Port expecting best season yet in 2016

The record for the largest cruise ship to visit Lerwick is set to be broken twice next year during what is expected to the best season so far at the Shetland port.

The harbour will be visited by P&O Cruises’ 115,055 gross tonne Azura on 30 June; followed by Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Silhouette (122,210 gross tonnes) on 14 August, with 3,096 and 2,886 passenger capacity respectively.

New highs are in prospect for:

  • Passengers – estimated at 50,925
  • Number of vessels – 70 booked
  • Tonnage of vessels – 2,105,723 gross tonnes

The prospects for next year are revealed by Lerwick Port Authority following the end of the 2015 season during which cancellations reduced bookings by eight. Victor Sandison, the Port Authority’s Senior Commercial Executive, said: "Bad weather at sea reduced arrivals, with a number of last-minute call-offs, including large vessels, which hit passenger numbers.”

The season was extended at 48-hours’ notice on Sunday (27 September) with the arrival of Hapag-Lloyds’ Hanseatic – described as “the world’s only five-star expedition ship” – while en route from Akureyri, Iceland, to Kirkwall, Orkney, following a voyage to Greenland. She brought the season totals at Lerwick to 41 vessels, at 1,242,971 gross tonnes carrying 30,430 passengers – all below previous records.

Sandison added: "In a highly competitive market, cruise operators are spoiled for choice and appear to be juggling different destinations in different years to refresh itineraries. It's definitely our turn next season - and 2017 is also already looking good, with 28 advance bookings so far, at 1,387,724 gross tonnes and an estimated 31,000-plus passengers.”

The 2016 season is due to run from 24 April to 6 October, with June and July the busiest months, with 16 and 21 calls respectively. It will include ten maiden calls, including Viking Ocean Cruises’ new ships, Viking Sea and Viking Star.

Next season's numbers will mean a busy time for Lerwick’s Meet & Greet team. Supported by the Port Authority, local greeters provide a warm welcome to passengers and crew, orientation leaflets and maps, and traditional Shetland music on the quayside, as well as a free shuttle bus service to-and-from the town centre for passengers on ships berthed at the port’s Holmsgarth facility.

The Port Authority’s marketing programme will include participation as a member of the Cruise Scotland organisation at Seatrade Cruise Global in Fort Lauderdale, from 14 to 17 March 2016.

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