Passengers disembark from the Marella Discovery II cruise ship docked at Port Royal in Kingston on Wednesday, November 23, 2022. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)
The docking of the Marella Discovery II at Kingston’s Port Royal Terminal on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, is said to have a dual impact on Jamaica’s tourism sector and the economy as a whole, according to Jamaica Tourism Board (JTB) and Port Authority officials of Jamaica, who invited the media to witness the plate exchange on board the ship.
The TUI-operated cruise ship’s visit to Port Royal is its first of the winter season, with Montego Bay serving as its home port. A home port is where a ship begins and ends its voyages.
The sign exchange marks the ship’s first port-of-call at Port Royal since February 2020, just before the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Jamaica.
Speaking of Jamaica Observer on the implications of the ship returning to Montego Bay, JTB representative and CEO of Jamaica Vacations Limited Joy Roberts explained that passengers on the ship will fly to Jamaica and stay in a hotel for up to a few nights before boarding. Others, she added, will arrive to meet the ship and stay in a hotel immediately after it returns to the tourism capital.
“You find that passengers – most of these passengers would come from Europe – will come here to buy toiletries and clothes,” she explained, adding that some also maintain craft shops and other business establishments near the port.
Another benefit, she said, is that while a ship passing through the port of Montego Bay will have enough inventory on board, ships that are in port there will stock up on inventory by buying from local suppliers.
“So ships like these are very important to the Jamaican economy. One of the added benefits of this vessel is that coming to Port Royal means there are many ports in Jamaica,” Roberts further explained.
“We would like to see more ships to bring home because there is a greater benefit to a ship like this … it will buy produce and other goods and services in Jamaica,” she continued.
With a capacity for about 2000 passengers, Marella Discovery II had over 1,600 passengers on board when it docked at Port Royal last Wednesday. Passengers were greeted with entertainment in the form of drummers and stilt walkers, as well as exhibition stands.
Among the exhibitors was Blue Mountain Coffee Ventures, the company behind Perk Up Gourmet Coffee. Marketing strategist Hedda Rose Dunkley said Business Observer that she welcomed the opportunity to “engage new people to talk about our brand and by extension the Jamaica brand… introducing our 100 percent Jamaican gourmet coffee Perk Up, which is relatively new to the Jamaican market.
“We received a lot of positive feedback about the taste and quality of our product… They liked the fact that Perk Up is grown in the Blue Mountains as they had heard so much about Jamaican coffee,” she added.
In addition, several passengers who disembarked continued on to Coaster buses assigned to take them on pre-booked tours of Blue Mountain, Devon House, the Bob Marley Museum and craft markets. Others, meanwhile, ventured into town to visit Fort Charles and patronize local bars and restaurants.
Before that, however, visitors were only allowed to go on “bubble tours,” according to Claudette Lindeau, acting assistant vice president – business development and special projects at the Port Authority, but “the government gave us permission to go ahead and have people walk around around the city of Port Royal”.
When Business Observer asked community residents for feedback on the return of cruise ships, they declined to speak, noting that they had been without water for some time.
Lindo said that in addition to the exhibition booths at the terminal, the agency would have informed business owners in Port Royal about the ship’s arrival.
“We have five cabins at the port, but we also hire people from Port Royal to help us manage what’s going on,” she said.
Asked about the impact of multi-porting Marella Discovery II will have on the economy, the Port Authority representative replied, “Double portion!”
Meanwhile, Roberts revealed that the disembarkation rate at Jamaican cruise ports has increased from 50 percent before COVID to 78 percent, and that the island has a 97 percent satisfaction rate based on data collected from “Happy or Not” machines installed in terminals.
When asked about the reason for the increase in disembarkation, she pointed to a change in cruise passenger demographics.
“The age of the passengers is slightly different. For example, this trip will have an older clientele and if you look, you will see quite a few young people here. So they want more compelling [experience]she stated.
Port Royal, touted as a historic destination, is slated to receive three more ships in addition to the return of Marella Discovery II for the remainder of the winter season.
Captain Greg Torba (left) of the TUI-operated cruise ship Marella Discovery II participates in a plaque exchange with Jamaica Vacations Limited CEO Joy Roberts, representing the Jamaica Tourist Board, and Port Royal Cruise Terminal Port Manager Lloyd Brooks. The commemorative plaque exchange, which took place on Wednesday 23 November 2022, marked the ship’s return from its last berth in February 2020 before COVID. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)