Belfast Telegraph

Belfast cruise ship passengers given safety letters

By Jill Goligher

A cruise ship has given out safety warning letters to passengers for their arrival in Belfast.

The letters expressed concern with references to possible terror attacks with "the potential risk of isolated violence" in Belfast.

Obtained by The Irish News, the safety letters were found among records of complaints made to tourism body Visit Belfast in recent years.

The letter was given to Belfast-bound passengers aboard P&O's Azura cruise ship which docked last year in June ahead of the Twelfth of July.

Tourism officials in Belfast branded the letters "unnecessarily alarmist" and urged the cruise operator to "consider softening" its contents.

This year alone, a record 93 ships are expected to dock at the city carrying around 157,000 passengers, with cruise ships becoming a booming tourism business for Belfast.

Visit Belfast, which assists cruise ships visiting the city, said it raised concerns about the leaflet. "We became aware of the safety information letter passed out to passengers on board P&O's Azura cruise ship on the day it arrived into Belfast," the organisation said.

"Mixing references to both the potential of terrorist attacks across Europe at the time and the potential risk of isolated violence at demonstrations we felt the wording was unnecessarily alarmist and, along with out partners Belfast Harbour, asked the cruise operator to review and consider softening."    

It added: "Cruise ship communications to their passengers is not routinely shared with Visit Belfast nor its partners and often reflect travel advice provided by the host nation cruise operator's department of travel, such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK of the Department of State in the US.

"Visit Belfast run a marketing partnership with Belfast Harbour called Cruise Belfast.  This campaign is aimed at attracting the cruise industry to Belfast and Northern Ireland."

A Belfast Harbour spokeswoman added: "Cruise ships make available a daily fact sheet detailing local information of interest to visitors such as key attractions.  P&O Cunard is the only line which we know of which advises on passenger safety.  This information is based on the daily regional threat level as advised by the UK Government.

"This information is given out in many cities they visit, for example we know in 2016 it was distributed in France, Athens and Istanbul.  This has had no impact on the popularity of Belfast as a destination with 100% growth in visitor numbers in the past five years and an even busier year is expected in 2018."

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