“Today, I am a proud resident of Falmouth, I am 200 % proud” says Norma Chong. “I am glad for this day because I was really looking forward to it and it has come to fufillment. The residents of Falmouth will reap significant benefits from the arrival of the cruise ships” she concluded.
She was one of the many residents who turned out in their numbers on Thursday, February 17, to greet the over 4000 visitors and crew aboard the eagerly anticipated Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Voyager of the Seas, which docked at the Falmouth pier in Trelawny.
Joy Laesch, President of the Trelawny Art and Craft Association said “This is a great opportunity for the residents of Falmouth and they should try to find ways to capitalize on the opportunity and reap rewards.”
Residents of the town are set to benefit economically from the arrival of cruise ships in Falmouth. Lenworth Tracey, Deputy General Manager, Economic Development and Corporate Relations, Urban Development Corporation (UDC) said “The contract that Royal Caribbean has with Port Authority and the people of Jamaica stipulates that when things are fully operational, Royal Caribbean is guaranteeing that Jamaica will welcome upwards of 667,000 passengers every year.”
He further stated that the spending potential in the town of Falmouth and its environs, based on patterns in other destinations, is half a billion Jamaican dollars per month and that the potential is expected to materialize when the ships are set on a regular routine. In this regard, the Economic Development and Community Integration Department of the UDC, will be working closely with the community to identify and prepare them for business opportunities which will result from cruise industry.
The historic visit of the first cruise ship to the town of Falmouth warranted preparation of a special and memorable “Falmouth Experience” that would ensure return visits and the UDC, the Trelawny Parish Council (TPC) and the Ministry of Youth Culture and Sport collaborated to ensure that it was just that. The event showcased Jamaican culture in entertainment, food, literary and fine arts and art and craft. The historic courthouse was the focal point and it housed the National Gallery exhibition as well as the Reggae to the World theatre featuring Ibo Cooper led musicians in 30 minute entertainment packages, under the theme “From Ska to Dancehall,” music through the ages. The court house also provided the backdrop for carvers, artists painting on easels, pottery makers, craft vendors, a culinary display by Heart Trust NTA, mento band performances and a “Rasta Village”. The Jonkunnu Dancers and the Trelwany Song and Dance Group added to the cultural offering. Passengers also got the opportunity to learn about the parish’s rich cultural history as they toured the town in tram cars organised by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and operated by Bramar Tours Ltd.
Several of the visitors indicated that they were overwhelmed by the warm reception which they received. Hal McMillan, a visitor from Louisianna said, “The people were friendly, there were lots of smiles and folks waving at us, which gave you a very heart warming feeling to be here in Falmouth and I am honoured to be on the first ship that came to Falmouth. This was indeed an unexpected surprise”.
Todd Hulm from Pheonix Arizona said “This is my fifth time in Jamaica and this was by far the best day I have ever had in the island. We got to experience the local culture of the town and the people were very welcoming. It seems as if the entire Trelawny came out to greet us. We felt that we were taken in with open arms by the people of Jamaica. He further added that he is looking forward to returning to Falmouth next year to see what the port and town look like when completed.
Plans to facilitate the development of the historic town started last year when the Urban Development Corporation was mandated by Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Hon. Bruce Golding to spearhead and adopt a multi-agency collaborative approach to redevelop the area. As a result, the Corporation was entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating and implementing the Greater Falmouth Redevelopment Plan 2010-2030. This plan will facilitate the orderly development of the area focusing on the management of land use, allocation for residential, commercial, industrial, resort, institutional, recreational, agricultural and conservation purposes.
As part of this plan, the UDC collaborated with stakeholders including residents of Falmouth and surrounding towns, business and political groups, civic and religious groups to coordinate the upgrading of the town ahead of the arrival of the first ship on February 17, 2011. The partnership resulted in the beautification of the town and improvement of traffic management as well as the sensitization and training of residents through the Social Development Commission, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and the Heart Trust NTA. Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the Port Authority of Jamaica however, are jointly responsible for construction of the Falmouth Cruise Shipping Pier.
On completion of this project, Falmouth will become the country’s first ever thematic port destination, incorporating the charm of Georgian architecture which characterizes the streetscapes of old Falmouth.