A Tour of Falmouth Pier

If I had my way, there wouldn’t be a Falmouth Pier. Heck, there wouldn’t have been even one cruise ship pier in Jamaica, period. But of course, no one asked me – they never ask the people, the ones who really matter. Anyway, it’s here now but believe me, there are more than a few disgruntled residents in Falmouth.

Entering Falmouth Pier
Entering the pier at Falmouth

Falmouth, capital of the parish of Trelawny, is located on Jamaica’s north coast about 30 minutes from Montego Bay. The town is home to approximately 4,000 residents.

Falmouth was founded in 1769 by Thomas Reid, an English planter. During sugar’s heyday, the port was the major shipping point for sugar, molasses, rum, coffee going to England, and slaves coming to the island.

Falmouth Pier's stores
Stores and immigration building, Falmouth

After the trade ended, the once booming town, which had piped water before New York City, fell on hard times. But with its extensive stock of Georgian buildings, the largest in the Caribbean, the town is experiencing new interest.

The Pier opened in 2011 following a nearly $200 million construction of a new deep water pier that can accommodate the largest ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. These 16-deck mega ships can transport 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew.

On cruise days – Tuesdays to Thursdays – sometimes two ships dock at Falmouth Pier. However, even with the many historic Georgian structures in the town, the majority of passengers are bussed to Montego Bay or Ocho Rios. A small number do a walking tour of the town.

Falmouth Pier's immigration building
Immigration building, Falmouth

The US$100 per person that cruise ships passengers were projected to inject into the local economy hasn’t materialized. And when construction is completed at the Pier, Royal Caribbean will have practically duplicated the historic town and even fewer of its passengers will need to leave the pier.

One of two berths at Falmouth Pier
Berth for Royal Caribbean’s big ships

The building of Falmouth Pier changed the coastline and has caused considerable damage to the mangroves and coral reefs. When ships are in port, residents complain that there’s less water coming from the taps as they refill before leaving.

Despite how I feel about cruise ships, however, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to tour Falmouth Pier. I had to see it for myself.

Royal Caribbean's Craft Market at Falmouth Pier
Craft market, the pier at Falmouth

On the day we went, no ships were in port – only construction workers and a few employees were around so we had unobstructed views. The pier has customs and immigration offices, stores, restaurants, and a Margaritaville, which is under construction. We were told that Falmouth residents will have access to Margaritaville when it opens.

Falmouth Pier seen from the Courthouse
Falmouth Pier seen from the Courthouse
Royal Caribbean's ship docked at Falmouth Pier
RC Ship dwarfs the town of Falmouth

Storyboards that tell the history of Falmouth line the main walkway and there’s a performance area where cultural groups to put on shows for passengers.

Of course, what I’ve written here was not part of the tour. But it’s difficult to see Falmouth Pier and not feel a bit sad. Once again, we’ve sold out our beautiful island and swapped one master — sugar planters, bauxite companies, other multinational organizations, etc. — for another.

What are your thoughts on cruise ships and the impact they have?

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!

33 comments on “A Tour of Falmouth Pier

  1. It looks really pretty, and my gosh that cruise ship is huge. For a moment I thought you might be talking about Falmouth in Devon, England, and then realised that it doesn’t have a pier!

  2. I love cruising and one reason is that we get to see many places on earth that would otherwise be too difficult (and/or costly) to visit otherwise. Canary Islands and Madeira come to mind as examples. But then we are the type of cruiser that hits the deck running to see as much of local life as possible – eating in old towns, riding local buses, visiting with locals (when language allows). I am sad when passengers stay on the cruise ships never bothering to learn of and about the ports of call they visit (not to mention not helping the local economy with their visits). It sounds as if this port defaced something that had once been quite spectacular without it — many of our ports of call are in the midst of high industrial areas so the port has actually benefited the place. I am wondering what was there before the cruise port and did it provide jobs for locals or take away jobs?

  3. I do enjoy cruising, immensely. The convenience is unbeatable. Beyond that, I have a special needs child who does better sleeping in the same bed night after night. We see far more of the world via cruise ship than we could otherwise.

    With that said, I agree with you. Responsible development is necessary! When we cruise, we get as far away from port as possible to see the natural beauty of the area we visit. The shops at the pier don’t reflect the culture, just big business.

  4. “…we’ve sold out our beautiful island and swapped one master — sugar planters, bauxite companies, other multinational organizations, etc. — for another.” Very well said, Marcia, but very heartbreaking, too. I completely feel your pain and sadness. I also feel sad for the corals and the mangroves.
    I don’t like those collosal cruise ships. I don’t want to be on it and I avoid going where they go, because wherever they go they always transform the place into ugly touristic mecca. They may infuse some cash to the places they dock but they also rob the spirit of those places.

