At 160,000 gross tonnes and hosting 3,634 guests double occupancy, Freedom of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world, and its first ever call to Montego Bay brought on a world-class celebration. A command performance by Grammy Award winner Shaggy, as well as complimentary Jablum Blue Mountain Coffee and Appleton Rum, were some of the treats served up to passenger dockside.
“A big ship deserves an even bigger welcome, and everyone in the cruise community is thrilled that Montego Bay is part of the Freedom of the Seas itinerary,” said William Tatham, Vice President Cruise and Marina Shipping at the Port Authority of Jamaica. “Most of the enterprises involved in the industry came on the port today, to signal support for the ship and also to give passengers a little taste of Jamaica.”
Among the premium tourism and leisure brands welcoming passengers were Margaretville Caribbean, Chukka Caribbean Adventures, Green Grotto Caves, Dunn’s River Falls and Red Stripe. Craft merchants also got into the act with a souvenir bazaar.
Craig Milan, Royal Caribbean International’s Senior Vice President of Land Operations said that the cruise line, passengers and crew were all happy with the day’s activities. “From the ship’s entry into port to the sound of Bob Marley’s “One Love”, to performance by Shaggy, and the warmth shown by everyone who came to welcome us, it was an incredible day, well beyond our expectations.”
Jamaica’s Minister of Transport the Hon Robert Pickersgill, along with the Hon Wykeham McNeil, State Minister for Tourism welcomed the ship in an onboard ceremony. Several local guests also toured the ship which is more than 1000 feet long and 185 feet wide. Montego Bay is the only Caribbean port where the Freedom of the Seas can dock directly alongside.
“The Freedom of the Seas is an important fillip for the cruise industry,” said Marilyn Burrows, President of the Association of Jamaican Attractions. “With our range of adventures and attractions, cruise passengers can disembark and go straight to an experience in a relatively short time, and it’s also quite easy for us to accommodate the number of passengers aboard the Freedom.”
Freedom of the Seas will make weekly calls to Montego Bay throughout 2006, and in 2007 will be joined by the 3,500-guest Liberty of the Seas, in alternate weekly calls to Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
Up to April 2006, there were 242 cruise ship calls to Jamaica with 505,380 passengers, an eight percent increase over last year.