It’s always an exciting time when a new port opens but it’s been a while since one has generated as much of a response as Falmouth, Jamaica has.
Royal Caribbean International along with the Jamaican Port Authority, have invested $221 million to construct the purpose built port to accommodate their Oasis class ships and offer passengers a unique experience on disembarkation.
The first thematic port within the region, Historic Falmouth aims to transport people back in time to 1769 when the British ruled and everyone aimed to be “as rich as a Jamaican plantation owner”.
My excitement to experience Falmouth grew after speaking with Christopher Wright, business development manager for the Jamaica Tourist Board and the day had finally come to see how the construction of the port had progressed.
“It’s almost like going back in time. It’s a wonderful experience,” Mr Wright shared with me.
Knowing that the port was approximately 95% complete, I was well aware that there was still a way to go from the final product that everyone involved was so excited about. The overriding concern onboard about the safety of the port rang in my ears however.
Having been offline for a little while whilst travelling around the USA, I was unaware of the media attention awarded to the area.
Stories of harassment of cruisers by vendors, drug dealers and prostitutes had hit the internet and there were more than a few passengers who had made the decision to stay onboard.
Without having read any of the articles I felt that the situation had most likely been exaggerated.
Cities all around the world have awful things happen on a daily basis and I was saddened to see that a small island was baring the brunt of the negative spotlight when everyone was trying so hard to make this work.
With an open mind I disembarked the ship and prepared myself to experience Falmouth independently.
A veritable circus of personalities greeted us, from Rasta men to clowns, pirates to British high commanders. Whilst quite novel, the overwhelming feeling was that they may have been trying a tad too hard.
It was like walking into a carnival with stalls, a mobile ‘Margueritaville’ and fruit stands. All that was missing was a ferris wheel and some arcade games.
Were they trying to divert my attention from the line of armed police waiting just outside the port?
We decided to take the $10 trolley tour through the city to give us an idea of where we should venture out for the day. Our guide was a ball of energy and her trainee was so excited to be a part of the experience.
When our police escort was ready, we headed through the gates and into what had been portrayed as the dark and dangerous town of Falmouth.
The locals lined the streets as we passed by and we were given the opportunity to view some of the beautiful houses, town halls and churches of which some had retained a classic Georgian feel. Dilapidated, yes, but you could certainly feel the rich, albeit young, history surrounding you.
Heading back to the port, Sherri was keen to partake in some bargain shopping in the local markets and I decided to join her.
That overwhelming feeling from Labadee returned.
I wanted to tell everyone to leave me alone, all I wanted to do was to peruse their wares. The likelihood was that I would buy from them, not bargain too much and everyone would walk away happy.
I didn’t want to be told I was pretty, nor did I want to hold their hand and have sweet nothings whispered to me, I just wanted to shop!
This is the island way though. Nothing new, nothing different from any other island I’ve experienced. Is it annoying? Yes, intensely. Does it give you a feeling of being in danger? No, not particularly.
What was most disconcerting was the show of armed police and military. As Captain Patrik Dahlgren said to me though, isn’t it better to have them there than not?
As an Australian, that was what was most confronting for me. I feel the same when I travel to the Middle East though and I return whenever I can with a vigour. It’s just different to what I’m used to and also very different to what I like.
So, I headed back to the ship…with a few more kilograms for my suitcase, having experienced Jamaica for the first time.
Next time, I’ll book a shore tour and, whilst it isn’t number one on my favourite ports, I’m very interested to see how it progresses over the coming months.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.A