Belfast's biggest visitor: mega-ship MSC Meraviglia that's the weight of FOUR Titanics
A luxury liner weighing nearly four times as much as the Titanic docked in Belfast yesterday, making it the largest ever ship to visit Northern Ireland.
The MSC Meraviglia is currently the sixth largest cruise ship in the world, accommodating over 6,500 passengers and crew.
Weighing in at a staggering 171,598 tons, the 'mega-ship' is 315 metres long and 65 metres high.
This compares to the Titanic's weight of 46,328 tons, a length of 269 metres and height of 32 metres.
With 15 levels the Meraviglia boasts three swimming pools, a 900 seat theatre as well as 12 unique dining venues, 20 bars and lounges.
Guests also get to enjoy spectacular entertainment from the world-famous Cirque du Soleil.
Antonio Paradiso, managing director of MSC Cruises UK and Ireland, said it was a pleasure to celebrate the milestone for both MSC and the Northern Irish cruise industry.
"Belfast Harbour is an institution to shipping and we are proud to continue to support the expansion of the cruise business with one of the largest ships in our fleet calling at the port," he said.
"Today, we have over 5,300 guests from more than 32 countries discovering the city and the surrounding areas, and we are delighted to be able to share such a beautiful part of the world with our guests."
In July, Belfast Harbour opened the first dedicated cruise terminal on the island of Ireland, with 148 ships carrying an estimated 285,000 passengers scheduled to visit Belfast this year.
Michael Robinson, Belfast Harbour's Port director, said he was "thrilled" to welcome MSC cruises back to Belfast.
"The trend in the northern European cruise market is for ever-larger vessels and Belfast Harbour has already created a deep-water cruise quay and has invested in the development of a cruise terminal building in partnership with Visit Belfast and Tourism NI," he said.
Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast, said it was further proof that Northern Ireland had firmly established itself as a European cruise destination.
"Cruise tourism has become an important part of Belfast's tourism mix bringing visitors from all over the world to the city, many of whom are here for the first time. We're delighted to welcome MSC Meraviglia on its maiden call to Belfast," he said.
Commenting on the collapse of Thomas Cook this week, MSC Cruises have said their priority was to ensure that passengers who had booked with the travel agents would still be able to travel on their cruise holiday.
Addressing Thomas Cook workers who had lost their job, Mr Paradiso said "our door is open" with a number of positions advertised with the company.