bring in these ships.”
The Navigator of the Seas, which was scheduled to call in Falmouth on Jan. 7 and was to be followed by two ships per week, will now go to Montego Bay. It is the first of 11 cruise calls that will be rerouted from Falmouth to either Montego Bay or Ocho Rios between now and late February.
The Voyager of the Seas is now slated to be the first ship to call at Falmouth on Feb. 17. The Oasis of the Seas will call there on March 22, Tercek said, one week before the Allure of the Seas, which was originally scheduled to call there on March 16.
Falmouth still will have eight smaller ships call before the Oasis-class vessels arrive, giving Falmouth “time to allow the town and the port to acclimate to the ships before the bigger ships arrive,” Tercek said.
By delaying the first call until Feb 17, contractors will gain a month of work time, according to Tercek. Landscaping will be in place by then as will the cobblestoned main plaza at the pier.
Royal Caribbean Chairman Richard Fain toured the port site last week with his family. Tercek said Fain told him that there was “no pressure” to open the port to ships this week.
Tercek said Fain told him, “Do the project correctly. We’ll deliver a fine experience for our guests going [to Jamaica] right now, and when we finally pull up [to Falmouth], it is going to be so much better.”
Coincidentally, a strike by 450 workers at the dock in Falmouth brought work to a halt earlier this week. The workers are protesting the deduction of taxes from their end-of-year bonus payments.
Tercek said the timing of the decision to reschedule the first ship call and the workers’ protest was a coincidence. “I expect [the protest] will be smoothed out quickly,” he said.
The Falmouth port project, a joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the Port Authority of Jamaica, already is a storied cruise destination, without having yet seen a ship at anchor.
It was supposed to open last May for the Oasis of the Seas’ Western Caribbean itineraries, but construction fell behind schedule, and Royal Caribbean instead routed the Oasis to Costa Maya, Mexico.
The cruise line then said that the Oasis would make its first call in Falmouth last month. But that date and that ship were moved again: Falmouth would welcome its first cruise this month with the Navigator, and the Oasis ships would call in March.
Within walking distance of the cruise pier and terminal area lies the historical town of Falmouth, founded in 1769. The revitalization and restoration of the town and its Georgian-style buildings are long-term projects that will be implemented in stages.
Jamaica’s National Works Agency and its Urban Development Corp. began a $30 million road rehab program last fall in Falmouth’s Market Street area. Curbs and side drains are being built, roads paved and patched, and there’s a movement to make whole sections of Falmouth near the port accessible to pedestrians.