Ireland cruising to tourism success
Ireland is set for its 12th successive year of cruise liner growth with Dublin and Cork now rivalling such famous liner ports as Naples and Monaco.
Dublin and Cobh, Co Cork confirmed busy schedules for cruise liners visiting Ireland this year with the season already underway.
Dublin alone will host almost 150 top cruise liners this year.
A special 'Cruise Ambassador' programme is now operating in Cork and Cobh to ensure passengers exploit to the full the sightseeing attractions offered in Ireland.
The scheme will see the special 'Cruise Ambassadors' board each liner as it arrives and brief passengers on the sightseeing, shopping and heritage options available.
Cork launched the scheme in a bid to target passengers who do not pre-book tours.
One estimate is that six out of 10 tourists visiting Ireland on a cruise ship make their sightseeing and shopping choices when in port.
Such is Ireland’s popularity on global cruise programmes that liners are now even visiting Irish ports over Christmas – something unheard of just 10 years ago.
Between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, four major liners berthed in Ireland complete with 5,000 passengers.
Safety and scenery add to Ireland's appeal
Ireland has re-emerged as one of the most popular cruise liner destinations as tourists demand spectacular coastal scenery, heritage destinations and quality facilities.
Ireland is also viewed as one of the world's safest holiday destinations, particularly for families.
The cruise liner trade itself has been boosted by the fact it is considered the safest element of the international tourist industry in light of recent attacks on holiday destinations in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey as well as atrocities in France and the UK.
The cruise liner season officially re-opened on April 1 – and this season will match the cruise liner heyday of the 1940s and 1950s.
“What we are seeing is that cruise liners are no longer confining themselves to the April-October season,” Port of Cork commercial director Captain Michael McCarthy explained.
“Companies are looking for an alternative to laying up their vessels for the winter months and are now trying to operate cruise itineraries year round.”
Over the next eight months, Irish ports will host some of the biggest vessels afloat including massive ships from Celebrity, Cunard, Royal Caribbean, P&O, Carnival, MSC and NCL.
Cobh invested €1.5m in enhanced quayside facilities so it can handle the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ ‘Quantum’ class of super-ships, each capable of carrying 5,000 passengers.
The Cork port, once known as Queenstown, will become the only Irish facility capable of handling the vast new super-liners.
The 2018 season now promises a €15m to €20m economic boost for the south-west region alone.
Cruise passengers are heavy-spending tourists
Cobh hosted 58 cruise liners last year but is hopeful up to 70 will dock this year.
In 2014, Ireland reported its best cruise liner trade in 60 years with a startling 50pc hike in passenger numbers at some ports.
Over 100 major cruise liners visited Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Belfast last summer with the trade now worth almost €200m to the economy.
This year, Ireland is scheduled to handle bigger vessels with significantly increased passenger numbers.
Port of Cork officials said that the popularity of Ireland and other northern European destinations is also down to the increasing quality of the tour product, increasing ship capacity, enhanced port facilities and a huge range of day trip attractions for passengers.
Cruise liner passengers are the heaviest spending tourists and, per average six hour visit, each passenger spends over €70.
Fáilte Ireland studies have shown that the sector will continue to expand with its potential amongst the highest of all Irish tourism sectors.
Two of the world’s leading cruise firms, Cunard and Royal Caribbean, have seen Ireland become one of the most popular ports on their itineraries.
The spin-off benefits for Ireland has included major business for bus tour operators who ferry passengers to sites such as Blarney, Rock of Cashel and the Cliffs of Moher and the hostelry trade in port areas.
The trade is dominated by US, UK, Australian, Canadian, French and German passengers.
However, Fáilte Ireland studies have found that, contrary to perceptions that the trade is dominated by older holidaymakers, a significant number of families are now opting for cruise holidays.
This is because of the vast range of childcare facilities on board modern vessels and the security of cruise liner holiday packages.