Scotland’s busiest cruise liner port is on course for another record-breaking year with an “extraordinary” 45% increase in visiting passengers.
Around 142,000 seafaring holidaymakers are expected to visit Invergodon, aboard 91 vessels, during this year’s cruise season, which gets underway next month.
The Easter Ross harbour’s operators, the Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) say the influx will bring an estimated £14million boost to the Highland economy.
In 2016, passenger numbers of 97,993, aboard 63 ships that visited Invergordon, outstripped all other Scottish ports serving the liner industry.
“We have been seeing a steady increase in the number of cruise passengers visiting Invergordon over the years, but 2017 looks like it is going to be extraordinary,” the PocF’s cruise manager, Captain Iain Dunderdale, said yesterday.
“Some of the world’s largest cruise ships will be coming into the port this year, taking advantage of the deep water we have to offer.
“This is really good news for businesses across the Highlands and I look forward to welcoming new and returning vessels into the Port over the coming months.”
The first liner to visit Invergordon this year will been the AIDAvita, which is due to arrive on April 12, carrying 1,200 passengers. The season will finish later than usual, on December 3, with the visit of 800 winter holidaymakers aboard the Black Watch.
Mr Dunderdale added: “We are looking forward to welcoming eight new cruise ships this year, including MSC Cruises’ MSC Preziosa, which will carry 3,500 passengers and Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ new flagship Columbus, which will carry 1,750 passengers.”
Last year the PoCF unveiled plans for a £25million upgrade of cruise ship facilities at Invergordon, including the development of a new liner berth and passenger facilities. The trust port’s chief executive, Bob Buskie, said the improvements were “essential” to cater for a new generation of liners carrying more than 5,000 people.
Yesterday, Mr Buskie said: “The cruise sector has a crucial role to play in the Cromarty Firth area, supporting the creation of local jobs in a number of areas including tour guides, shipping agents, ground handling staff, transport providers, pipers, and the employees of local distilleries, golf clubs and the hospitality industry.
“This year, we also have plans to help more local businesses and attractions tailor what they do to fit cruise lines and their passengers. We held a workshop in Inverness and introduced over 30 different tourist destinations and visitor attractions to the industry.”