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Lerwick becomes first Scottish port to welcome back cruise ships

scottish cruise
MS Island Sky arrives in Lerwick, marking the long-awaited return of cruise ships to Scotland.

A cruise ship visited a Scottish port for the first time in nearly 18 months this morning (July 19), when the MS Island Sky berthed in Lerwick.

Carrying 66 passengers, half of its total capacity, the Noble Caledonia-operated vessel arrived in the Shetland town’s harbour – at Victoria Pier – as part of a tour of the UK.

Its visit has coincided with the Scottish Government’s lifting of a Covid-19-related ban and the re-opening of ports to liners carrying British passengers on UK-only sailings.

We look forward to welcoming cruise ships back to enjoy our world-famous attractions, scenery and warm hospitality.”

Rob Mason, chairman, Cruise Scotland

Coronavirus measures are in place on all ships to protect everyone involved during port visits, as part of stringent steps being taken by cruise operators to reduce risk.

Rob Mason, chairman of marketing organisation Cruise Scotland, said: “Over the last year the cruise sector has worked tirelessly with the Scottish and UK governments and industry partners to develop and strengthen health and safety measures, which now exceed those of any other travel sector and are the result of extensive collaboration.

“The decision to resume cruise is a welcome encouragement for our Scottish ports and harbours, with the wider supply chain now able to recommence operations – welcoming UK sailings and UK passengers only – after a period of nearly 18 months, following a voluntary suspension of visits in March 2020.”

The MSC Meraviglia arrived in the Cromarty Firth in 2018, on her way to Orkney.

Cruise Scotland’s membership includes 16 ports and harbours on the Scottish mainland and the islands, supported by a diverse supply chain of businesses including ships agents, ground handlers, stevedores, and car parking and shore excursion providers, all of which have had a challenging 18 months.

Mr Mason added: ‘‘The health and well-being of passengers, crew, shore-side staff and the communities visited are paramount, and the current protocols have already been extensively tested.

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“Almost 600,000 people have sailed on cruises since last summer elsewhere around the globe, which includes many English ports and harbours since May of this year.

“Collectively and individually, the Cruise Scotland membership place great emphasis on the safety of local communities which are a key part of the industry and will share in the recovery.

“We look forward to welcoming cruise ships back to enjoy our world-famous attractions, scenery and warm hospitality. The arrival of the first vessel today reflects the pent-up demand by both passengers and operators to visit Scotland.”

The Caribbean Princess, docked at Invergordon in 2013.

Mr Mason said Scotland-wide bookings for the rest of this season were “very encouraging” and would be the springboard for a gradual recovery in the sector.

He added: “There are healthy volumes of bookings for next year and 2023. The restart and outlook reinforce plans to relaunch our marketing campaign and return in time to record levels of activity, making significant contributions to the Scottish economy, while ensuring all involved are in safe hands.”

Lerwick Port Authority has said that, in the initial phase of restarting cruise operations, all passengers coming ashore are likely to travel in “bubbles” of up to 15 people, observing all precautions.

The Shetland port has seen a dramatic drop in business across all sectors, due to Covid-19.

Another north port prepares to welcome a cruise ship again

Meanwhile, Port of Cromarty Firth will welcome its first cruise ship since 2019 with the arrival of the Marella Explorer 2 on Sunday (July 25).

The 72,000-tonne Marella Explorer 2 will be making her inaugural call to Invergordon, with a further three calls throughout the season, carrying British passengers and calling at UK ports only.

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