Authentic Destinations will Attract Cruise Passengers

Authentic Sense of Arrival

Island nations continue to struggle to plan and design a great sense of arrival for their unique destinations. It appears consultants and clients are moving away from what makes a destination unique and are starting to create copies of other destination successes. After a career of over 40 years and work in over 70 countries we understand what makes a destination memorable. You remember the authentic culture, history and the hospitality of the native people.

I have taken three cruises in the past three months and I am starting to see a sad trend. Every port of call is starting to look the same. No care is being given to what makes each port of call unique. Interestingly, according to the Nassau Guardian, Mike Maura, Jr., Nassau’s Cruise Port Limited CEO, made these statements at the 23rd Annual Bahamas Business Outlook Economic Conference (January 2023) regarding their port: “Only by God’s grace, that being the geography, being our water, being our beautiful beaches, our warm weather and our wonderful smiles, are we getting the volume of tourism traffic that we receive, because we fail miserably in our service.” Maura was referring to Nassau’s ranking as next-to-last of 20 ports in an undisclosed survey by cruise lines of regional cruise ports”

When Culture and History are Hidden Behind Glass

I have to concur with Maura’s statements because when I visited Nassau in February 2024, a vast majority of our MSC cruise passengers did not leave the ship for the following reasons: late arrival, lack of visual impact key to sense of arrival and lack of human scale. I spent two hours that day in port and what I noticed was the following:

  • No visual keys to the 500-year history of The Bahamas
  • No quality of sound in the music that defines the island experience
  • No human scale; there was no charm or intimacy that the Bahamas are known for

In contrast, The Historic Port of Falmouth Jamaica that our team created has a successful sense of arrival and experience for cruise passengers.  If you look at Falmouth’s Historic port, you immediately experience the view of the 300 year old port of call. Founded in 1733 its classic British Colonial land plan in squares and grid patterns lays out across the island landscape. From the approaching ships guests can view the historic city as it has grown over the past 300 years.  Here are some observations that make this port so successful and memorable. 

Historic Port of Falmouth Jamaica

  • Its scale matches the Georgian Era of architecture and land plan of 1733-1850.
  • The buildings are of the Georgian design rendered in brick structures developed in the 18th century.
  • The area development lays out in front of the guests as they arrive and viewing the entire port from their ship.  
  • Great care was taken in designing the roofs with no mechanical spaces as would have been the case in the 1850’s. 
  • Service areas are hidden from view and the city looks as if you are going back in time. 

Guests are looking for a difference of experiences and need to see the culture and history front and center, not hidden from view or worst sanitized. I am looking forward to new ports and seeing consultants start to make them different and be an authentic place.  Globalization is killing unique cultures and history, around the world, and if we are not careful the whole world will become one place! No need to travel when everywhere is the same programmed and sanitized experience. Be proud of who you island nations are and be proud to be different and not the same as other destinations. Don’t put your cultural history and authenticity in a museum. The guest arrival must be experienced immediately as you disembark and you must explore the “authentic destination”.

Hugh Darley
Hugh Darley