WITH the largest cruise ship yet to call at Lerwick Harbour due today the port will end the 2008 season on a high and on course for nautical milestones next year.
The Norwegian Jewel, with more than 2,000 passengers on board, is on a repositioning cruise from Europe to the USA, as was the Sea Princess – the second largest of the year – earlier this month.
The 93,502 grt Norwegian Jewel will bring the final cruise ship count this year to 41, fewer than originally scheduled and one down on 2007. It is anticipated that total passenger numbers will be around 16,500, a drop of 10 per cent on last year.
Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “The large vessels this month have meant a great end to a season during which late cancellations due to various reasons, including poor weather, were obviously very frustrating. With fewer large cruise ships, there was an inevitable drop in passenger numbers.
“However, there are very positive signs for next year, with 33 vessels already booked – including the largest ships yet. We’re confident we’ll pass 40 again, with passenger numbers well up.”
The 2009 season will rewrite the port’s history books with the 1,000th cruise ship to call at Lerwick and the arrival of the first cruise ships over 100,000 grt. Bookings include two visits by the Costa Magica (102,587 grt), followed by the Crown Princess at 113,651 grt.
Ms Laurenson said the port authority would continue to market the harbour’s facilities and services, along with the Shetland’s many attractions, and is expecting to attend major industry events in Miami in March and Hamburg in September, along with Scottish marketing partners.