Jamaica Port Authority plans $40 million Montego Bay Upgrade

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Montego Bay Cruise pier

The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) will spend $40 million to upgrade the country’s cruise ship port in Montego Bay according to local media reports. The upgrade is being designed to create a “regional, multi-purpose port” operators hope will host more cruise ships.

Jamaica officials anticipates “homeporting” cruise ships for scheduled departures from the revamped Montego Bay facility, said Dr. Horace Chang, a ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation official, in a Jamaica Observer report.

“The current cruise ship pier has to be improved significantly to support the traffic we are going to have with home porting,” he said.

William Tatham, PAJ’s vice president of cruise shipping, said  Montego Bay “will have seven [ships] home porting, up from five” in the 2016-1017 season. Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream and Carnival Freedom will sail regularly from Montego Bay this fall and winter along with ships from MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises and several European cruise lines.

In an earlier interview on the government-run Jamaica Information Service (JIS) website, Chang said PAJ is placing “serious focus” on expanding and improving the resort city’s cruise shipping facilities. “We expect cruise shipping to grow in Montego Bay and not just cruises coming through, but home-porting in particular,” he said.

Montego Bay is the smallest of Jamaica’s three major cruise ship ports, hosting 210,000 cruise passengers in the 2014-2015 season, trailing Ocho Rios (400,000 passengers) and Falmouth (800,000) passengers according to PJA data.

Jamaica’s 1.5 million cruise passenger arrivals during the 2014-2015 season represents the country’s best-ever annual total and is a 20 percent increase over 2014. Overall cruise ship calls increased 19 percent to 433 compared with 363 in 2014, according to PAJ data.

The ports of Falmouth and Ocho Rios accounted for 44 percent and 32 percent, respectively, of ship calls and 52 percent and 30 percent of passenger arrivals

Next Carnival ship to be called Horizon

Carnival Vista entering Valletta Harbor, Malta.

Carnival Cruise Line said the second ship in its Vista class will bear the name Carnival Horizon.

The 133,500-gross-ton ship is scheduled to enter service in March 2018.

Carnival said that in addition to all of the features on Carnival Vista, such as the pedal-powered SkyRide and an IMAX theater, the Carnival Horizon will have a number of innovations unique to the ship.

Carnival Horizon, which will have a double-occupancy capacity of 3,934, would be the 26th ship in Carnival’s fleet and follows the most recent new vessels Carnival Vista, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic and Carnival Dream.

Homeport, itineraries and ship features will be revealed at a later date, Carnival said.

Large cruise lines increase practice of staggered check-in

Disney cruise check-in terminal at Port Canaveral Florida

Big cruise lines are increasingly requiring passengers to pick a boarding time in hopes of streamlining embarkation on large ships.

The idea is to offer a smoother, more tranquil first day onboard.

In the past year, Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line have all rolled out staggered check-ins on some or all of their ships.

Norwegian is the furthest along. Last June, it began enabling guests on the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway to select their arrival time when they downloaded documents as part of the online check-in process. Guests select a half-hour window to board between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The line continued to expand the idea to its other ships; by November, almost anyone on a Norwegian ship departing from a U.S. port was able to take advantage of staggered check-in.

The only exceptions are Norwegian’s Hawaii-based Pride of America, due to later departure times, and its Anchorage/Seward itinerary because of cruise-tour complexities.

Carnival says it strictly enforces the staggered times and will ask guests to return to the terminal later if they show up early. Norwegian is less strict.

Carnival’s version started last year in Galveston, Texas. The line extended it to two of its New Orleans-based ships, the Carnival Elation and Carnival Dream, and is targeting Miami next, beginning March 4. The Carnival Triumph, also based in New Orleans, is scheduled to begin staggered check-in this April.

Royal Caribbean’s staggered check-in program is currently limited to the Anthem of the Seas. Royal assigns arrival times, rather than enabling guests to choose.

Andy Stuart, president of Norwegian, said staggered check-in helps break up the “big block” of passengers who tend to arrive around noon.

Stuart said that so far the idea has been a qualified success: “I won’t say it’s perfect; I think it’s improved it. It has started to spread people out a little more effectively.”

One important difference between Carnival and Norwegian is the policing of early arrivals. Carnival says it strictly enforces the staggered times and will ask guests to return to the terminal later if they show up early.

However, if guests show up later than their assigned times, “we allow them to come in and check in,” Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said.

Norwegian is less strict, Stuart said. “We don’t force anyone to sit and wait. People embark as quickly as we can get them on,” he said.

“There are people who are rule keepers,” Stuart continued. “They say ‘OK, I was told to arrive between 11 and 11:30, and that’s what I’m going to do.’ And then there are rule breakers who say, ‘I don’t care what you tell me; I’m going to get there for lunch.’ So we like the rule keepers, but we don’t penalize the rule breakers.”

Stuart said Norwegian is working on other ways to speed the process of embarkation.

“Nobody books the trip to be on the embarkation; they book the trip to be on the ship,” he said. “We think investments in technology and automation to accelerate the process will continue to improve that experience.”