Cruise marathon
Royal Caribbean to offer 10k run in Falmouth
Cruise ship passengers explore the Falmouth port in this file photo. The city will be the destination for a marathon organised by Royal Caribbean. (Photo: Philp Lemonte)

FALMOUTH, Trelawny – THE number of cruise passengers who choose to get off ships and explore Jamaica is increasing, even as vessels return to the island's waters with almost as much frequency as they did in 2019. Eager to ensure they are catering to the needs of these younger, more adventurous visitors, local tourism officials are working with cruise lines to expand the list of things to do ashore. One of the projects in the pipeline is a marathon.

"Right now I'm heading to Falmouth to look at a route for Royal Caribbean because they want to do a 10K [run]. They are encouraging passengers to come on board to do 10Ks in the destinations that they go," said executive director of Jamaica Vacations (JamVac), Joy Roberts.

"It's a completely different market, different demographic, and we're just looking forward to it," she added.

Roberts was speaking during Monday's welcome ceremony to mark the inaugural Frontier Airlines flight into Jamaica from Dallas, Fort Worth to the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

Cruise ship passengers being entertained by a gaily dressed local at the Falmouth port. (Photo: Philp Lemonte)

She was obviously thrilled to announce that more and more passengers are leaving the ships that dock at Jamaica's ports, eager to explore the island.

Roberts put the current disembarkation rate at 88 to 90 per cent. That's up from the 50 per cent seen in 2017 when cruise was added to JamVac's portfolio. It builds on further growth from figures in late summer of 2022 when 75 per cent of cruise passengers opted to leave the ship.

"We had a very good winter season; we had 568,000 passengers," Roberts divulged. "We'll just be a tad short of 2019 numbers forecasted but can you imagine if we had those numbers at a 90 per cent disembarkation?"

She said their surveys have shown that the trend towards younger passengers continues.

"We did some surveys and we found out that a lot of the passengers are younger. We always associated maybe a 50 plus passenger with cruise but a lot of them are younger, in their 30s, 40s," Roberts revealed.

In response, tourism officials are also continuing to tweak the activities passengers can do once ashore.

"They want to go and experience Jamaica, they want to experience what we do, they want to do the smaller things — maybe not the larger attractions but they want to eat, the gastronomy. Some of them are even doing sports; they want to bike," said the JamVac executive director.

Smaller players in the local tourism sector frequently complain that they do not get their fair share of the revenue from visiting ships, whose passengers are often whisked away to pre-booked attractions. Adding activities that get passengers up close and personal with locals is seen as one way to address that issue.

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