Taller than Liberty Hall - Dublin Port welcomes largest ever cruise ship
MSC Splendida calling
Dublin Port is celebrating the launch of its 2015 cruise season with the arrival of a cruise ship taller than Liberty Hall.
MSC Splendida, a 333-metre giant carrying over 4,600 passengers and crew, arrived this morning, pushing the port to its operational limits.
Passengers who disembarked from the ship were welcomed onto dry land by a live ceili band and other entertainment.
The ship - ranking as the world's 11th longest - makes maritime history as the largest ever to dock in the capital, according to the Dublin Port Company.
It is one of 83 cruise ships scheduled to call at Dublin this season.
Carrying 3,247 passengers (mostly from mainland Europe), MSC's Fantasia-class ship is described as "stylishly big, bold and brash" by influential cruise site cruisecritic.co.uk.
The ship, which debuted in 2009, features over a dozen bars and lounges, four swimming pools, a spa, Turkish baths and a Formula 1 simulator spread over its 18 decks.
A 300m operational limit on ship length at Dublin Port means MSC Splendida had to reverse into the River Liffey in order to dock.
A cabin on MSC Splendida
Traditionally based out of the US, cruise lines are investing more and more in European business and itineraries - with Royal Caribbean's newest Quantum Class ship, Anthem of the Seas, spending its debut season based out of Southampton, for instance.
1.64 million cruise holidays were sold in the UK and Ireland last year, according to figures from the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade body.
Though cruise passengers don't spend in hotels and restaurants to the same extent as other visitors, they can contribute handsomely to local jobs, tourist attractions and other businesses.
Dublin Port's Masterplan (2012-2040) cites an annual income of €50 million from cruise business, with "real potential" to combine with Dublin Airport in developing the city into a commencement port.
In total, Dublin Port expects to welcome 140,000 passengers in 2015.
This year, the Port of Cork also has a cruise call schedule of some 50 ships (including MSC Splendida tomorrow), contributing millions to the local economy in Cork.
Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas in Cobh (2012)
Bringing ships closer to Dublin City (as opposed to anchoring in the bay) is important in tourism terms, as it creates a visual link and dramatic backdrop both for passengers and businesses standing to benefit from them.
In the future, Dublin Port Company’s Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project is intended to allow larger ships of all types, including the world’s largest cruise ships, to routinely call to Dublin Port.
The project provides for cruise ships berthing upriver at the East Link Bridge, with the ability to execute turns in the expanded Alexandra Basin West. Once complete, it will mean that Dublin Port can handle the world’s top ten largest cruise liners, including the 360m Allure of the Seas.
“All the signs from the cruise lines point to Dublin as the port of choice for their passengers, and we are confident that this demand will heighten further next year,” says Dublin Port Company Chief Executive, Eamonn O’Reilly.
Following the loss of Stena Line's Holyhead route, Dun Laoghaire is also drawing up a planning application for a €15 million 'jumbo' cruise facility for submission to An Bord Pleanala.
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