The renaissance of Port Royal?

The renaissance of Port Royal?


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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All eyes were on the town of Port Royal as the Marella Discovery 2, with over 2,000 passengers, became the first cruise ship to dock at the newly constructed Port Royal cruise port. The town of Port Royal, Jamaica, has had a storied history. Most of us learnt about Port Royal in primary school as the sunken city. And, there are those who will say that Port Royal over the centuries has become the forgotten town.

The area was once described as the wickedest city in the Western Hemisphere. Port Royal is located on the southern coast of Jamaica. Port Royal was initially colonised by the Spanish Crown; however, in 1655 the town was attacked and captured by the English. The town of Port Royal soon became a haven for pirates and buccaneers. Sir Henry Morgan is perhaps the most infamous of all pirates to have emerged from the town.

After 1670, the importance of Port Royal and Jamaica to England was evident due to trade in slaves, sugar, and raw materials.

The town became the mercantile centre of the Caribbean, with vast amounts of goods flowing in and out of its harbour as part of an expansive trade network, which included trading and/or looting of coastal Spanish towns throughout Spanish America.

Port Royal was a wealthy city of merchants, artisans, ships' captains, slaves, and, of course, notorious pirates, who gave it its 'wickedest city in the world' reputation.

The town of Port Royal has a large deepwater natural harbour for protecting ships at anchor, and it was close to Spanish shipping lanes and ports. Tragedy however struck the town of Port Royal in 1692 in the form of an earthquake which saw parts of the town sinking. Port Royal was never the same vibrant and engaging city it once was after the massive earthquake.

Following the earthquake, Port Royal underwent a dramatic revival only to fall again when it was ravaged by fire in 1703. A total of 16 hurricanes between 1712 and 1951 smashed Jamaica, as did an additional six earthquakes between 1770 and 1956.

Today, Port Royal is the opposite of what the town used to be.

The town is more of a laid-back coastal town, where small-scale industries and fishing are critical components of life.

In recent times Port Royal has been undergoing a renaissance. January 20, 2020 was a historic day for Port Royal and Jamaica's tourism as the Marella Discovery 2 docked at 8:09 am.

The Marella Discovery is a former Royal Caribbean International Vision Class cruise ship.

In 2011 the ship had a US$53-million overhaul. The Marella Discovery 2 is quite impressive, boasting an outdoor cinema, a rock climbing wall, two swimming pools, and a mini golf course.

Data from the Ministry of Tourism indicated that 1.92 million cruise passengers visited Jamaica in 2017, an increase from 2016 when 1.655 million passengers arrived.

The Ministry of Tourism also stated that spending per visitor increased to US$91.67 from US$90.24 in the same time frame.

The local media reported that by 10:45 am passengers from the Marella Discovery 2 cruise ship were walking in the town checking out historic sites such as the Giddy House at Fort Charles and St Peter's Anglican Church, while other passengers patronised vendors at the temporary artisan village.

Some of the passengers were taken via tour buses to Culture Yard in Trench Town, where Bob Marley lived, as well as to Emancipation Park in New Kingston, where they experienced a bit of the Jamaican culture through dance and other cultural forms.

Tourism plays an important role in Jamaica's development. And this is enhanced now that Port Royal has now become the latest cruise ship port in Jamaica.

Head of The Port Authority of Jamaica, operators of Jamaica's cruise ports, Professor Gordon Shirley said the historic visit of the Marella Discovery 2 was off to a promising start.

Professor Shirley added that in a month's time another cruise ship is scheduled to visit the town of Port Royal.

We can only hope that the twin monster of crime and violence will stay away from the developments in Port Royal. We can only wish this historic venture all the possible success.

Perhaps the visit of this major cruise liner is the beginning of the renaissance of Port Royal.

Additionally, it is hoped that the people of Port Royal will benefit economically from sharing their space with tourists and the wider Jamaican society.

Port Royal needs more opportunities not only in terms of jobs for its people but in terms of infrastructural investment.

The cruise port undoubtedly will serve as the catalyst in spearheading the development for both the town and its inhabitants.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or, @WayneCamo.

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