Records continue to tumble as more and more cruise liners are visiting Cork — so much so that the Port of Cork is hoping to build a second cruise liner berth in Cobh.
The port was visited by a record 92 cruise liners this year but this will be surpassed in 2019 as 104 ships have signalled their intention to stop in Cork.
It’s estimated the arrival of the cruise liners this year, which carried 157,000 passengers and 69,000 crew, was worth more than €12m to the local economy.
A few years ago, the Port of Cork set itself the ambitious target of getting 75 liner visits by 2018 — which it has since blown out of the water. The company is hoping to build a second berth in Cobh, which would cost in the region of €20m.
Port of Cork chief executive Brendan Keating said it is hoped that the berth would be operational within the next five to six years, and by that stage they would envisage 125 to 130 cruise liner visits every year. The new berth would be able to accommodate the bigger liners now being built.
“The cruise liner business is growing worldwide,” said Mr Keating. “It’s estimated that 27.5m people will have taken a cruise this year.”
The Port of Cork recently engaged with Price Waterhouse to seek expressions of interest from the private sector to develop and/or operate a new cruise berth at Lynch’s Quay in Cobh.
“Already we’re encouraged by the level of interest,” Mr Keating said. “We’d hope to see it constructed in the next five to six years. We are planning ahead and it will enhance our ability to cater for the biggest ships in the world.”
Currently, if two cruise liners are booked to arrive in the port on the same day, one of them has to berth in Ringaskiddy. When the new berth is built in Cobh all liners will dock in the town, which will have a huge spin-off for local businesses.
Not only do passengers spend their money in the town, the ships also attract sightseers from all over the country who also spend their cash in local shops, restaurants and hotels.
Cobh lost nearly all of its heavy industry in recent decades, and relies on tourism income now more than ever.
It is very short on bed nights however, and local councillors have been trying to convince their planning officials to look at sites where a large hotel could be developed.
A potential developer has already come forward.
Based on research carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes in 2017 on behalf of the Port of Cork, cruise passengers spend an average of €81 per visit and crew spend €29 per visit.
The more liners that come, in the bigger the spend.
Not only is the Port of Cork looking at infrastructure development, it recently mounted a charm offensive with the major cruise line companies.
The companies gave them very positive feedback in terms of their passenger experiences when visiting the region.
The 2019 cruise liner season will kick off with the arrival of Astoria on April 1 and won’t conclude until the departure of Marco Polo on December 20.
Mr Keating said that amongst the 2019 arrivals will be the Crown Princess, Norwegian Pearl, Celebrity Reflection, MSC Orchestra, and Brilliance of the Seas.
“Also, after a few years’ absence, we will have the return of Independence of the Seas,” Mr Keating said.
That 15-deck ship can accommodate up to 4,370 passengers and is served by 1,360 crew.