Over the past few years, Montego Bay has lost many cruise visitors and their economic benefits to the city as cruise ships from multiple lines have sailed away to rival ports. Some now call at the historic Port of Falmouth, Jamaica, where a new purpose-built cruise complex opened earlier this year.
So when Carnival Magic, now sailing year-round from Galveston, TX, was slated to dock yesterday for its maiden call, Montego Bay and Port Authority of Jamaica officials were thrilled, as were ground operators and other businesses that benefit from cruise tourism. After all, an estimated 4,500 passengers and crew would be coming ashore to tour, dine, shop and spend money with local businesses.
However, high winds caused a one-hour-plus delay in the ship’s docking. Ultimately, Carnival Magic did arrive safely at the dock and passengers disembarked. Still, the docking wasn’t that easy, according to the ship’s captain, Giovanni Cutugno.
According to the Jamaica Observer newspaper, when Cutugno participated in the traditional plaque ceremony, a maritime tradition where local officials present the ship’s captain with a plaque or gift during a maiden call, he urged the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) to undertake necessary upgrades at the port so it's more accessible to large vessels.
Cutugno, who accepted the gift of a painting from government officials at the ceremony, was quoted by the newspaper as saying: "It would be very nice to have something done to make the port a little cleaner in certain corners and whatever can be done in the channels because with a wind that can reach 25 knots of gust, it is a challenge. In other words we cannot come in.”
The captain also reportedly said that if there was another vessel at the dock and wind conditions were strong, the ship would not have had enough space to get into the port.
Port Authority of Jamaica officials stressed to the Jamaica Observer that they had already made contact with their technical department to address concerns about the channel issues. They said they are committed to ensuring the port is safe for passengers and ships, although one official said that in normal circumstances ships even larger than Carnival Magic have called at Montego Bay with no difficulties.
Montego Bay’s Mayor Charles Sinclair also emphasized he would talk with political officials at the highest levels to address Cutugno's concerns.