Queen Elizabeth, the Cunard Line giant, arrives the day after the largest liner to visit Belfast in modern times
It slipped through the waters in the dark of the night, due to dock before dawn to become the 1,000th cruise ship to arrive in Belfast in the modern era.
Queen Elizabeth, the Cunard Line giant, will on Thursday mark a milestone that will be welcomed by many, including city leaders and those in the tourism industry.
According to its itinerary, the £350m, 961ft, 90,000 tonne vessel was steered around Britain over the last five days before its expected arrival at 4.45am on Thursday morning at the cruise terminal.
While the Queen Elizabeth may be an impressive size, even it was dwarfed by the largest cruise ship to visit Belfast in modern times — Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas, number 999 on the docking list at Belfast.
Anthem of the Seas, 1,142ft with a 4,800 capacity and 16 decks, left Belfast on Wednesday evening following a day visit. A third giant, P&O’s Azura is currently undergoing work in Belfast ahead of its winter deployment in the Caribbean.
The Queen Elizabeth first appeared in October 2010 when she was named in a ceremony by the Queen herself.
It can take 2,300 passengers and has 1,043 cabins — including 127 suites, 611 balcony, 146 ocean view and 162 inside.
Joanne Stuart, chief executive of the NI Tourism Alliance, last night welcomed the milestone, describing the sharp increase in the number of ships docking as a real boost to the economy.
“It is great to see this milestone celebrated and it is down to the amazing work of everyone involved at Belfast Harbour,” Ms Stuart said, adding that the number of ships docking has doubled in the three years to 2019.
Pre-pandemic, in 2019, some 375,000 cruise passengers visited Belfast, a record, pumping around £15m into the wider economy, but that is a conservative estimate, the tourism industry advocate said.
“It is good for tour guides, bus operators and different regions benefit as day trips are organised to the Ards Peninsula or the Giant’s Causeway,” Ms Stuart said.
“Independent travellers also take a trip on their own into Belfast.”
“There are also benefits bringing new people to Belfast, with stories of them coming back, either for leisure or business,” added Ms Stuart, who also pointed out that Londonderry also saw increases in cruise traffic, which she described as really important.
The first cruise ship of the modern era docked in Belfast 25 years ago, and the first dedicated terminal for the liners on the island of Ireland opened in 2019, a partnership between Belfast Harbour and Visit Belfast.