With the largest cruise ship yet to call at Lerwick Harbour due tomorrow (Friday, 19 September), the port will end the 2008 season on a high and on course for nautical milestones next year.

The Norwegian Jewel, at 93,502 gross tonnes, will set a new record when she calls on 19 September with more than 2,000 passengers on board while on a repositioning cruise from Europe to the USA, as was the Sea Princess – the second largest of the year – earlier this month.

She 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% on last year.

Lerwick Port Authority Chief Executive, Sandra Laurenson, commented: “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 the Shetland port and the arrival of the first cruise ships over 100,000 gross tonnes. Bookings include two visits by the Costa Magica (102,587 gross tonnes), followed by the Crown Princess at 113,651 gross tonnes.

The Port Authority will continue to market the harbour’s facilities and services, along with the Shetland Islands’ many attractions, and is expected to attend major industry events in Miami in March and Hamburg in September, along with Scottish marketing partners.

At the crossroads of the North Sea and North Atlantic, Lerwick is Britain’s “Top Port” - at 60 degrees north, on a level with St Petersburg, in Russia, and Anchorage, Alaska, Larger cruise ships anchor in the sheltered, deep-water port for passenger transfer, while smaller vessels can berth in the heart of the town.

Note: the current record for the largest cruise ship at Lerwick is held by the Costa Atlantica (85,619 gross tonnes).

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