A Port of Cork company’s five-year plan to expand its cruise liner trade is ahead of schedule with a record-breaking number of luxury passenger ships due next year, writes Sean O’Riordan.
The deep water harbour is likely to surpass, in 2018 for the first time, the 100-mark arrival of cruise ships. The industry will boost the region’s economy by upwards of €30m next year.
With 97 liners already booked to visit next year, the port authorities believe more than 200,000 visitors will disembark in Cobh, mainly, along with Cork City and Ringaskiddy ports.
The port has also announced plans to develop a new terminal to be used by cruise ships, super yachts and sea-buses.
In a further boost for the liner operating company Port of Cork-Cruise, passengers from all over the world voted Cobh one of the top five destinations in Western Europe, putting it on a par with Amsterdam and Lisbon.
The news was announced yesterday by Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards, with rankings based on cruise passengers’ ratings.
The Port of Cork had established a five-year plan to secure, by 2020, a likely 75 cruise liner visits yearly. However, significant marketing and commercial successes have surpassed all expectations and the speed at which targets were achieved reportedly surprised the company.
The surge in businesses and interest from cruise ship companies is pushing forward the Port of Cork’s plans to spend €15m building a second cruise liner terminal at the deep water quays in Cobh.
The planned facility is envisaged to accommodate super yachts and a new generation of massive liners, such as the 360m Oasis of the Sea, which can carry more than 6,000 passengers.
Port of Cork commercial manager Captain Michael McCarthy admitted that the huge surge in interest among cruise line companies had surprised him but it had also demonstrated what the South-West region had to offer.
“I think we’ll top the 100 mark next year. It proves that Cork is a very desirable region to visit,” he said.
Disney Magic will become the first of the Disney-themed cruise liners to visit Cork in September 2018.
The biggest liner, however, scheduled to arrive is the MSC Meraviglia which will have more than 5,000 passengers.
The Norwegian Breakaway will arrive with 4,500-plus passengers, while Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess, with capacity for 4,400 passengers, will visit the port on 12 occasions in 2018.
Other notable arrivals will include Independence of the Seas, Cunard’s Queen Victoria, and the Holland-America liner Zuiderdam.
Meanwhile, Cobh will be the base for four return cruises being organised by the British-based Cruise and Maritime company, on its ship The Magellan. It is planning two tours of Ireland and Britain, as well as a cruise to the Canaries and the Mediterranean.
Capt McCarthy said he was confident that more than 200,000 passengers would disembark in Cork harbour next year.
“Surveys show that on average there is a direct spend onshore of €73 per person and the same amount again in indirect spending on coaches and tours.” he said.
Next year’s visits are nearly double those of 2015, when 56 cruise liners brought a then record 144,000 people into the port.
Last year, the Port of Cork welcomed 54 cruise liners to Cobh and 69 will dock this year.
The proposed new facility in Cobh will also double up as a sea bus terminal which will connect Cobh with other harbour points.
The Port of Cork is in advanced discussions with the county council about these plans, which will connect the harbourside town with terminals at Fota Island, Crosshaven, Monkstown, Passage West, Ringaskiddy, Haulbowline Island and Cork City.
These routes will be primarily focused at providing an enhanced tourist experience for visitors at attractions such as Spike Island and Fort Camden, Crosshaven.
This article first appeared on the Irish Examiner.