Belfast Telegraph

£30m cruise ship boom for Belfast

Get ready for 43 cruise ships, 75,000 visitors...and a £30m bonus

By Claire McNeilly

Northern Ireland’s booming cruise ship industry could soon be worth a massive £30m to the local economy every year, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Cruise Belfast, the marketing partnership between Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau (BVCB) and Belfast Harbour, confirmed that the luxury liner business is already bringing in £15m in benefits each year.

However, experts have said that it is not unreasonable to expect the money-spinning cruise business to have at least doubled that figure by 2020.

The news comes as it emerged that a record-breaking 43 cruise ships are due to visit Belfast this summer, bringing an additional 75,000 people to the city.

The influx of visitors means that the total number of passengers visiting Belfast will have hit the half-a-million mark since the first cruise ship docked in 1996.

Yesterday, the Caribbean Princess — the biggest ever cruise ship to arrive here — brought 3,100 passengers.

Among the seafarers was Larry Hamilton (62), who is retired, and his 63-year-old wife Bonnie, a banker, from Charlotte North Carolina.

“Our son-in-law’s mother is from Ireland, so our three grandchildren are Irish, and we really wanted to come and see their native country,” said Bonnie.

“We’re just about to take a Belfast city tour, which includes a visit to the Botanic Gardens, but we really want to see where the Titanic was built.

“After all we’ve read about it and what we’ve seen in the films it is really going to be something special to visit it in real life and then tell our family and all our friends that we were really here.”

Travel industry experts said that this year’s cruise season is now officially under way, with five ships having visited Northern Ireland so far.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Niall O Donnghaile, said that Northern Ireland is open for business on a worldwide scale.

“This is a huge ship bringing a huge number of passengers to Belfast at a very exciting time for the city,” he said. “People are out and about, availing of the tours that enable them to see the very best of what Northern Ireland has to offer.”

Belfast Harbour has invested £10m to boost its growing popularity as a cruise destination in creating the longest deep-water berth in Ireland.

Stormont Wharf, which is more than 1km long, allows the port to accommodate the increasing number of larger class ships in the Irish Sea region.

This year visiting cruise lines include Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Cruise and Maritime Voyages, Fred Olsen Cruise Line, Saga Cruise and others, each bringing tourists from all corners of the globe to Belfast and Northern Ireland

The continuing success of Belfast as a cruise call is testimony to the efforts of the Cruise Belfast Initiative, a marketing initiative between Belfast Harbour and BVCB which markets Belfast internationally as a destination for cruise ships visiting Northern Europe.

Other luxury cruise liners expected this year include the 2,300-passenger Arcadia in June, the 12-deck Mein Schiff 2 in July and the 30,000-tonne Adonia in August.

Caribbean Princess, where passengers are treated like royalty

It's not every day a Caribbean Princess comes to town.

But yesterday morning the 15-deck luxury cruise ship bearing that name docked in Belfast harbour, bringing 4,300 visitors and crew to the city.

I had never been on one of these vessels before — nor indeed wanted to.

I mean, what sort of person pays good money to stay for a week on what I imagined was a glorified ferry?

And what on Earth was a so-called Caribbean cruise ship doing in Northern Ireland; surely some kind of navigational mistake?

My Brazilian tour guide — senior officer Tatiana Alcindo — soon revealed the mysteries of the big boat, which was berthed in Belfast as part of a 10-day tour of Britain and Ireland.

I discovered that the Caribbean Princess is so much more than simply a ship — it’s like a small floating county, or a melting pot of many.

The 1,200-strong crew hail from all over the world, as do the 3,100 passengers.

Having started out in Southampton, they had already visited Guernsey, Cork and Dublin before stopping off to see what Belfast had to offer.

Larry Hamilton and his wife Bonnie, from North Carolina in the United States, were aching to tell their friends they'd seen where the Titanic was built. Many of their fellow travellers opted to take one of the coach tours around the city, taking in the Falls and Shankill, as well as Botanic Gardens.

But some people — quite a sizeable number, in fact — chose to stay on board the luxury liner.

It wasn’t hard to see why.

There are several restaurants and bars to choose from (and with all the food on offer, it’s no surprise that the average person puts on half-a-stone during a cruise holiday). Of the three swimming pools on board the massive vessel, the Calypso overlooks a movie screen, so bathers can watch films if they so wish.

Or if a spot of pampering is more your scene, why not pop upstairs to the Lotus Spa for some rest and relaxation, and a bit of Botox if you fancy it.

Then there’s the in-house theatre, where you can see first-run films in the evenings.

There’s a gym, too, and a steam room for soothing tender muscles after a workout.

And if you feel like you might want to learn a little photography or cooking — or even personal finance — you can do that too.

There appears to be little this 133,000-tonne ship can’t offer, and the appeal of a cruise |suddenly becomes a little clearer.

Had the end destination — via Greenock (Glasgow), Invergordon and Edinburgh — been Spain and not Southampton, I might not have been writing this at all.

Cruise ships coming to Belfast in 2012

DATE SHIP PASSENGERS/CREW

Apr 6 FRED OLSEN BALMORAL 2,249

Apr 14 SAGA PEARL II 698

Apr 14 CMV MARCO POLO 1,076

Apr 15 SAGA PEARL II 698

May 5 PHOENIX REISEN ALBATROS 1,262

May 17 SILVERSEA SILVER WHISPER 677

May 18 CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 4,300

May 19 CMV MARCO POLO 1,076

May 26 FRED OLSEN BRAEMAR 1,300

May 29 MS DISCOVERY 878

May 30 CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 4,300

Jun 3 CMV MARCO POLO 1,076

Jun 8 REGENT SEVEN SEAS VOYAGER 1,147

Jun 12 CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 4,300

Jun 12 PRESTIGE CRUISES MV MARINA 1,600

Jun 15 ALL LEISURE MINERVA 552

Jun 6 FRED OLSEN BLACKWATCH 1,198

Jun 21 P&O ARCADIA 3,325

Jun 22 PRESTIGE CRUISES MV MARINA 2,050

Jul 5 SAGA SAPPHIRE 975

Jul 13 CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 4,300

Jul 16 CMV MARCO POLO 1,076

Jul 17 HOLL-AMERICA LINE PRINSENDAM 1,226

Jul 19 PRESTIGE CRUISES MV NAUTICA 1,210

Jul 19 DEILMANN DEUTSCHLAND 798

Jul 28 TUI MEIN SCHIFF 2 3,590

Jul 30 SAGA QUEST FOR ADVENTURE 650

Jul 30 PRESTIGE CRUISES MV NAUTICA 1,210

Aug 5 CLIPPER ODYSSEY 180

Aug 6 CLIPPER ODYSSEY 180

Aug 8 CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 4,300

Aug 8 SILVERSEA SILVER CLOUD 508

Aug 10 TRANSOCEAN ASTOR 772

Aug 10 CLIPPER ODYSSEY 180

Aug 12 P&O ADONIA 2,850

Aug 16 HOLL-AMERICA LINE PRINSENDAM 1,226

Aug 17 CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 4,300

Aug 29 PONANT PRINCESS DANAE 436

Aug 29 PLANTOURS MV HAMBURG 590

Aug 30 CRYSTAL SYMPHONY 1,485

Sep 1 LEISURE SILVER EXPLORER 207

Sep 7 PRESTIGE CRUISES MV MARINA 2,050

Sep 12 REGENT SEVEN SEAS 1,147

Sep 16 PRINCESS EMERALD 4,210

Sep 19 PHOENIX REISEN MS AMADEA 1,188

TOTAL 74,606

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