Record 285,000 cruise visitors to dock in Belfast this year

The largest ship to berth in Belfast this year is the Celebrity 'Reflection' ship, which carries 4,300 passengers and crew
Gareth McKeown

A RECORD 151 cruise ships are set to dock in Belfast this year, bringing with them almost 300,000 visitors.

Cruise Belfast, the partnership between Belfast Harbour and Visit Belfast, has announced details of its most successful season to date, with 285,000 tourists expected and ship numbers up 31 per cent on the previous season (115).

July is due to be the busiest month with 32 ships scheduled to call, including Saga's first ever new build vessel, the ‘Spirit of Discovery’. Other first time callers to Belfast include Disney Cruise Lines' 'Disney Magic' and

Cruise & Maritime Voyage’s new vessel ‘Vasco da Gama’.

In all 35 separate cruise lines are to dock at Belfast Harbour, with Cruise & Maritime Voyages (15) and Princess Cruises (13) the most frequent callers.

The Italian-based Costa line will also visit Belfast for the first time, while the number of calls from Celebrity will double to eight. Norwegian Cruise Line is also expanding its Belfast schedule from one visit last year to 11 in 2019.

The largest ship to berth is the 319m long, 125,000 tonne Celebrity ‘Reflection’, which carries 4,300 passengers and crew.

The Astoria ship is the first arrival in Belfast on March 12, while Ocean Dream will sail out of the city on October 30, concluding an unparalleled season of success for cruise tourism in the north.

Belfast Harbour commercial director, Michael Robinson described the arrival of almost 300,000 visitors to Northern Ireland as a "significant economic boost" for the local tourism sector.

“Belfast is now the third most popular destination in the UK and Ireland for one-day cruise ship calls after Dublin and Orkney. This is a remarkable achievement that reflects the ongoing marketing activities of our partnership with Visit Belfast under the Cruise Belfast brand," he said.

“This year we’re particularly pleased to welcome a number of standout new calls including Disney and the first visit to any Irish port by Saga’s newest vessel. Belfast City Centre and day trip destinations such as the Giant’s Causeway, the Glens of Antrim and Ards Peninsula continue to be a big draw for visiting passengers.”

Visit Belfast chief executive, Gerry Lennon believes the city is quickly becoming a global player in the cruise tourism market.

"Belfast is asserting itself as a destination of choice in the eyes of cruise lines and their passengers," he said.

"In the last five years alone, cruise visitor numbers to Belfast have more than doubled to the 285,000 that we expect to welcome this year.

“Visit Belfast continues to work closely with Belfast Harbour and our partners in the tourism industry to ensure that our cruise visitors get a world-class welcome and experience during their time in the city.”

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