oasis-of-the-seas-ship_web.jpgKINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaica benefited from a nearly double-digit increase in cruise ship arrivals during the most recent, busy, winter season, the Caribbean country's tourism minister announced.

The minister, Edmund Bartlett, said cruise ship tourists surged by 9.6 percent this high season over the same period in 2009-2010, an increase of 34,954 visitors.  The high season for Jamaica's tourism sector came to an end on April 15.

Bartlett, who made the comments at a conference in the tourism city, Montego Bay, in the island's north, also said the industry brought in foreign exchange earnings of $852.6 million during the winter, a six percent increase over the $804.5 million earned over the same period last season. Stopover arrivals increased by 5.6 percent, he added.

“The stage is now set for yet another remarkable year of performance in terms of arrivals and foreign exchange earnings,” he said.

The rebound of cruise ship passengers is especially good news for tourism-dependent Jamaica since the number of ship tourists visiting the island dropped by 1.4 percent last year to 910,000.

Jamaica hopes to capture even more of the cruise ship market with the recent opening of a two-berth cruise port in the north coast town of Falmouth.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the Port Authority of Jamaica developed the $220 million three-phase port project nestled between the resort cities of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.

Although the port received its first visiting cruise ship in February, officials held the opening ceremony last month for the arrival of the 16-deck, 225,000-ton Oasis of the Seas.