The impending inaugural visit on December 1 by the world’s largest cruise ship, the ‘Wonder of the Seas’, has heightened local stakeholders’ optimism about the prospect of a positive 2022/23 winter tourist season, especially for cruise shipping.
Executive Director of Jamaica Vacations (JamVac), Joy Roberts, says Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s decision to send their Oasis-class vessels to the island is an encouraging sign and a major boost for the local cruise industry.
She said this should be viewed within the context of Jamaica remaining a first-call destination and that the cruise company is satisfied with the country’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, “where we made the safety of their guests a major priority”.
“Odyssey of the Seas, with a carrying capacity of 5,000-plus [passengers] and one of the newest ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet, made its inaugural visit by way of the Falmouth Pier in Trelawny on November 16,” Ms. Roberts told JIS News.
“Add to that the visit by their flagship Wonder of the Seas to Falmouth in two weeks, and what we are seeing here is the massive rollout of Royal Caribbean’s finest ships into Jamaican waters,” she further said.
Ms. Roberts said Royal Caribbean’s 2022/23 itinerary “tells a tale of the who’s who”, noting that it details the scheduled visits to Jamaica for other Oasis-class vessels such as the ‘Harmony of the Seas’ and ‘Symphony of the Seas’.
“Any cruise destination with the ability to secure such first-class commitments is a destination to be reckoned with. Jamaica has gone way beyond just sand, sun and sea, and currently boasts some of the best attractions in the region,” the Executive Director added.
The Wonder of the Seas, which had its maiden voyage from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to the eastern Caribbean on March 4, will arrive in Falmouth, four days after sailing from Port Canaveral, Orlando, Florida, on November 27.
The 18-deck cruise ship was built at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France and has capacity for 6,988 guests and 2,300 crew members.
According to Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations at Royal Caribbean International, Mark Tamis, “we’re excited to introduce guests across the world to Wonder of the Seas and its world-class features, after a six-year-long process”.
“From planning to delivery, we’ve utilised our expertise across Royal Caribbean, as well as incorporate our guests’ suggestions and travel partners’ feedback to create something truly awe-inspiring,” he said in a statement.
Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, said the significance of hosting the world’s largest cruise ship and one of the latest of Royal Caribbean’s luxury vessels cannot be overstated.
“It is, indeed, a signal that our tourism offerings continue to be world-class and that the major cruise lines see Jamaica as an important cruise partner. It must be noted that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Royal Caribbean was sending their biggest Oasis ships – ‘Allure of the Seas’, ‘Oasis of the Seas’, ‘Harmony of the Seas’, and others, to Jamaica,” he told JIS News.
The Minister said the lone exception is ‘Symphony of the Seas’, which was due to arrive in 2020, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Symphony, I am told, has been rescheduled for 2023,” Minister Bartlett advised.
While the cruise industry has experienced persistent disruptions over the past two years due to COVID-19, activities seem to be returning to normal.
This, as both Royal Caribbean and Carnival have returned with almost all their ships making port calls globally.