• Belfast makes waves in extended season as 110,000 cruise passengers and crew arrive
  • Belfast is now the second busiest cruise city in Ireland
  • Belfast ahead of a host of UK cities in race for ships, including Liverpool and Glasgow

Belfast is set for a bumper cruise season this year as 61 tourist-packed vessels arrive in a city which is now outperforming key UK host cities in this highly-competitive market, it was announced today (Tuesday 17th June 2014).

With almost 110,000 passengers and crew due to arrive by the end of October, Belfast now beats other popular cities such as Liverpool and Glasgow in an international destination race to secure cruise tourism to support the city and region’s  blossoming tourism and hospitality industry.

On the island of Ireland, Belfast is now the second most popular cruise city with only Dublin receiving more cruise visitors.

This year will also see a number of cruise lines calling in Belfast for the first time. These first-time visitors which includes the recently-arrived Ruby Princess, have been secured by Cruise Belfast – the dedicated marketing partnership between Visit Belfast and Belfast Harbour which is committed to ensuring that the city is a major stop-over on the travel itineraries of all the major cruise ship companies.

Operated by one of the largest cruise companies in the world, Princess Cruises, the Ruby Princess is a ‘grand-class’, luxury ship which enjoys regular tours of the Caribbean. With a capacity of more than 4,200 passengers and crew, the vessel has 19 decks, more than 1,500 guest cabins, four swimming pools and seven whirlpool spas.

Other first-time arrivals include the MV Berlin, the Louis Aura and the Club Med 2. These ships join the growing list of cruise ships which have made Belfast a must see city on cruise itineraries  all of which are owned and managed by several of the biggest cruise operators in the world which now have Belfast firmly on their annual timetables, including Thomson, Celebrity, Holland America Line, Fred Olsen and Saga.

The largest cruise ship ever to arrive in Belfast, the newly-built Royal Princess, will carry 3,600 passengers and around 1,300 crew in over 1,780 guest cabins when the vessel arrives in September. The super-sized vessel is one of a number now attracted to Belfast because of its attractive tourism offering.

Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive, Visit Belfast, said the cruise sector should be viewed as a boom for Belfast’s thriving tourism sector:

“Belfast’s popularity as a cruise destination has sky-rocketed in recent years through the efforts of the Cruise Belfast partnership. In the last 15 years, the number of cruise passengers has increased five-fold, putting Belfast firmly on the international cruise map. By the end of 2014, more than 431 ships will have arrived carrying around 690,000 passengers and crew.

“Cruise ships are now an integral part of our tourism mix and an impressive, visible measure of the city’s tourism success story. Last year, cruise passengers helped to generate millions of pounds for the local and wider economy, highlighting the significant impact this major tourism drive has for both Belfast and Northern Ireland.”

“Famed worldwide for the warmth of its welcome, thousands of tourists now come to Belfast this way to see a city which is tourist-ready, packed with exciting world class attractions and a hospitality and retail offering that earns us exemplary reviews.”

Such is the success of Cruise Belfast that plans are now under way by Belfast Harbour to develop a new dedicated cruise berth to address the growing demand and capacity requirements.

Belfast Harbour Commercial Officer, Tony McAuley, said many years of work has been undertaken in working with the cruise industry to understand what is required to be able to handle these ships. Belfast Harbour is keen to provide best in class facilities the industry now requires to be able to continue to welcome the ever increasing size of ships wishing to call in Belfast.

“It’s not just our tourist offering which is vital –it is imperative that we continue to offer excellent port facilities and services, while also being able to accommodate specific vessel needs.

“Belfast Harbour is committed to the development of the port for wider economic benefit and we are pleased to be directly supporting the development of the city and Northern Ireland’s tourism industry in making sure that we can continue to be at the forefront in this exciting, international arena.”

Visit Belfast is Belfast City Region’s official destination marketing and visitor-servicing organisation. Its main funders are Belfast City Council, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, its 560 private sector members, and key strategic partners Translink, Diageo and Value Cabs.

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