Maiden voyage cruise ship takes on 250 Irish boarders

CHRISTENED by screen legend Sophia Loren at the weekend, an elegant cruise ship made her first stop in Cobh yesterday on her maiden voyage.

Up to 250 passengers from all over Ireland, including 12 from Cobh, boarded the luxurious MSC Poesia for its onward cruise to Lisbon, and its final destination of Venice.

It was the largest boarding of passengers on to a cruise ship at Cobh in the Port of Cork’s history.

And it is a trend the company is working to encourage, the port’s commercial manager, Captain Michael McCarthy, said.

The Poesia left Dover at the weekend after a glittering christening ceremony attended by hundreds of guests, including Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Prince Azim of Brunei.

Entertainment in the ship’s theatre was provided by KT Tunsall and Andrea Bocelli.

The cruise ship sailed on Sunday with 2,400 passengers on board and berthed at Cobh early yesterday morning.

Captain Ferdinando Ponti hosted lunch for travel agents before setting sail for Lisbon just after 6pm.

The ship has four top class Italian restaurants. It’s estimated that its guests will consume 5,700 cups of coffee and 1,000 eggs every day.

Up to 1,000 champagne bottles will be popped every week, a total of 14,000 dishes will be served, offering 182 different choices every day and a mouth-watering 1,274 choices each week.

But passengers use the ship’s jogging track or gym to work off any excess pounds.

Captain McCarthy said she is one of 51 cruise ships due in Cobh this year.

“They will bring up to 70,000 visitors into the Cork, Kerry and Waterford region,” he said.

“And surveys show that 50% of cruise passengers return to the areas they visit as part of their cruises for land-based holidays.”

Senior port officials have just returned from a series of business and promotional meetings in America with cruise companies.

It has helped boost the port’s 2009 cruise ship bookings to 40 — an unprecedented level so early in the 2008 season.

Meanwhile, the Port of Cork is gearing up for the arrival in Cobh of the largest cruise ship to ever visit an Irish port.

The gigantic Independence of the Seas, which is 46 metres longer than the MSC Poesia, three decks higher and 50,000 tonnes heavier, is due to stop at Cobh on her maiden voyage over the May Bank Holiday weekend.

Cobh is the only berth in Ireland capable of accommodating a vessel that large.

And the Port of Cork is also expanding its berthing slot and dredging the harbour to accommodate the QE2 on her last round Britain and Ireland voyage on October 1.

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