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Ships ahoy: Unprecedented 90 cruise ships Belfast bound

.... and Exploris welcomes 100,000th visitor since reopening

Almost 90 cruise ships are making their way toward Belfast for what is shaping up to be a bumper summer for tourists.

This year will see 88 ships dock in the city bringing with them 150,000 passengers and crew.

It will be an unprecedented year for sea-faring travellers since cruise ships first arrived in the city in 1996. By the end of the year there will have been 600 ships to have docked in the city in the past 21 years.

The Marco Polo will be the first of the season, arriving on April 21, while Princess Cruises, one of the world’s leading cruise operators, which operates the giant 4,600-passenger and crew capacity Caribbean Princess, has scheduled 14 stops this year.

Belfast’s Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston, said: “This will provide many opportunities to showcase our great city, which continues to make a big name for itself for its warmth, its hospitality and the many places to visit. Of course, best of all is the significant boost to the local economy."

Game of Thrones, Titanic Belfast and Crumlin Road Gaol are among the many popular attractions alongside the likes of traditional stops like the Giant's Causeway, the Walls of Derry and the Ulster Museum that have made Northern Ireland among the must see visitor attractions. 

Joe O’Neill, Belfast Harbour’s commercial director, added: "To welcome 88 ships this year is a tremendous endorsement of the great strides which Northern Ireland has made in recent years.

“When we started pitching Belfast to cruise operators in the mid-1990s there was some scepticism about what could be achieved. This year, we’re welcoming a record number of visitors and vessels, including the 100th visit of a Princess Cruise ship, one of the best-regarded operators in the sector.”

Visit Belfast, chief executive, Gerry Lennon, added: “Through Cruise Belfast, we are delighted to report continued growth for an important part of our tourism offer which delivers an international footfall for the city and Northern Ireland, and increased spend across our exciting and unique visitor attractions, as well as our thriving hospitality and retail sector.

“Cruise is a highly-competitive and fast-growing global sector, so we work hard to entice operators and tourists here through a focused sales and marketing approach and by delivering a first-class welcome and visitor service when each cruise passenger or crew member comes ashore to this great city.”

The announcement comes as Northern Ireland's only aquarium Exploris revealed its 100,000th visitor passed through its doors since its reopening in August 2016.

There was a huge campaign made to keep the attraction open after it was faced with the threat of closure.

Ann Moreland, general manager of Exploris Aquarium said: “We are delighted that Exploris Aquarium is already proving to be so popular, attracting visitors from home and out of state. Reaching this milestone is a momentous occasion for everyone involved.”

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