| 15.5°C Dublin

Visit by Queen Mary 2 allows coastal town to harbour hope

She appeared out of the misty rain at the mouth of Dun Laoghaire harbour – the largest cruise liner ever built.

It took three years of delicate negotiations but it paid off when the Queen Mary 2 weighed anchor off the Dublin coast as it docked for a flying one-day visit.

Hundreds of residents were up at the crack of dawn to enjoy the spectacle as the Queen Mary 2 sailed majestically to Dun Laoghaire harbour, signifying a new dawn for an old port.

A piper played traditional Irish tunes on the wharf and the excited passengers clamoured to have their picture taken with him.

Cruise veterans Brenda and John Leatherbarrow, from Liverpool, enjoyed their crossing greatly, saying they had never seen anything like the QM2 for pure luxury. It's the longest, tallest and most expensive liner every built.

"They had everything you could possibly want," marvelled Brenda.

And retired chef Hugo Rock from Berlin in Germany, travelling with his wife Karin, said this had been his third time on the QM2 and his fifth Cunard cruise. "It is very, very fine," he added.

It had been almost 20 years since cruise ships of any size had stopped off in Dun Laoghaire, let alone any that came close to the impressive scale of the QM2. With more than five ferry sailings a day, by 1996 there was no room for cruise ships in the south Dublin harbour.

Then suddenly, with the recession, ferry services dropped off significantly and the harbour lay empty and redundant but for the tiny yachts and pleasure crafts of local residents.

And so three years ago, the authorities began to look around them again, realising it was time to welcome back the cruise ships – and a serious drive began to woo them.

The local business association, harbour company and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Co Council came together to form a cruise stakeholders group to encourage the industry to come, selling the port on its size, lack of freight ships, proximity to Dublin and good public transport links.

But in the end, it all came down to one surprising and very ordinary factor – the cruise ships wanted wifi and Dun Laoghaire agreed to 'beam' it out to them.

Gerry Dunne, chairman of the harbour company said he received an email from the captain of the QM2 first thing yesterday morning, thanking him for the wifi.

"He was blown away by it – he said it was the first time this had been done for them on any of their stopovers," revealed Mr Dunne.

With over 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew, the visit was expected to generate around half-a- million euro for the area.

Don McManus, chairman of the Dun Laoghaire Business Association, said a total 14 cruise ships are expected to dock at the harbour this year.

Irish Independent