Latest Seatrade News: Big Cruise Plans From Jamaica, NCL and Tauck

Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett Cruise Tourism Seatrade Presentation Editorial Use Only Copyright Susan J Young
The Honorable Edmund Bartlett, tourism minister, Jamaica, says the destination would like to develop Kingston as a new cruise port. Photo by Susan J Young

From a potential new cruise port in Kingston, Jamaica, to enhancements at Great Stirrup Cay to Tauck's additional small ship products, here's our wrap-up from Seatrade Cruise Global, the annual cruise industry conference that concluded late last week in South Florida.

Also, links to all the Seatrade Cruise Global stories we've written this past week are at the end of this article.  

Jamaica's Cruise Development  

Jamaica recently hosted a record nine cruise ships on one day, when more than 20,000 visitors came ashore from cruise ships ported in Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Falmouth, Jamaica. That shows the strength of Jamaica's cruise tourism.

In fact, of the island’s 3.84 million visitor arrivals, 1.66 million are cruise visitors. Jamaica's close geographic position to Cuba, a wildly popular new cruise destination, is likely to bring even more cruise tourism. 

"In the early years, the 1940s and 1950s, the itinerary was Havana [to] Kingston and that was where the center of cruise was," said Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s new minister of tourism,

“It’s very palatable for all of us to consider the importance of Kingston as a new destination," he said, noting that the port -- if it is developed as a cruise port as the destination plans -- would fit nicely into a “Northern Caribbean and Cuba” itinerary.

"So we think there's another great opportunity for another Caribbean [cruise destination] experience," he said, noting that Kingston, Jamaica's capital city, has the deepest natural harbor in the Caribbean.

In addition, Jamaica and Cuba have already signed a multi-destination tourism agreement. 

Separately, “Port Antonio [about 60 miles from Kingston] is going to be a very important port of call for us as we try to develop that as a boutique port of call location," Bartlett said. 

There have already been a number of inquiries from the cruise lines about that port, and this year, it's anticipated that one luxury ship will arrive for its first calls there. But Bartlett declined to reveal the brand. 

To build cruise tourism, Jamaica's priority is to build out the infrastructure to provide better access to the destination and to “strengthen the destination assurance – to build the capacity to have an exceptional visitor experience,” Bartlett said. 

Today, Jamaica accounts for about 7 percent of the world’s cruise tourism. The minister noted that the destination would like to increase that to 10 percent within the next five years.

Besides adding Kingston, which has sizable cargo business but no major cruise facilities right now, as a new port of call, the destination is expected to improve facilities at Ochos Rios, a popular stop on western Caribbean itineraries.

The goal? “By 2020, we hope to be somewhere in the region of 2.3 to 2.5 million cruise visitors,” said Bartlett. 

New Itineraries to Iceland and Cuba

Small ships are increasingly desired by consumers wanting to explore the world in an immersive way, said Jennifer Tombaugh, president, Tauck.

She said Tauck plans to double its small-ship, luxury oceangoing cruise product by building on its existing partnership with Ponant

Photo by Susan J. Young

Today, Tauck uses five Ponant ships for 10 itineraries. But by 2020, that will increase to nine Ponant ships. 

New destinations? Tauck will begin sailing to Cuba on Ponant’s Le Ponant starting in December 2018.

It will also begin taking guests to Iceland via Ponant’s Le Laperouse, starting with the week-long ““Iceland: Land of Fire & Ice” itinerary. That sails from Reykjavik on July 3, 2018. 

Starting in 2018, all Tauck Expedition small-ship cruises will become a part of Tauck Earth Journeys portfolio featuring customized BBC Earth enhancements.

Norwegian's Brand Updates, Cuba Potential

Beyond the Project Leonardo and Norwegian Bliss details shared in our story last week, Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, talked about Norwegian's evolution. 

"We're doing our best to elevate the onboard cruise experience – delivering a premium type product at contemporary price, to really highlight the value that is Norwegian cruise line," he said. The line is doing that with its Breakaway class vessels, as well as drydocks recently completed for Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Gem, Pride of America, Norwegian Pearl and now Norwegian Jade.

"We're committed to having a one brand, one category, one look and feel for the entire fleet of vessels," Del Rio said, noting that the evolution of the brand is more than just new or refreshed ship hardware; it also includes enhanced dining experiences and entertainment.

Norwegian will become a 15-ship brand with the delivery of Norwegian Joy later this year, and by 2019, the line will sail with 17 ships.

As for Cuba, Del Rio said that the first sailings of all three brands "sold like nothing we've ever seen before and, at meaningfully higher prices." He isn't sure if that will "stick," given the pent-up demand and only a few sailings at the outset (although more are planned this year).

But, "so far Havana and Cuba have been well received by guests," Del Rio said. The line offered 17 shore excursions on Oceania's Marina, and "guests bought twice as many shore excursions in that full day in Havana than we typically sell at any other Caribbean port."

Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas is now being updated to the tune of $40 million dollars. It's the oldest private island developed by a line in the Caribbean and "I felt it needed a lot of improvement," said Del Rio, who visited soon after he took the NCLH helm two years ago. 

Now Great Stirrup Cay is being revitalized with new cabanas, a zip line, new restaurants and a gorgeous lagoon (see rendering below). Del Rio says the work will be completed by August or September, but cruisers visiting now will see some enhancements.  

Photo by Norwegian Cruise Line

Latest News From Seatrade Cruise Global

In case you missed it, here's a look at the Seatrade stories we've posted within the past week:

In addition, TravelAgentCentral.com has posted Seatrade Cruise Global announcements released by suppliers including those for Princess Cruises' refurbishment of Caribbean Princess and Windstar Cruises' plans for its first Canada and New England voyages from New York in two decades

 Look for upcoming interviews of Carnival Cruise Line, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Celeystal Cruises' executives in the coming weeks.   

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