'Black Watch' drops anchor to end record-breaking cruise season for Belfast
A RECORD-breaking cruise season officially ended yesterday when the Fred Olsen-owned Black Watch dropped anchor in the Port of Belfast.
It was the 115th ship to dock in 2018, and since the arrival of the Portuguese-registered Astoria in mid-March, some 185,00 passengers and crew have spilled out into the city's shops, restaurants and tourist attractions.
And Cruise Belfast, the partnership between Belfast Harbour and Visit Belfast, confirmed that the city has been named as one of Europe’s most popular cruise destinations by Cruise Critic, the world’s largest online cruise community, boosting 350,000 reviews covering 500 cruise ships and 300 global ports.
Cruise Critic chose Belfast a one of the winners of its third annual Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards, which are based entirely on consumer ratings.
Michael Robinson, Belfast Harbour’s commercial director, said: “This has been a record-breaking and now award-winning cruise season for Belfast with almost 200,000 visitors providing a significant boost to the local tourism sector.
“The city's popularity as a cruise destination continues to grow year on year, with an unprecedented 115 ships visiting in 2018. August was our busiest month ever with 24 cruise calls bringing more than 40,000 passengers and crew.
“We are delighted that visitors have enjoyed their experience of Northern Ireland and Belfast Harbour continues to work hard with stakeholders to build on our current offering. The success of these efforts was seen earlier this year when we announced Disney Cruise Lines will be berthing here in 2019.”
Mary Jo McCanny, director of visitor services at Visit Belfast, added: “With many millions of pounds of investment in our tourism infrastructure and visitor experiences, there has never been a better time to visit Belfast, and to be recognised by such a prestigious platform as Cruise Critic speaks volumes for the work that has been done to improve and enhance the cruise experience here.
“For everyone involved in tourism, it’s rewarding to see that a large percentage of the reviews were classed in the ‘excellent’ and ‘very good’ categories, demonstrating the positive experiences cruise visitors have when visiting Belfast and Northern Ireland.”
Destinations awarded in this year’s awards received the highest ratings among passengers who cruised to the destination in the past year and shared their experiences on Cruise Critic.
“Our data regularly shows that whether you’re a first-time cruiser or you’ve sailed dozens of times, destination is a top consideration when shopping for a cruise,” said Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic.
“While tropical destinations will always be popular among cruisers, what’s really exciting to see is the rise in esteem of destinations more known for their immersive and experiential offerings.
"By awarding top destinations and now the best lines that visit them, we’re even better able to connect travellers with stand-out experiences available in the incredible places they’re looking to explore.”