Will Royal Caribbean Ever Live Up to Its Promises to Falmouth Jamaica?

Last week I traveled to Jamaica to visit clients in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.  During our trip, we also attended to some matters in the port town of Falmouth where Royal Caribbean parks its new mega-ships, the Genesis class Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas. 

Falmouth is the capital of Trelawny parish, Jamaica, located on Jamaica's north coast near Montego Bay.  

Falmouth Jamaica - Cruise PortFalmouth was named after the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain. In the late 1700's, Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer.  At the turn of the 1800's, one hundred sugar plantations in Trelawny parish provided sugar and rum for export to Britain. Falmouth has a notorious past because it was a center for the slave trade from Africa.  Based on its rum, sugar and slave business, it became one the wealthiest ports in the "New World." 

Falmouth has since fallen on hard times; its quaint Colonial architecture appears now largely in a state of ruin. 

Several years ago, Royal Caribbean had a problem.  It designed its new "Genesis" class cruise ships (Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) but few ports could accommodate them. These mega ships were far too big to dock at the Freeport / Montego Bay facility. 

The cruise line approached Jamaica and proposed a deal where Royal Caribbean would agree to use Falmouth as a port for its new cruise ships - provided that Jamaica would spend around $120 million deepening its port and creating a new facility to handle the new ships.  The trade-off to Jamaica for this investment would supposedly be the infusion of money into Falmouth and the surrounding parish when the Oasis and the Allure, each with over 6,000 passengers, arrived in town. 

Falmouth has a population of around 7,500.  In theory, the population of the town would essentially double any time one of the Genesis class ships arrived at port, with lots of Americans with cash in their pockets.  

Jamaica jumped at the deal. No environmental impact statement or detailed economic analysis was prepared.  The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) prepared promotional materials suggesting that "the destination will deeply reference the town's history, offering visitors a unique sensory experience of the Colonial era."  Royal Caribbean's President Adam Goldstein signed the deal with Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding and promised to deliver 400,000 passengers a year to Falmouth over the next 20 years, with an expectation that each passenger would spend over $100 in the port. 

So is Royal Caribbean living up to its promises to Falmouth?

The Allure of the Seas was in Falmouth when we arrived.  To my surprise, there were relatively few cruise passengers sightseeing, eating in restaurants, or buying souvenirs in town.  It was hard to determine whether the passengers were remaining on the gigantic Allure city-to-itself cruise ship, or they had left in tour buses.  

There are few signs that Royal Caribbean has invested anything in Falmouth.  There is a new plaza in the middle of the town which replaced a traffic roundabout.  There are a few newly planted Falmouth Jamaica - Royal Caribbean Cruise palm trees desperately in need of irrigation.  

We asked a number of store owners and local Jamaicans what they thought about the new port.  A few restaurant owners were appreciative of the cruise ships which brought crew members looking for a place to eat and relax.  But no cruise passengers were inside.  Most Jamaicans expressed mixed feelings, complaining that the passengers are loaded up in cruise-line-arranged tour buses inside of  the port, where excursions sold are largely for the benefit of the cruise line and then the passengers are quickly bused out of Falmouth towards Ocho Rios and Dunn's River Falls.   

Were Royal Caribbean promises to Falmouth just sweet talk and part of the seduction of Jamaica to belly up over $100 million to dredge a deeper port for the Oasis and Allure mega ships which could not port in Freeport?  Will even a dime of the hundreds of millions of dollars in cruise line profits ever find their way into schools for the kids of Falmouth or the sick and infirm in the modest medical center at the outskirts of this historic old town?    

When we left Falmouth to drive over to Ocho Rios, we parked and looked back at the new port.   I took a photo of the Allure of the Seas looming over the few two story buildings at the port which were not knocked down during the "revitalization" of Falmouth.  I could not help but think what an appropriate image of the relationship between this huge cruise company and the little town of Falmouth.

Counting all passengers and crew, the Allure contains more people than all of Falmouth.  When the cruise ship left to sail back to Miami, it was leaving with literally tens of millions of dollars destined for the cruise line's coffers.  Aside from the money spent on Bob Marley t-shirts and wood carvings, few U.S. dollars remained in Falmouth.           

As a history major, I believe that the answers to questions about the future remain firmly planted in the past.

Jamaica has a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, and bauxite-mining companies. 

In the end, Royal Caribbean will do no better for Falmouth than those in the past who have taken greatly and given little in return to this beautiful island.  

