Successful restart after Covid restrictions and encouraging bookings for 2022

The cruise ship Island Sky has recorded an unexpected double - first and final into Lerwick Harbour, Shetland - during a season shortened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Noble Caledonia’s vessel arrived on Monday 20 September 2021, with 93 passengers on board for an overnight stay at the port’s Victoria Pier, before departing yesterday to continue its Best of British cruise circumnavigating the British Isles.

Island Sky was also first into Lerwick in July on the day Covid-related suspension of visits by cruise ships to Scottish port's was lifted after 17 months, allowing UK-only sailings. She called again in August and early September.

The season should have closed today with the arrival of Crystal Endeavour on a maiden visit, which was cancelled at short notice by the operator due to adverse weather conditions en route.

Lerwick Port Authority Cruise & Marketing Manager, Melanie Henderson, said: “The return of Island Sky concludes the successful, initial phase of rebuilding cruise traffic at Lerwick in the wake of Covid. It is disappointing to have the season cut even shorter at the last minute, but we look forward to welcoming Crystal Endeavour in the future.

Island Sky is the 18th cruise ship of the three-month season at Lerwick. Melanie Henderson added: “We have seen six maiden visits, repeat calls and operators new to the port, with the smooth restoration giving confidence for more activity next year and getting back to more normal levels.”

With a total of over 685,000 gross tonnes of shipping and around 8,600 passengers, the vessel count was less than a fifth of what was originally scheduled for a 2021 season from March to October.

Ms Henderson added: “The restart has given the opportunity to safely trial the return of cruise visits to the islands and brought a much needed, albeit shortened season, boost to activity for the local tourism sector.

“The inclusion of Lerwick and other Scottish ports in round-Britain cruises has made an important contribution to ‘staycations’ and has scope for further development. The successful partnership working with cruise lines, crews and agencies involved in maintaining the highest health & safety standards in tourism reinforces our optimism for next season.”

Currently scheduled are a record 112 visits for 2022 and over four million gross tonnes of shipping, although changes can be anticipated as cruise lines firm up their itineraries around the evolving global situation and easing of restrictions.

Noble Caledonia’s cruise ship, Island Sky, both opened and closed the short cruise season at Lerwick Harbour. Photo: Melanie Henderson.
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