Cruise Belfast has confirmed details of its 2018 cruise schedule, heralding another record cruise season for Belfast and Northern Ireland with 117 ships expected to dock in Belfast Harbour, bringing more than 200,000 visitors to Northern Ireland.
More than 25% more ships are booked to arrive in Belfast Harbour compared to last year, including eight new cruise lines that have added Belfast to their itineraries, joining Carnival, Royal Caribbean International and Cunard. The city is also becoming increasingly popular with exploration and adventure ships that 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 ship, the 330-metre-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 lines calling is Swiss-based Viking Line, which has recently diversified into ocean going cruising having previously concentrated on the 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, which is scheduled to call 10 times this summer.
The length of Belfast’s cruise season has also extended, with the first call due in mid-March and the last call in mid-October. For the first time it is expected that passenger and crew numbers to Belfast will break the 200,000 mark, up almost 50,000 in a year.
Tony McAuley, Belfast Harbour, said: “Continued partnership with Visit Belfast on the Cruise Belfast initiative continues to bear fruit. Belfast’s popularity as a cruise destination continues to grow and this is evidenced by the record numbers of passengers and ships due to call this year.
“It is 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.”
Mary Jo McCanny, Director of Visitor Services, Visit Belfast, added: “Belfast’s profile as a travel destination couldn’t be better with recent accolades from National Geographic Traveller and Lonely Planet. The cruise market is one of the most competitive so we work hard with Belfast Harbour to ensure we deliver on our sales and marketing promise, by delivering a first-class welcome and visitor service when each cruise passenger or crew member comes ashore in Belfast.
“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.”