Falmouth Jamaica - Allure of the Seas - Royal Caribbean Cruise

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Comments (14) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Zemite Adetunji Lala - June 14, 2011 1:27 PM

I am a businessman/entreprenure interested in the future of Falmouth.

I visited Falmouth exactly on May19th and 20th to see, walk around and assess the business oportunities a beautiful place like falmouth have to offer.

My observations are very similar to that expressed by Jim Walker, although with no background historical knowledge of the joint venture between the Government of Jamaica and The Royal Carribbean.

Reading Jim's editorial bring to the surface some niggly thoughts that kept bugging me since my visit that parties involved in this venture have a lot to do to make Falmouth worthwhile for the locals and their businesses,the tourists and the local council.

Better infrastucture matching the new port is needed.

Friendly business set up schemes will be appropriate to help entreprenures set up viable business that will capture the interest of the tourists and sustain and benefit the locals, interms of gainful employment, education, commerce,community growth, and a good competition and alternative tourist area to the likes of wellestablished Ocho Rios, Montigo Bay and Negril.

To neglect Falmouth the way it is now, and the Royal Caribbean's attitude of carting tourists out of Falmouth immediately the ships bith at the port, will defeat the essence of having the port there.

The advent of the new port brings vibrancy into the life of a Town like Falmouth. This is evident from just walking around and feeling the atmosphere, but a lot more is needed to capture this golden opportunity to set Falmouth and its inhabitants on a solid growth footing. If this opportunity is properly utilised Falmouth will become another golden goose for the Government and people of Jamaica, but if not properly utilised and built upon then falmouth risk to suffer a double deprivation and can decend into a sad story.

My sincere hope is that Falmouth becomes another national success to the government and People of Jamaica.

JL Brown - June 20, 2011 3:51 PM

My (20 & 18 year old) sons & I just sailed on the June 5 Allure. This was our first cruise ever. In Falmouth, we were mobbed by people as soon as we walked past security. People offering us taxis, tours, sippy sippy's, other things, etc.... Right away-I noticed what you mentioned about RC sponsored tours because a lot of people did do that.

What WE did was walk as far away from the hub-bub of all that as quickly as we could, went into what I would consider part of "downtown", and into a little precious place called Kerr's to buy some Jamaican rum. We met and visited with lots of the locals, including the police (they were all just fantastic). We spent about 2 hours with these people, talking American politics (which lots of them follow), Facebook, Jamaican history and some of their beliefs, lots of things. We were taken by a young man there to a local eatery where we had things that were so delicious (I think they were called Patties), we did not want to leave. Having lunch with him was quite a treat! Remember, these people did not ask us for any money for the privelege of hanging out with them; they were just as curious about us as we were about them. We did spend too much money in Kerr's and at the eatery, but it was well worth it! Everyone at the port wants money for nothing.


Anyhow- as extravagant as the Allure is, I doubt that I would ever go on another cruise. I had heard how wonderful the food was (first night was wonderful, after that it was all downhill), how nice people were (passengers-mostly US citizens were wicked rude; in the Windjammer they'd run you over to get in line in front of you, and my son said, "Uhm-I'm pretty sure there's more food back there", I saw several people throw their trash on the floor, etc....) and how I would have the time of my life.

It was a great experience, I must say. I sure liked the people in Falmouth much better than my fellow cruisers.

I don't even know why I'm posting this to you, except to let you know that there are people who go into town and spend money. It's a wonderful place and the people we met were just fabulous.

N. Lloyd - July 30, 2011 1:34 PM

I read the commnts of M. Lala & M. Brown with interest. I hope that the future of Falmouth will improve in time for the sake of the people living and earning their living there. Some improvements must be made to make this new cruise port more valuable for the residents.

About the comment of M. Brown on the RC cruise itself, I will only say, don't give up cruising. It can be one of the most relaxing and rewarding means of vacationing there is. Often times it is one of the most economical means of travel too. I have been on cruises with several lines and have found Holland America to consitantly have the best food, the best service and the most polite and kind crew of the lines I have sailed with. They have many, many repeat customers on their cruises. Having met some that have cruised as many as 60 times with HAL. HAL has been known for years as the "cruise line with the best value for the money". Not that they are the cheapest or the most expensive; but the quality of their ships and service are hard to beat.

