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My day as a cruise ship ‘meet and greeter’ at Aberdeen harbour

As a proud Aberdonian, Press and Journal journalist Kelly Wilson relished the chance to shout about her city.

Kelly joins the volunteers to meet & greet tourists coming off the Azamara Pursuit cruise ship. 
Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
Kelly joins the volunteers to meet & greet tourists coming off the Azamara Pursuit cruise ship. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

As a born and bred Aberdonian I’m very proud of my city and what it has to offer.

The arrival of cruise ships and the thousands of tourists who come with them is a big deal for the Granite City and I wanted to be part of it.

A couple of months ago I spent some time with the cruise ship “meet-and-greet” volunteers as they underwent their training in preparation for ships arriving.

So now I thought it was time for me to join them in action and shout about what Aberdeen and the north-east has to offer.

Helping them with any questions and throwing in some of my own recommendations along the way.

Cruise meet and greet team ready for action at Aberdeen

On its arrival at the new South Harbour I couldn’t help but be impressed by the size of the ship, Azamara Pursuit.

The vessel was built in 2001 at a cost of £150 million. It is one of nearly 40 visits planned by cruise ships to Port of Aberdeen’s harbour this year.

Kelly was impressed at the size of the Azamara Pursuit vessel. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Passengers on board were mostly Americans and visiting the Granite City as part of a 14-night ‘Scotland Intensive Voyage’ cruise having spent two days in Edinburgh.

Armed with my blue volunteer jacket, clipboard and maps I patiently waited for the first of the 320 passengers to disembark.

I had joined up for the morning with fellow volunteers and meet-and-greet team Yvonne Cook, Janet Hosie and John Robertson, recruited by VisitAberdeenshire.

Meet-and-greet team Yvonne Cook, Kelly Wilson, John Robertson and Janet Hosie all set to meet passengers. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

The passion and enthusiasm of them all were very clear from the moment I met them. Just the right people for the job.

Turning up I must admit I was curious as to where the tourists would be keen to visit.

Being an Aberdeen Football Club season ticket holder for 26 years, if I had my way I’d make sure a visit to Pittodrie Stadium was on everyone’s list.

I could see the first of the passengers making their way off the boat and it was time to spring into action.

First visit to Scotland for many

With a big smile on my face, because of course, Aberdonians are known for our friendly manner, my first line was “Welcome to Aberdeen”.

This phrase was one I knew I’d be using quite a bit as the morning went on.

One of the first couples I spoke to was Janet Newman and John Gerhardt who were from California and making their first visit to Scotland.

Janet Newman and John Gerhardt with Kelly Wilson.

After stepping onto the dock John spoke about his enthusiasm about their upcoming day round the north-east.

Three of the places they knew they wanted to visit were Aberdeen Art Gallery, Dunnottar Castle and Stonehaven.

John said: “I’m really looking forward to walking around the town and seeing things I don’t expect.

“I’ve also heard good things about Aberdeen Art Gallery.”

Deciding on a taxi being the best mode of transport I was able to give them numbers for a few local companies.

However, I decided to go one better and call the taxi myself which was gratefully received by the couple.

Janet said: “The Scottish people are extremely friendly. Friendlier than Californians definitely.”

Not only that. The pair asked for a photo with me to show their family back home which is when I realised just how much the service offered by the meet and greet team is appreciated.

I must admit I was a bit taken aback but happy to provide more memories of their trip to Aberdeen.

Planned excursions an option

With Janet and John on their way it was time to get back to work as passengers continued to make their way off the boat.

Some had left earlier to board buses for planned excursions to Pitmedden Garden, Gordon Highlanders Museum and the Dunnottar Castle & Stonehaven Cliff Walk.

Passengers made their way to buses for planned excursions. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Many were keen to wait for the free shuttle buses offered by tour operator Azamara Club Cruises which dropped them off at the north ferry terminal.

But there were plenty of cruise passengers looking to make their own plans and it wasn’t long before I was in action again.

I was approached by Fabio Lombardi, Azamara Pursuit business operations manager, who was keen to make the most of his time by visiting Old Aberdeen and Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Kelly chats to Fabio Lombardi who was in search of a good cup of tea. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

But I’ll admit his next request took me a bit by surprise. The Brazilian was keen to find somewhere to buy tea.

After a bit of thinking I was glad to be able to point him in the direction of MacBeans in Little Belmont Street.

With that Fabio was delighted and looking forward to his day of exploring.

Popular attractions

Dee and Gary Crossen were planning a trip to Drum Castle but after that wanted to see Footdee, or Fittie as I called it to them, and Greyhope Bay visitor centre to see the dolphins.

Gary said: “This is our first time in Aberdeen and we are looking forward to it.

Kelly speaking to Dee and Gary Crossen. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

“We have seen Scotland but only on the TV.”

As my time was coming to an end I started thinking about where had been the most popular places for the passengers and there was no doubting the clear winner – Dunnottar Castle.

Volunteer coordinator Yvonne said both Dunnottar and Crathes Castle have been favourites along with the city centre and Old Aberdeen.

Memorable experience

Just before my shift was coming to an end I was approached by a lovely man who wanted to thank us for all the help describing it as very “hospitable”.

A credit to all the great work being carried out by Yvonne and her team.

As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience.

I’d always known how much Aberdeen has to offer and if anything it has made me even prouder of my city.

Without a doubt I would definitely pull on the blue jacket again should I be needed.

‘It’s better than Edinburgh!’ A day in the life of a cruise ship visitor seeing Old Aberdeen for the first time