Lerwick Harbour is set to complete the cruise ship season with the two final vessels in the next few days adding to the record number of passengers at the port this year.

The popularity of Shetland on cruise itineraries is also reflected in the number of bookings already for vessels to call at Lerwick in 2005.

A Norwegian coastal vessel, Nordnorge – a late addition to the programme - is due in the port on Saturday and will be followed by the Bremen on Monday.

They will bring to around 20,750 the number of passengers who have sailed into Lerwick on cruise ships during the five-month long 2004 season, up from 16,008 last year.

Although the number of cruise ships at 47 is one down on the highest figure in 2003, the tonnage of shipping this year is the greatest yet, at 859,573 gross tonnes (2003 - 739,206 gross tonnes).

Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Allan Wishart, said: “Both the record passenger figures and tonnage of shipping reflect the harbour’s capacity to handle the larger cruise ships now operating. The flexibility to moor in deep water close to the town or berth alongside at the port, along with the modern facilities, complement Shetland’s many visitor attractions.”

“The success of this season is encouraging for everyone involved, and the fact that there are already 27 vessels booked this early for 2005 is another excellent sign that all the efforts are paying off.”

Andy Steven, Chief Executive of Shetland Islands Tourism, said: "Our onboard information service, introduced in 2004, has helped more people enjoy their short time in Shetland and our highest visitor numbers to the Tourist Information Centre coincided with visiting cruise ships. These vessels are an essential part of our growing tourism industry."

Next year’s schedule also includes two cruise ships which are expected to be in the harbour to provide accommodation during the international Island Games, from 9-15 July.

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