Uncovering Jamaican history through it’s most recent and significant tourism development: Historic Falmouth

There are some exciting developments currently underway in Jamaica that will have a significant impact on the travel and cruise industry in the next eight months.  The developments will not only be a major drawcard for cruise lines and visitors, but will bring to life Jamaica’s rich history and culture, and eventually become a major world-class destination in its own right. It is amazing to me that such a big project could be going on with so little information published about it.

The project is called Historic Falmouth.  It is soon to be the largest port in the Caribbean and will be the port of call for a number of cruise lines, in particular, Royal Caribbean’s genesis class ships, the Oasis of the Seas and it’s sister ship, the Allure of the Seas.

The project is a partnership between the Port Authority of Jamaica and Royal Caribbean International.  It will be an important port for Jamaica, not only because it will enable the largest ships in the world to dock in Jamaica, but from a historical and tourism perspective, this port is being designed to bring to life and recreate the town of Falmouth the way it was over 400 years ago, giving visitors a taste of Jamaica that they wouldn’t find anywhere else.

The project is the brainchild of Hugh Darley, a destination design, development and branding mastermind who I had the amazing fortune to meet during a trip to Jamaica four years ago.  Hugh’s company, IDEA (International Design & Entertainment Associates) is responsible for the design and execution of the project, on behalf of the major stakeholders.  I first saw the plans for the project in 2007 and was already amazed by the magnitude of what was involved.  The town once was the heart of the sugar, rum and slave trade in the 1700s and many of the old buildings remain.   IDEA’s job is to restore and preserve the port town in the most authentic way possible and create the infrastructure to accommodate cruise ships and up to 9,000 passengers a day.  The town that is being restored will enable visitors to experience and understand Jamaica’s rich history and culture.

In March, Sugarfly was contracted to consult on a marketing strategy for the port and I spent four days with Hugh and his team in Jamaica.

Here are a few quick facts about Falmouth:

  • Falmouth is located on the north coast of Jamaica between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.
  • The town of Falmouth was founded in 1769 and was known as the wealthiest “New World” port south of Charleston.
  • It is considered the best-preserved historic town in the Caribbean and has the largest collection of authentic Georgian-Era architecture in the Caribbean, dating from the 1760s to 1840.  Many of the buildings are in disrepair after 200 years of tropical storms and humidity.  They are currently being restored.
  • The waterfront is a National Heritage Site.
  • In 1790, 30 ships at a time would be in Falmouth Harbour, making the port one of the busiest in the world.  Ships would come to load up on rum and sugar. The port was also used by African slave ships.

With such an historic project, authenticity is key and the IDEA team has been incredibly diligent in their research.  Local historians and national agencies have been working with IDEA to understand how best to restore and preserve the port and its surrounding township.  The attention to detail is incredible as the research and design teams worked for several years to uncover specific details about the architecture, history, significant events, buildings and of course how to address environmental concerns.

What we can expect to see:

  • Historic Falmouth will be a 2-berth, 32 acre cruise port designed to welcome 9,000 visitors per day when two ships are in port.
  • It will feature Jamaican restaurants, cafes, shops, craft markets, offices, residents and authentic historic attractions.
  • It will enable a seamless transition for passengers between ship and shore.  Falmouth will be a safe environment for passengers as well as land-based travelers.  All visitors will get a strong sense of the culture and history of Jamaica.
  • A multitude of shore excursions will be available to passengers from Falmouth.
  • The port will be ready to handle ship arrivals starting in October this year.
  • Holland America is planning to start utilizing the port in November.
  • Royal Caribbean plans to incorporate Falmouth as a port of call starting in March 2011.
  • Other ships continue to indicate interest and we can expect to see Historic Falmouth included in more itineraries as the restoration progresses.

Here is an aerial shot taken earlier this year.  The land has been reclaimed and built up to create the dock.

For more information on this project you can visit the PAJ website or IDEA:



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