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Artisans display their goods inside the Historic Falmouth Port. - Photo by Janet Silvera
Shellion Rhoden, business manager for the Historic Falmouth Port.
The Falmouth Pier. 
The Courthouse in Falmouth.
Authentic Blue Mountain Coffee is served at Cafe Blue on the Pier.
The Margaritaville mascot. 
A stall displaying local art and crafts for sale.
A façade of the Historic Falmouth Pier. 
The Tharpe House, which is being refurbished within the confines of the Historic Falmouth Pier. 

The Historic Falmouth Port - The toast of the world

Janet Silvera, Hospitality Jamaica Coordinator

More than 769,379 cruise ship passengers visited the Historic Falmouth Pier in 2014. Of that figure, between 82 and 92 per cent of these loss leaders, came off the megaliners that docked in the western resort town.

"Twenty-five per cent go on tour buses and 22 per cent of them went through the gates into the town of Falmouth," said Shellion Rhoden, business manager at Falmouth Land Company Limited, a subsidiary of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL).

Last month, some 28,000 visitors went through the port's gates, Rhoden noted, taking in the sights and sounds of the town known for its 'ben' down' market.

The original intention of constructing the Historic Port was to help Jamaicans, begin to realise their vision of revitalising this historic town, which in its heyday more than 200 years ago, was one of the busiest trading ports in the Caribbean, said RCCL.

The town boasts a rich heritage with historic buildings and churches, while the port, partially completed in 2011, carries a thematic design and architecture reflecting the Georgian architectural era of Falmouth at its peak.

More than 60 artisans from the town are given access to the cruis- ship passengers, while another 58 specialty stores line the storied pier. Of that 58, only two are international merchants. The majority of the duty-free shops are owned by Jamaican-based merchants.

Jamaica's Margaritaville, Eaton's, makers of Jamaican mouthwatering jerk sauces; Café Blues' Blue Mountain Coffee; Juicy Patties; carvers creating some of the most fabulous craft pieces on show, and artists painting spectacular landscape and people presentations, all form the nucleus of the port.

"The visitors are able to watch the artisans creating their pieces," said Rhoden, adding that the port was so busy, the average calls were four ships per week.

Harassment is not tolerated on the pier, and no craft merchant is even allowed to solicit or beckon to the visitor, said Joy Laesch, the woman in charge of training and managing the craft traders.

"A passenger should be able to walk freely without anyone telling them to come shop," said Laesch.

Just over 1,000 Jamaicans are employed at the port, with Margaritaville Caribbean managing all food and beverage.

The entertainment complex operators have literally transformed the pier with the construction of a multimillion-dollar bar, restaurants, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and dance area.

"This is a huge change to the town," said Falmouth Resort board chairman, Judi Schoenbein.

An active member of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Schoenbein who operates Braemar Tours in the facility points out that the rich cultural heritage that Falmouth boast is the greatest asset to the port.

"There are three heritage sites outside the gates, these include, the beautiful courthouse, a monumnet dedicated to Jamaicans who survived in World War II, as well as many churches."

In fact, the historic Tharpe House is on the lands behind the port's gates and is currently being restored.

"This town is a proud heritage town and this is how it is being marketed," stated the resort board chairman.

One of her only concerns, she said, is the condition of the drains and the roads when the visitors leave the port.

"We have embraced this huge change, but we all must change accordingly. By 7 a.m., garbage must be collected because the cruise-ship passengers are coming off the ships at that time," said Schonbein, adding that cruise-ship passengers understand poor countries, but they don't understand open drains and signs that say, 'Danger'.

The Historic Falmouth Port is the toast of the world, it remains one of the most popular places to visit.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com 

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