Royal Caribbean Cruises plans on using Falmouth, in Jamaica, as a port for its new monster of a cruise ship Oasis of the Seas. There is a concern in Jamaica that Royal Caribbean is exploiting it's historic town in the process.
A Historic and Quaint "Colonial" Town - Sugar, Rum & Slaves
Falmouth is the chief town and capital of Trelawny parish, Jamaica, and is located on Jamaica's north coast near Montego Bay.
In the late 1700's, Jamaica was the world’s leading sugar producer. There were hundreds of sugar estates and enormous wealth created by slaves for the rich estate owners. Falmouth was named after the birthplace of Sir William Trelawny in Falmouth, Cornwall, Britain. At the turn of the 1800's, one hundred sugar plantations in Trelawny parish provided sugar and rum for export to Britain. Falmouth also 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 is also considered to be one of the Caribbean’s best-preserved historic towns. Meticulously planned in the Colonial style, it is often compared to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, here in the United States.
Royal Caribbean Makes a Sweet Deal
Several years ago, Royal Caribbean Cruises needed a port to accommodate its new "Genesis" class cruise ships (the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas). These ships were far too big to use a regular port.
The cruise line approached Jamaica and proposed a deal where Royal Caribbean would agree to use Falmouth as a port for its new mega ships - provided that Jamaica spend around $120 million deepening its port and creating a huge facililty to accommodate the two new mega-ships carrying over 6,000 passengers each. The trade-off to Jamaica for this investment would be the infusion of money into Falmouth and the surrounding parish with the arrival of the new mega ships.
Jamaica quickly 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 unigue sensory experience of the Colonial era." William Tatham, Vice President of Cruise and Marina Operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, proclaimed: “cruise visitors are looking for more memorable experiences, and this is certainly what Falmouth will be able to deliver.”
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.
Jamaicans were promised a revitalized local economy with thousands of U.S. passengers spending hundreds of thousands of dollars every time the Genesis class cruise ships arrived in port.
Oasis of the Seas - a Self-Contained "Vegas with an Anchor"
Fast forward to November 2009. There is now little talk about passengers actually getting off the Oasis of the Seas and going into Falmouth. Yesterday, the Charlotte Observer ran a story called "Vegas with an Anchor," which quoted one the cruise ship's captains stating that “our hope, of course, is that people don't get off, because this ship itself is the destination. This is better than a lot of the islands.”
Paul Motter, the editor of the cruise community CruiseMates, echoed this sentiment: "I think it's going to be the first ship where people truly book just for the ship and hardly care where it goes."
Gadling, the online travel site, criticized the "nearly entirely inward-looking" experience of the Oasis of the Seas. "With the aptly named Oasis, you don't need to leave the ship at all . . . As the Oasis passes by port after port, please pardon the passengers if they're not gathered at the rail watching the world pass by."
The thought of a megaship so big and self-contained that its passengers don't bother to disembark while in Falmouth is not lost on the people of Jamaica. After spending and borrowing $120 million, they now realize that Royal Caribbean may have just taken them for a ride.
Oasis of the Seas - Looking for a Place to Offload It's Pee and Poo
In articles entitled "Why We Fail" and "Fantasies, Follies, and Frauds," John Maxwell of the Jamaica Observer warns of the "transformation of our beautiful heirloom Falmouth . . . to please the billionaire owners of Royal Caribbean Lines. He writes:
"In beautiful and historic Falmouth, we are busy making a billion-dollar cosy corner for the Royal Caribbean Line on the alleged promise that they will be bringing 6,000 visitors a week to Falmouth. What we don't know is that we have probably been conned.
The Oasis of the Seas will make land-based hotels irrelevant. Instead of bringing visitors to Jamaica the new ships will bring an ersatz Jamaica to the visitors. Each of these ships will be human zoos specially designed to bemuse their clientele."
"Crapital" (sic) of the World?
Mr. Maxwell continues with his concern that Jamaica's town of Falmouth may become just a lovely place to unload the crap from the Oasis of the Seas' 6,000 passengers and 1,500 crew members:
"Given all this, the rationale for the Falmouth cruise shipping centre is simple: There's got to be somewhere to dump the huge amounts of waste generated by such a monumentally environmentally unfriendly project. Falmouth's destiny is to act as a relief point for the ship to be sanitized, resupplied with cheap Jamaican water and for the ship, its passengers and crew to offload their excrement in what will become the cruise crapital (sic) of the world"
Jamaica has a history of being exploited by foreign plantation owners, sugar barons, slave owners, bauxite-mining companies and now the mega ships of the $15 billion Royal Caribbean cruise line.
Next year, the Oasis of the Seas will invade the historic port of Falmouth. Later in 2010, the Allure of the Seas will follow. When these floating-high-rise-shopping-centers cast a shadow over all of old town Falmouth, will Jamaica realize that it's once quaint port is being used for little more than a big latrine?
Historic prints of Falmouth Falmouth Heritage Renewal
Adam Goldstein and Bruce Golding Jamaica Ministry of Transport & Works
Oasis of the Seas Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com
John Maxwell Jamaica Gleaner