Currently, 59 cruise ships with an estimated 36,500 passengers on board – both new records – are booked to visit from mid-April to late-September. There will be multiple visits on some dates, including four vessels due on 29th July, the peak month when 20 are expected.
With vessel numbers topping the previous highest figure by almost a fifth, the tonnage of shipping is also set to reach a new record at 1,685,216 gross tonnes.
Lerwick Port Authority deputy chief executive Victor Sandison said: “Shetland is winning its share in a growth industry and the momentum is being maintained, bringing a potentially significant increase this year. The natural advantages of our location, scenery and wildlife are reinforced by modern port facilities, the friendly welcome, popular visitor attractions and active marketing.”
The port authority is continuing its support for a “Meet & Greet” project with locals providing both an onboard and onshore welcome for passengers and crew, basic orientation – including leaflets and maps – and traditional Shetland music on the quayside on arrival. This service also provides a free shuttle bus service to-and-from the town centre for ships berthed at the port’s Holmsgarth base.
The season begins on 17th April with the arrival of the Norwegian vessel Gann, which will make a return visit in July. There will be two visits – on 16th June and 2nd July – by the Costa Pacifica which last year became the largest ship (114,288 gross tonnes) yet to visit.
A welcome return will be made by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd with their vessels Jewel of the Seas (90,090grt), on 25th June, and Brilliance of the Seas (90,090grt) on 10th September – the first by the operator since 1998. Smyril Line’s ro/ro ferry Norröna – previously a regular caller at Lerwick as an international ferry – will return for a cruise call on 9th May.
Mr Sandison added: “As well as promising nine more cruise ships and around 6,000 more passengers than last year, the season is an exciting mix of return visits and maiden calls, and it is great to see Royal Caribbean including Lerwick in its itineraries again.
“With inclusion on cruises ranging from north-west Europe routes to trans-Atlantic voyages, the season demonstrates Shetland’s growing popularity as a port-of-call in a spread of cruise packages.”