Belfast has today welcomed its two millionth cruise ship visitor, according to Cruise Belfast, the partnership between Belfast Harbour and Visit Belfast which markets the city as a leading cruise ship destination.

The passenger who took the number of visitors to come to Northern Ireland on cruise ships past the two million mark was on board the Norwegian Dawn, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, which docked in Belfast this afternoon.

Since the first cruise ship visit to Belfast in 1996, the industry has grown exponentially, with a record 165 cruise calls expected this year.

Michael Robinson, Port Director of Belfast Harbour, said Belfast is now well and truly on the radar for international cruise operators when setting their schedules.

“The arrival of the two millionth cruise visitor to Belfast Harbour is a significant milestone for the cruise industry in Northern Ireland. This year is expected to be a record year for the Port with 165 calls from 34 different cruise lines, carrying more than a quarter of a million passengers.

“Cruise visitors make an important contribution to the tourism industry in Northern Ireland bringing tourists from across the world for day trips to attractions across the region.” 

Mary Jo McCanny, Director of Visitor Servicing at Visit Belfast, said: “Ahead of such a busy cruise season, welcoming the two millionth visitor to Belfast is another great milestone for the city that again demonstrates the vital partnerships that Cruise Belfast has formed with global cruise operators.

“The Visitor Servicing teams work tirelessly to provide a first-class reception for every visitor who arrives into Belfast, showcasing the very best of the city and the wide range of quality tourist experiences on offer. Belfast has built a strong reputation as a welcoming and exciting cruise destination and that is something we hope to continue for years to come.”

Naomi Waite, Tourism NI’s Director of Marketing added: “The millions of pounds of investment in our tourism infrastructure and visitor experiences in recent years has ensured Belfast and Northern Ireland are at the forefront of the cruise offering. With new attractions such as the re-imagined Titanic Belfast, Titanic Distillers and the Game of Thrones Studio Tour, we can offer new and exciting itineraries to compete within a highly competitive marketplace, which is crucial to continue to attract strong visitor numbers.

“With an expected record year for the 2023 cruise season, the boost in cruise ship visitors is sure to make for a fantastic year for the Northern Ireland tourism industry.”

Including the Norwegian Dawn, Belfast has seen a total of 1,161 cruise ship calls by vessels from 75 different cruise lines to date, representing a significant contribution to the growing tourism economy in Northern Ireland. Some of the biggest cruise ships in the world, from world-leading global brands including Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas (347 metres long, gross tonnage 168,666) and MSC Virtuosa (332m long, gross tonnage 181,541) have called at Belfast multiple times in recent years.

Between March and October this year, 61 different vessels will dock at the port. The 165 calls expected this season represents a 15% increase on the previous record set in 2019.

There will also be 15 ships calling to Belfast for the first time in 2023, including Disney Dream, Norwegian Prima and MSC Preziosa, demonstrating Northern Ireland’s increasing popularity as a cruise destination and providing testament to the quality of the region’s award-winning visitor attractions and tourism offer.

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