A major bounce-back in cruise liner visits to Cork is in the offing with 88 already confirmed for next year and the likelihood there will be more.
Port of Cork chief commercial officer Conor Mowlds said a further 53 liners have pre-booked for visits in 2023 and this figure is expected to rise significantly in the months ahead.
“We're delighted with such a strong return,” Mr Mowlds said. “We expect the first vessel to arrive in April. Vessels are booked in for Cork and Bantry.”
The chairman of Cruise Europe, Cobh-based Captain Michael McCarthy, said he has been liaising with major cruise line companies and expects a far stronger return to the Irish market as many may have anticipated.
This will be especially good for Cobh, which relies heavily on the income generated from the arrival of cruise liner passengers.
The industry has been shut down in Ireland since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. However, ports in Britain and Northern Ireland reopened earlier this year to cruise liner traffic.
Mr Mowlds pointed out that Belfast is expected to benefit from up to 70 cruise liner visits this year.
The Republic of Ireland, however, has lost out because the government decided not to allow the liners in during the pandemic.
However, Mr Mowlds said the Port of Cork, and other Irish ports where cruise liners traditionally do stop-overs, had been in contact with the Department of Transport which is signaling the cruise liner visits will resume here in 2022.
“We are working with the authorities on the development of return protocols. We have already done a lot of work on this,” Mr Mowlds said.
He said they are working with their counterparts in Britain to promote both regions as part of a package. “We are all working together with our counterparts in Britain and in Ireland with the ports of Belfast, Dublin, Waterford and Galway,” he added.
Capt. McCarthy said he'd been told by cruise line companies they expect visits to Irish ports “will resume very strongly and plan to maximise their number of calls". This would suggest there will be an increase on the number of calls booked already to Cork, and Cobh in particular, both for 2022 and 2023.
“They (the cruise companies) were relieved to hear of the government restrictions being reduced and are looking forward to the resumption of cruising into Ireland in 2022, a destination which is hugely popular with their guests. They expect to re-introduce a full service into Northern Europe and already pre-bookings are extremely strong,” Mr McCarthy said.
He pointed out that major cruise lines are already back in operation with reduced passenger numbers, such as MSC, Virgin, Fred Olsen, RCCL/Celebrity, P&O, Princess.