I will be traveling to Falmouth with Holland America in early Dec. and will be looking forward to seeing Falmouth and meeting locals there. I have been to Jamaica and have found the Jamaicans there and in the States to be very friendly. So keep on cruising and spending a few of your dollars in the areas you visit. You and the locals will be happier for it.

N. Lloyd

frances kosmerl - December 2, 2011 4:20 AM

What a strange and cynical articel you posted, Mr. Walker! I took the tram ride through the town with many other guests and enjoyed the peek at the "behind the scenes" genuine lifestyle of Falmouth.

You obviously had never been to Falmouth before. I drove through years ago when the main highway went right through the town. It was a crumbling ruin bypassed by time. I was delighted to see the "refurbished" town on my recent cruise. I cannot imagine what you expected, sir, but it seems to me that in a short time the town has gained a new lease on life, due to the new port. At least the town receives some guests from the cruise ships, as compared to the all-inclusive Sandals resort i stayed in last time, where we never left to go into any town.

Jim Walker - December 2, 2011 8:09 AM

Ms. Kosmeri:

Thanks for reading Cruise Law News.

Questions: Did you pay Royal Caribbean for the tram? Did you buy anything from the local vendors? What did you pay Royal Caribbean total for the cruise and onboard purchases?

So when you vacation again to Jamaica, will it involve another tram ride into Falmouth? Or is it back to the walled-in Sandals resort?

Regards.

Jim Walker

S Fritsche - December 6, 2011 12:31 PM

Mr. Walker,

It seems like your expectation is a little messed up. The decision that Falmouth made to make a place for large ships to dock is just golden. Here is how to make it work:

1. Get rid of the hounds at the dock. Vacationers DO NOT appreciate being pressured. Mr. Brown points out that it is uncomfortable to get past that, and it really gives Falmouth a BAD image.

2. Develop concessions that people want. Look on the cruise ship web sites to see what kinds of activites they are "bussing" passengers off to, and develop those in Falmouth.

(By the way, who is operating the concessions that the cruise line are using? Perhaps the Falmouth towns people?)

3. Market the concessions aggressively and under-cut the cruise lines. I tell you, I would love to find a reliable snorkel trip without having to pay the price the cruise line charges. If you convince people that your concessions are safe and reliable and let people know about them, they will come.


4. Stop belly-aching and wishing someone would give you something for nothing. It is off-putting. Royal Caribbean has give Falmouth a golden opportunity. Work hard and it will pay off.


I will be in Falmouth later this month, and I am looking for a snorkel trip. Search as I might, I cannot find anything about that in Falmouth. What choice do I have but to use the cruise line's excursions?

-Fritsche

Jim Walker - December 6, 2011 7:48 PM

Fritsche:

Did you really say:

Get rid of the hounds (dogs?) at the dock?

Stop belly-aching . . work hard and it will pay off?

It's golden?

You sound like a sugar baron 150 years ago yelling at the slaves on the plantation.

Enjoy your snorkel excursion . . .

Jim Walker

Donald Baldwin - January 28, 2012 9:49 PM

We were on the RCI Mariner which docked 12.1.11. It was raining. Passengers were held hostage to over overpriced stores. I am generally fairly astute with financial transactions, but the sales vendor at Diamonds Forever pulled an absolutely perfect scam that essentially stole several thousand dollars from us. First he gave a glowing description of the ring. He told us we could exchange the ring any time. He would give us paperwork. RCI endorses them he said.

With those assurances, we agreed to the purchase for $18,750. he took one of my credit cards that had plenty of credit on it. He came back announcing a call to the bank was necessary. Ha asked for my other card and ran it. He had me sign the slip. I asked for the paperwork. He said he would mail it. I was given the sales slip to sign. It said sales were final. This ring cannot be brought into the country for a year. At this point, I knew I was scammed, but I was optimist.

Paperwork never arrived. We took the ring to a gemologist who valued it at about $7000. Th quality and size of the ring were misrepresented. The sales slip has no phone number. I sent a letter but no response. RCI is looking to the matter, but my 86 year old mother has a better chance of becoming president than I have getting a positive resolution to this scam from RCI.

I received an e-mail from someone was likewise scammed be Diamonds Forever. These proper are crooks and RCI is interested only in making moony from Falmouth-their passengers be damned. Falmouth Village offers no value. If you dock there, stay on the ship and consider yourself fortunate.

