Belfast Telegraph

Cruise ship visitors' trips ashore altered

Fears of trouble around a republican parade through the heart of Belfast caused disruption to thousands of passengers who had travelled here on one of the world's most luxurious ships.

The Caribbean Princess docked in the city yesterday with up to 3,100 passengers and 1,200 crew on board.

During one of eight such visits to the province this year, the luxury liner stopped off until 7pm, giving those on board time to take in the sights of Northern Ireland.

But following trouble between nationalists and police in Belfast on Thursday evening and concern over last night's republican parade in the city, organisers amended travel arrangements so visitors would not be caught up in any trouble.

The timetable of excursions was altered so those due to return would be back in time for departure.

There were claims some passengers were so concerned by the images of violence on Thursday they opted to stay on board the liner.

But a spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Welcome Centre said she was unaware of such claims.

The ship's American-based owners, Princess Cruises, were unavailable for comment last night.

Princess Cruises has included Belfast in a variety of their cruises since 2001, calling more than 50 times.

And 2013 is set to be the best year on record, with 60 ships scheduled to call into Belfast this season, up 45% from 75,000 to 110,00 passengers and crew, in just one year.

Belfast has been developing the cruise tourism sector since the mid-1990s, with the first cruise vessel, the Silver Cloud, arriving in 1996. Since then more than 53 different companies have included Belfast stopovers.

The so-called 'Titanic effect' brought 45 liners and 75,000 passengers to the province last year – an increase of 40% on the year before, according to trade figures for 2012.

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