Cruise and Ferry Review - Summer/Spring 2020

7 4 Island of inspiration As Port Royal welcomes its first cruise guests, William Tatham tells Jacqui Griffiths how rich ecology and heritage make Jamaica an island of unique ports of call W hen Marella Cruises’ Marella Discovery II docked at Port Royal on 20 January, it marked the return of cruising to Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, after more than 40 years. Developing the port – along with the completion of attractions including Fort Charles and a roadside promenade into the town – has taken years of work by the Port Authority of Jamaica and other government agencies. But the completion of this project is just the beginning. “Jamaica’s capital is an extraordinarily culturally rich site, from the Blue Mountains where the coffee is made to [singer] Bob Marley’s home and museum, and the national stadium where our great athletes have trained,” says William Tatham, vice president of cruise shipping at the Port Authority of Jamaica. “We now have a great opportunity to open that up and grow it for visitors and locals.” For decades, the island’s north coast ports of Falmouth, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio have been the go-to destinations for cruise itineraries. But when Jamaica’s prime minister asked the port authority to find a way to bring cruise back to Kingston, discussions with cruise lines and other stakeholders identified Port Royal as the ideal starting point. “Port Royal is a truly unique location with 500 years of incredible history including a sunken city, the famous Pirates of the Caribbean and the main British Navy base in the Caribbean for over 200 years,” says Tatham. Strong interest from European and American operators indicates the powerful draw of the area’s narratives for cruise guests. But Tatham says its success also lies in recapturing a sense of history for Jamaicans. “Fort Charles, for example, doesn’t have the look and layout of grand historic buildings like the UK’s castles,” he says. “Its ability to immerse visitors lies in its stories – and there are so many, our challenge was to choose which ones to tell. The West India Regiment has an extraordinary history in that location and several Admirals including Lord Nelson were based there. By focusing on the year 1807, we’ve identified many compelling stories from the generation before that and the generation after, encompassing pre- and post- emancipation periods that had a huge impact on Jamaicans and the wider region. People can see the fort as it was in 1807 including the uniforms, officers’ quarters and other aspects of life there. Within that they’ll find different stories about the people who were based there and what day-to-day life was like.” Port Royal adds a new dimension to Jamaica’s cruise experience, accompanying recent developments to ports on the island’s north coast. Falmouth recently celebrated the opening of an artisan village adjacent to the port, for example, while the Reynolds Pier project in Ocho Rios is nearing completion with a new terminal building and a seaside promenade set to open for the 2021 season. Meanwhile, at Montego Bay, the government’s Urban COVER STORY