Port of Falmouth Jamaica
Where You’re Docked
Historic Falmouth Cruise Port is a 32-acre gated facility serving cruisers only. It’s open only till 5 p.m. on days when ships are calling. Billed as the first themed port, it’s a partnership between the Port Authority of Jamaica and Royal Caribbean, and located just steps away from Falmouth.
The sprawling complex houses around five dozen shops and eateries, including standard Caribbean port retail shops such as Diamonds International, as well as Jamaican craft vendors. Several open-air wooden kiosks with vendors selling snacks and souvenirs are also set up on the port’s neatly bricked open spaces.
Passengers can expect to find duty-free shopping and specialty boutiques, including a store dedicated to late reggae great Bob Marley. Even if you don’t plan to head out on an excursion or walk through Falmouth, it’s still worth leaving the ship to stroll the complex, browse craft vendors and perhaps try a Jamaican patty at a kiosk. Partiers love to splash in the pool and sit on stools at the swim-up bar at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, which has free Wi-Fi (which sometimes doesn’t work when a crowd is trying to use it). You also can buy a $20 Wi-Fi card at the port, with a code for one device. There’s an information stand in the cruise terminal. We used it to find staffers’ favorite restaurants and dishes in Falmouth.
Good to Know
Over-aggressive vendors. If you’re not interested, resist attempts to engage. Females strolling alone might be a victim to cat-calling.
On foot: Falmouth is a few minutes away, with a scrum of vendors gathering by the guarded port gates. You can easily stroll the town in an hour or so. Skip Prince Albert Market; vendors were virtually nonexistent when we were there.
By trolley: You can see Falmouth’s main sights on a guided trolley tour that leaves from the port.
By Private Van /Taxi: Private Taxis to nearby beaches and attractions, as well as custom Day Trips to locations as Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. A Private Taxi to Montego Bay takes about 30 minutes, and Ocho Rios is about an hour away. Booking a Custom Private Taxi in Falmouth is the best way for Families and Groups (876-598-5982)
By rental car: The nearest place to rent a car is in Montego Bay or at the Montego Bay airport. It’s not worth the time or hassle. Your best bet for independent day trips is to hire a taxi driver (establishing the rate first) to take you where you want.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Falmouth was one of the busiest ports in Jamaica. It was home to masons, carpenters, tavern-keepers, mariners, planters, and others. It was a wealthy town in a wealthy parish with a rich racial mix. Within the parish, nearly one hundred plantations were actively manufacturing sugar and rum for export to Britain. Jamaica, during this period, had become the world’s leading sugar producer.
All the above made Falmouth a central hub of the slave trade and the now notorious cross-Atlantic triangular trade, with its economy largely based on slavery. In Falmouth Harbour as many as 30 tall-ships could be seen on any given day, many of them delivering slaves transported under inhumane conditions from Africa and loading their holds with rum and sugar manufactured by slave labor on nearby plantations.
As a result, starting in 1840, Falmouth’s fortunes as a commercial center declined after the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire. This decline and lack of support for development have left many of its early buildings standing. The streets are lined with many small houses known for their unique fretwork and windows, major merchant and planter complexes, and commercial buildings, all dating from 1790 to 1840.
While Falmouth saw little commercial advancement after the 1840s, houses continued to be built. The town’s buildings, the old and the not-so-old, make up the historic townscape of Falmouth. These shared characteristics weave the varied building styles into a distinctive pattern of early Jamaican architecture, and a critical mass of each variety makes the town an unusually distinctive place.
Places of interest include the Albert George Shopping and Historical Centre, dating from 1895; the former residence of slave owner John Tharp; the townhouse of plantation owner Edward Barrett; and the St Peter’s Anglican Church, built-in 1795.
Falmouth has a number of interesting historic buildings in the Jamaican Georgian architectural style which are in need of preservation and restoration. One organization that has taken an interest in this work is Falmouth Heritage Renewal (falmouthjamaica.org), a United States-based non-profit organization.
Buildings of note include:
- Falmouth Court House
- St Peter’s Anglican Church is one of the oldest in Jamaica. Its supporting columns are of solid mahogany and its floor is inlaid with crosses of mahoe and mahogany.
- Falmouth All-Age School is housed in a former army barracks, Fort Balcarres.
- Greenwood Great House (which once belonged to the Barretts of Wimpole Street, London) now houses the largest collection of rare musical instruments on the island.
- Falmouth Post Office which is located on Market Street. It is in need of repair but is still a functioning building from the Georgian era. A number of old colonial buildings on Market Street are from this period, however, they have not been kept in good condition throughout the years and are generally in a state of decay.