News

Tears of joy as Falmouth welcomes first cruise ship

BY MARK CUMMINGS Senior staff reporter cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 18, 2011    

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny — After years of planning and two missed dates, the Georgian north coast town of Falmouth yesterday welcomed its first cruise liner.

Before the scheduled 8:00 am arrival of the vessel, Voyager of the Seas, at the newly constructed Falmouth Shipping Pier, hundreds of Trelawny residents — including scores of students -- lined Seaboard Street to witness the historic moment.

Shortly after 8:15 am when the ship with its 3,500 passengers and 1,500-member crew inched closer to the pier, then made its final stop, the larger crowd erupted in cheers, many gazing in awe.

Joy Laesch, who heads the Trelawny Art and Craft Association, told the Observer that she shed "tears of joy" when she realised that the ship had, in fact, docked at the pier.

"I just stood there (on the port) watching the ship coming in the harbour and I thought I was dreaming. But as it came closer and closer and stopped and as I saw passengers hanging out (on the ship) and waving and persons on the ground waving back to them, it became highly emotional for me. I tried to hold back the tears, but I couldn't... my emotions were too high so as the baby (ship) docked, I just burst into tears," she recalled.

Added Laesch: "My hands were filled with water (tears) so I just used it to wash my face. It was tears of joy because we were waiting and have been preparing ourselves for this moment, and now it's happening."

The construction of the Falmouth Cruise Shipping Pier — a joint effort of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and the Port Authority of Jamaica — has long been in the making. However, work on the multi-billion facility did not begin until roughly three years ago.

But it was not smooth sailing for the project as several issues, including work stoppages, and environmental concerns delayed the start-up date for cruise ship arrivals.

Cruise officials told the Observer yesterday that more than 90 per cent of the passengers disembarked the mega liner.

A significant number of those, the Observer was told, visited attractions outside of Falmouth before touring sections of the town, which was transformed into a 'small cultural village'.

For the most part, the parish's rich heritage was on display as a slew of craft items, local dishes and traditional music were showcased.

Passengers also toured the town in tram carts and horse carriages, which were popular in the town during the colonial days.

Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett, who along with several political representatives were on hand to greet the passengers, told reporters that the day's activities went smoothly.

"The new port of Falmouth is a statement of the readiness Falmouth is, for prime-time cruise tourism because this port and its facilities are going to be the finest of its kind not only in the Caribbean, but in the entire word," he argued.

And, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Olivia 'Babsy' Grange said she, too, was pleased with the day's proceedings.

"I am very impressed with what I see here today and I want to make the point that for the first time, Jamaica has started on the right footing," she said.

Several passengers who spoke with the Observer commended the stakeholders and residents of Trelawny for the warm reception.

Over the next few months several cruise liners are scheduled to make weekly calls at Falmouth, including the Oasis of the Seas — the world's largest cruise ship — which will make its maiden visit on March 22.

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