  5. Marcia, I’ve not heard a good thing about the Falmouth Pier and I think it’s very sad the damage that has been caused by the development there. We enjoy cruising but I have no desire to cruise on any of these mammoth size ships that need to have special piers built in order to accommodate them. Nor do I have any desire to see fake villages that the cruise lines create on a pier. When we cruise I want to be able to leave the ship and explore a destination on my own and learn something about the country – I don’t think that’s the kind of experience that Royal Caribbean is promoting here.

  6. It’s too bad mangroves and coral were destroyed for this new pier. I’ve been seeing Falmouth on cruise ship itineraries and wondered why they built an additional one in addition to Ocho Rios and Montego Bay but now I see it’s to serve those Royal Caribbean behemoths. Despite being an avid cruiser, this makes me sad. I hope some of the cruisers get to explore the town and help the local economy.

  7. Unfortunately, more than mangroves and coral reefs were destroyed, Mary.
    It’s quite sad when you see the number of vendors waiting to make a sale when a mere fraction of the passengers even walk through the town. Hope things will change, but I doubt it.

  8. You’ve hit the nail right on the head, Lisa. I’m glad to hear you say that. It’s why we travel, to experience authentic and new.
    Unfortunately, most cruisers don’t seem to mind or they just wait until the next island.

  9. That’s exactly right, Marisol.
    I couldn’t have said it better: they rob the spirit of the places and create tourist meccas.
    I avoid places like these like the plague!

  10. Amen to that, Karen. Unfortunately, the emphasis is always on making money.
    I also like cruising, especially for the reasons you mention but I won’t go on any of these large ships that do so much damage to the environment.

  11. The was a port there, Jackie, but I doubt it was still in use. It was much smaller and the ships would dock further out, they never came close to land.

  12. Oh, sorry for the confusion, Johanna. As you can imagine, we have several of those names here – Cambridge, Manchester, Cornwall, Surrey, etc. Anyway, I agree with you – the ship is huge – all 16 storeys of it.

  13. Interesting perspective. It would not have occurred to me that something that was meant to bring in a flock of tourists and a source of income is doing less that expected. Sad but true. 🙁

  14. Sadly, Jan, travelers like you are in the minority. Cruise lines present themselves as the best, and most cost effective way that ordinary travelers can see the world, and they capture several demographics: family, the elderly, multi-generational, etc. I’m sure the last thing most people, and most governments, think about is the environmental impact. Afterall, most times, we don’t see it right away.

  15. You’re right, Elizabeth, sad but true.
    Most of the money is spent with companies that the cruise ship ‘approves’ so if you’re not on, you jump through hoops to get on. In the meantime, you get one or two or none of the cruise ship passengers.

  16. Very interesting to get your perspective on this, Marcia. I guess I haven’t thought about the effect that the cruise industry has on the port towns and residents. I hope that something can be done to make the situation at Falmouth a win for everyone. A shame about the damage to the mangroves and coral reefs.

  17. Cruise ships are great for relaxing, no doubt about that. But there’s the other side, which you’ve mentioned here. It’s a shame coral reefs had to pay for our enjoyment. Nature has its way of protecting us but when we destroy it, we basically loose that protection. It’s sad, really. I really hope this venture will bring something more than cruise ships to the island.

  18. I was recently in Belize City and there cruise passengers were brought in by tender. The ships were so far out, you could barely see them from land, so not obtrusive as they seem to be here.

  19. That ship is enormous! When we stopped in Jamaica, I think we immediately hopped on the tour bus for Ocho Rios. I don’t even remember what the port town looked like. (This was over 20 years ago.) My town of Penang is a port-of-call, but the historic part of town adjacent to the pier draws visitors all on its own, so cruise passengers only make up a small percentage of the tourists. Sadly, a developer reclaimed land to build condos and a “retail marina”. This has really changed the currents along the shore, and a lovely bay is starting to fill in and turn into mudflats. For Falmouth, dining at Margaritaville seems like small consolation.

  20. It would have been perfect here since that was how the port was originally. I’ve heard that it was proposed but apparently not accepted.

  21. That’s the big issue, Salika. They’re great for travel but are definitely harmful to the environment.
    I hope so too, but unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  22. Falmouth is my hometown. I have been impressive and grateful of the works done by the University of Virginia Falmouth Project. What was done to allow these immense cruise ships close access was a crime. It could have been so much better. Thank you for posting.

  23. You’re welcome, Brenda. Falmouth is such a beautiful town, it really is a crime what has been done to the pier.
    I wished they hadn’t changed the coastline to accommodate these behemoths. And to add insult to injury, so many of Falmouth’s residents aren’t reaping the benefits.

  24. It sure is, Michele! Twenty years ago, visitors still hop on a tour bus and go to Ocho Rios or Montego Bay — not much has changed there. Sometimes, these developers are only about one thing: making money. They don’t care what damage they cause to the environment or people’s lives. The people who’ll be drawn to the Margaritaville are the types who have enough disposable income and the interest to want to patronize it.

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