Record 200,000 cruise visitors to dock in Belfast this year

The Royal Princess will bring more than 61,000 passengers to city this year as part of a record tourist season for Belfast Harbour
Gareth McKeown

BELFAST Harbour is set to welcome a record 117 cruise ships in Belfast this year it has been confirmed.

In all over 200,000 cruise visitors are set to dock in Northern Ireland for the first time, up almost 50,000 on the numbers recorded in 2017. And they are likely to spend in excess of £20 million, marking a money-spinning tourism high for the city, which until recent years had missed the boat on this type of highly-lucrative business.

At the end of January The Irish News revealed exclusive details from a tender document of a record-breaking year for tourism at the port, with Cruise Belfast now formally announcing the details ahead of the busy tourist season, which begins later this month and runs until mid-October.

In comparison to 2017 there are 25 per cent more ships booked to arrive in Belfast Harbour, including eight new cruise companies, which have added the city to their itineraries, joining cruise industry's leading operators Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Cunard. Belfast is also becoming increasingly popular with ‘exploration and adventure' ships, which operate at the luxury end of the market.

More than half of the ships calling will each bring over 1,000 visitors to Belfast with the largest listed, the 330m long Royal Princess, bringing more than 61,000 passengers to the city during her 12 calls. August will be the busiest month with 26 cruise calls bringing over 40,000 passengers and crew.

Among the new cruise companies calling is Swiss-based Viking Line, which has recently diversified into ocean cruising having previously concentrated on the popular European river cruise market. Viking Line has scheduled four calls to Belfast in 2018 bringing almost 6,000 visitors in total. Other first time callers include ‘mega-yacht' operator Variety Cruises, due to dock ten times this summer.

Belfast Harbour commercial director, Michael Robinson said the record number of visitors this year highlights Belfast's growing popularity as a cruise destination.

“It's particularly encouraging that the profile of the cruise lines choosing to come to Belfast continues to diversify, including boutique vessels as well as large operators such as Princess, Celebrity, Cunard and TUI continuing to schedule Belfast. This year Belfast will play host to an unprecedented 117 ship visits, which is testament to the work of all involved in developing the sector.”

Director of visitor services at Visit Belfast, Mary Jo McCanny added:

“This year we will have the opportunity to welcome a record 200,000 cruise visitors, demonstrating just how far the region has come and a testimony to the world-class visitor attractions and experiences Belfast and Northern Ireland now have to offer the cruise visitor.”

By the end of the 2018 season Belfast Harbour will have welcomed over 700 ships and 1.2 million cruise visitors since the first cruise ships visited the port in 1996.

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