Historic cruise liner port in Cobh welcomes first ship in two years with 90 vessels due to visit offering a €70m boost to economy


Ralph Riegel

IRELAND'S most historic cruise liner port has welcomed its first ship in over two years with 90 vessels due to visit over the next seven months offering a €70m boost to the national tourism economy.

Cobh hosted the MV Borealis, which became the first liner to berth in Cork harbour since the Covid-19 pandemic erupted in early 2020.

The money-spinning cruise liner trade was amongst the hardest hit sectors of the global tourism economy during the pandemic.

Now, Dublin, Cork/Cobh and Belfast hope to restore the cruise trade as the fastest expanding segment of the tourism sector.

The cruise liner trade is worth €14m to the Cork economy but more than €70m to the national economy.

To mark the occasion, Port of Cork, Cobh Chamber of Commerce and Cork Co Council staged a special welcome ceremony for MV Borealis which arrived from the UK - with passengers over the coming months set to use Cobh as the base to visit Blarney, Waterford, Midleton, Cashel and other tourist attractions.

Last month, MV Viking became the first cruise liner to berth in Dublin.

Tourism officials admitted that 2022 will be of crucial importance for the hospitality and entertainment sectors given the horrific losses suffered from the pandemic since 2020.

The Port of Cork Company and Cruise Ireland have welcomed the long-awaited return of cruise ships following a two-year pandemic pause.

Cruise ships returned to Irish ports only after extensive discussions between the Government, health authorities, cruise companies and port officials over robust public health protocols.

Port of Cork chief executive and Cruise Ireland chairperson, Conor Mowlds, said it was thrilling to see cruise ships finally returning to Irish ports after a two year absence.

“This follows weeks and months of intense collaboration with stakeholders such as the Department of Transport and the HSE to ensure we have robust protocols in place to protect and ensure confidence for not only passengers but our receiving harbour communities.

“We are looking forward very much to the return of cruise activities, to rebuilding and growing the cruise line sector, which has such a crucial role to play for the country’s tourism and the hospitality industries.”

Cruise Ireland is an ‘all-island’ body whose membership includes all of the sector’s key players, its primary focus being to market the island of Ireland as a premier cruise ship destination.

Over the past 20 years it has helped Dublin, Belfast and Cork emerge as amongst the fastest developing cruise liner stopovers in Europe.

Port of Cork now hopes to welcome 90 cruise ships between April and November 2022 including some of the biggest ships afloat.

The cruise berth in Cobh is Ireland’s only dedicated liner berth. with a return of cruise liners critical for the town and its tourism economy.

The cruise liner trade is Ireland's highest per capita spending element of the tourism economy - but was decimated within weeks of

Covid-19 erupting in 2020.

Junior Transport Minister Hildegarde Naughton indicated that some 95 cruise liners have provisionally booked to visit Dublin Port this year.

A total of 28 are set to berth in the port while a further 67 will anchor in Dublin Bay.

In 2012, Ireland hosted a total of 57 cruise liners with total passenger and crew numbers of 87,193.

However, that had soared to 100 cruise liners and 241,646 passengers by 2019.

Shipping industry officials warned last summer that it could take two or three years for the global cruise liner industry to fully recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Worth an estimated €70m to the Irish economy, the pandemic came as a crippling blow to an industry which had been expanding rapidly over the past 15 years following decades of decline after its 1950s heyday.

So great was the recent expansion of the cruise liner sector in Ireland that Cobh, Ireland's busiest liner port, was examining the development of a second cruise liner berth at Lynch's Quay.

A total of 157,000 passengers and 69,000 crew visited Cork alone in 2018 delivering a €12m boost to the Cobh and Cork economies.

Cobh had been scheduled to welcome more than 100 vessels in 2020. However, just a single liner visited Cork before the pandemic hit in 2020.

Cruise liner business is the single most lucrative element of the Irish tourism sector.

One study revealed cruise liner passengers spend an average of €81 per visit - the highest spending element of the Irish tourism sector.

Further, while the cruise liner trade is hugely lucrative for Dublin and Cork ports, it has also involved a massive spin-off benefit for day trip destinations including the Guinness Hop Store, Jameson Distillery in Midleton, Blarney Castle and even Killarney.

In 2018 it was estimated that 27.2 million people will have taken cruise holidays on over 450 cruise ships worldwide.