New royal visitor with 5,500 on board sails into Belfast
It's the largest cruise ship to dock in Belfast.
Northern Ireland has enjoyed a record year of visits from cruise liners with more than 80 calling into our ports.
And now it's been topped off with the luxurious Royal Princess taking residence in Belfast Harbour for one day only.
Princess Cruises is a global cruise and tour company that takes one million-plus passengers each year to more than 300 destinations on six continents on its fleet of 18 ships.
The luxury vessel received the royal seal of approval when it was named by the Duchess of Cambridge in June 2013.
In a ceremony in Southampton, she named the new ship Royal Princess when she released a bottle of Champagne that smashed against its hull.
The ship – longer than the Eiffel Tower and taller than London's Tower Bridge – sailed in to Belfast at 8am yesterday and was departing again last night at around 6pm. It is currently sailing on a 17-day Iceland and British Isles Explorer itinerary from Copenhagen to New York.
From Belfast she will sail to Cobh, St John's, Halifax, and New York. And from there she will set sail on a seven-day Canada and New England Cruise.
Sightseers were left spellbound yesterday as the impressive ship – which boasts 19 decks – arrived with more than 3,500 passengers, with some posting photographs of themselves with the towering vessel in the background on social media.
Belfast Harbour associate director of cruise services Tony McAuley said: "Belfast Harbour is delighted to welcome the Royal Princess, which provides a major feather in the cap for what has been another hugely successful cruise season.
"With over 5,500 passengers and crew on board, the Royal Princess is the largest cruise ship to dock in Belfast and provides a major boost for tourism in the city and for the wider Northern Ireland economy.
"This is an increasingly important business for Northern Ireland, with an estimated 110,000 cruise visitors and 60 vessels having visited Belfast during this year's cruise season."
Among the Royal Princess' most distinguishing elements is The SeaWalk – a top-deck glass-bottomed enclosed walkway on the ship's starboard side which extends more than 28ft beyond the edge of the vessel. From it, passengers can enjoy dramatic views including to the sea 128ft below.
Onboard, a staggering 170,000lbs of fresh fruit and vegetables are consumed per cruise while 900,000lbs (about 20 truckloads) of supplies are loaded every 10 days.
Meanwhile, there are 18,000 bottles of wine and Champagne in the wine cellars, 21,200 bath towels washed per week, 250,000 eggs used per week and three tons of ice used to carve 20 sculptures per cruise.
As the tourists stepped on to dry land yesterday, they had the opportunity to take a whirlwind trip to see the sights of Belfast and Northern Ireland.
Locals took to Twitter to suggest the many things Northern Ireland had to offer including the Giant's Causeway, St George's Market and Crumlin Road Gaol.
And, of course, the Titanic Quarter was among the most popular attractions.