Jeremy - February 27, 2012 5:38 PM

Donald: I have never met anyone who was happy with jewelry purchased in this way. It is very easy to get scammed buying jewelry overseas. Why risk it?

I am going to Falmouth at the end of March. It's something I'm looking forward to the least. I was at Ocho Rios and parts of it were OK, but I do NOT like getting hounded (Yes, I will use the term hounded) by desperate sellers. The touts get irritated if you ignore them, to the point of near aggressiveness.

I hope Falmouth isn't like Ocho Rios.

Julie Hicks - July 2, 2012 8:51 AM

I have been to Jamacia 3 times now and have travelled throughout the island which is a beautiful island with so much to offer. I have never stayed in an all inclusive or traveled there by crusie ship as I do not belive either of these holdiays really support local people effectivley even through they do provide some employment opportunities. I agree that you can get hounded by local sellers who do not always know how they will be feeding thier family that week so a bit of persistance is a must if they want to make a sale. So you should think of that when you go back to your comfortable life overindulging in every aspect. Also I would love to echo the words of JL Brown who has just described to the letter a cruise that I took from Miami to other islands which has seriously given me a very negative experience of rude overindulgent people who can never really be relied upon to support the progress of a small parish in JA as they are just so self centred. There also seems a lack of knowledge of some of the people that have posted as I could easy take you to another 15 countries where you would get some pressure to buy stuff. But with you overindulgent lives you probably do feel very uncomfortable with this so you are right to stay on the cruise ship and stay in your very limited world

Ras Astor Black - April 3, 2013 8:58 AM

FALMOUTH YOUTHS VS BIG COOPERATION
Greetings Children of Trelawny in Jamaica and in the diaspora,
A trade was entered into by the Trelawny Parish Council and the Port Authority of Jamaica for the valuable Falmouth Bend-down Market land space where the Men and Women of tomorrow is looking forward to earn from the Tourism Sector.

We all know the area is more valuable because it is across the street from the new Port of Falmouth. Children of Trelawny can now see a light at the bow of the Royal Caribbean Cruise line bringing vacationers to us now to benefit from sales of fresh produce, arts, craft and music in a re-develop Bend-down Falmouth Market Building, instead, the Trelawny Parish Council and PAJ are making plans to relocate us out of the Town of Falmouth to make way for invaders. Please, for the children of Falmouth, join me and let us fight this injustice. Please write and say yes, we will.

Please visit us on the web at www.nowjam.org and please tune in to Falmouth Community Radio 88.9FM and on the net at www.freeiradio.net
One love
Ras Astor Black
President
Jamaica Alliance Movement
nowjam@gmail.com
Jamaica 876-435-8401 - International: 561-839-4495
http://www.portjam.com/nmCMS.php?p=port2x

Stevert - June 5, 2013 6:41 AM

It is really sad. I also knew that us Jamaican are being exploited in every possible way. There is no one to stand up for us during any negotiation to protect the locals.
If you check most of the joint business ventures between the Jamaican government and foreign entities.....there is no place in the contract which assure some economic spin off for the locals..

Brooster - August 23, 2013 2:20 PM

Our group of singles are ready and willing to spend money in Jamaica. But supporting the locals by allowing scammers and rip off artists isn't our thing, sorry, we are not there to "hand out money". We made our own private arrangements to travel on to Ocho Rios at Margaritaville, even though there is an incomplete Margaritaville right there in Falmouth. We expect the full package, not a place where "bear with us, we are trying"...maybe some day when they get their act together this port could be a place to stay. But we are not out to buy junk or take care of every person claiming to be poor. Sorry.

Brian - January 23, 2014 3:37 PM

The Jamaican Cruise ports have a reputation for being full of trash and panhandlers. If you want your port vicinities to benefit from the tourism, you need to heavily police the area, more tightly control business licenses to tourism industries, and make regulations that give safety to tourists and make them feel more comfortable parting with their money. Less begging and more real service. Make them display a tourism license like a banner, flag, or other emblem that signifies their official licensed port tour guide/etc. Also heavily police it so that cruise people don't see litter and vandalism and clouds of pot smoke anywhere within a mile of the beaches and the port. As far as I'm concerned, and my family has a several-year history of cruising... when you go to Jamaica, if you haven't seen Dunn's falls, you go there, if not, you go get a Juicy Patti and you get back on the boat. No need to be panhandled and tour around the filth. See what Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts, and Grand Cayman are doing differently.

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