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Belfast welcomes 1,000th cruise ship call to the city

Posted 07 Oct, 2021

NITA welcomes the milestone, describing the sharp increase in the number of ships docking as a real boost to the economy.

Cruise Belfast, the partnership between Belfast Harbour and Visit Belfast, has today welcomed the 1,000th cruise ship call to Belfast.

The MS Queen Elizabeth arrived in Belfast today, marking a significant milestone for tourism in Northern Ireland, as well as the region’s gradual economic recovery from the pandemic.

Cruise tourism to the city restarted in June this year, with domestic, UK-only cruise itineraries and, to date, the arrival of MS Queen Elizabeth is the 66th cruise call to Belfast this year. The MS Queen Elizabeth, which is Cunard’s newest luxury ocean liner, first visited Belfast in 2016 and this will be her sixth call to Belfast Harbour.

The celebrated arrival of the ‘Berlin’, the first cruise ship to arrive into Belfast in 1996, marked the start of what has been a huge success story for tourism in Northern Ireland, with cruise calls growing year on year, welcoming an incredible 1.7m visitors in the 25 year period.

2019 was a record year for cruise calls, with 146 vessels bringing 285,000 visitors to Northern Ireland, before cruise operations temporarily ceased due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Joanne Stuart, chief executive of the NI Tourism Alliance said: “It is great to see this milestone celebrated and it is down to the amazing work of everyone involved at Visit Belfast and Belfast Harbour .

The number of ships docking has doubled in the three years to 2019. Pre-pandemic, in 2019, some 275,000 cruise passengers visited Belfast, a record, pumping around £15m into the wider economy, but that is a conservative estimate.”

She added; “It is good for tour guides, bus operators, and attractions with different regions benefitting as day trips are organised across Northern Ireland. In addition, hospitality and retail benefit from this additional spend.

“There are also benefits bringing new people to Belfast, with stories of them coming back, either for leisure or business,” added Ms Stuart, who also highlights that Londonderry has seen increases in cruise traffic, which she described as really important.'

Belfast was named by Cruise Critic as the ‘Best Port of Call’ in the UK and Ireland in 2019 for cruise ships following an investment by the Port to create new quayside facilities and funding from Tourism Northern Ireland for a dedicated cruise Visitor Information Point. Managed and staffed by Visit Belfast, the terminal uses the latest digital and audio-visual technology to help travel advisors showcase the range of visitor attractions on offer across Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Full press release from Visit Belfast available to read here