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‘Shame we didn’t see more’: First cruise ship visitors’ trip to Aberdeen cut short by weather chaos

Passengers of the AIDA cruise liner still "really enjoyed" their time in the city - despite the morning hassle with their delayed arrival.

Tourists Arne, Leo, Emilia, and Franziska Guenther at Union Terrace Gardens.
The recently revamped Union Terrace Gardens made a good impression to tourists Arne, Leo, Emilia, and Franziska Guenther. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

The first cruise ship visitors of 2024 have arrived in Aberdeen, hailing Union Terrace Gardens as the city’s crown jewel.

Hundreds of passengers departed the cruise liner AIDA on Monday morning, despite some complications due to the weather.

Carrying 1,998 guests and 629 crew, the German vessel ship travelled all the way from Hamburg for a day-long stopover in Aberdeen.

The AIDA cruise liner was planned to dock at the new South Harbour. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson.

Last minute change of plans leaves harbour chiefs scrambling…

As Storm Kathleen continues to batter parts of the north, the long-awaited cruise ship was unable to berth at the new £420 million South Harbour as initially planned.

Instead, it was forced to drop anchor one nautical mile away from Aberdeen beach, with passengers being shuttled to shore in small boats, each with about 80 guests at a time.

Small boats were quickly put in place to transport the passengers to shore. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

This was a slight inconvenience for those who had been looking to begin travels early in the morning to “really soak in the city”.

It also left harbour chiefs scrambling to ensure a warm welcome, with a bagpiper and Highland dancers instead taking up a spot at Duthie’s Quay near Fittie to welcome the stream of arrivals.

Everything had to be rearranged last minute to still give passenger a warm welcome. Image: Newsline/Port of Aberdeen.
There was a whole programme planned to welcome the first cruise ship passengers. Image: Newsline/Port of Aberdeen.

Passengers ‘sad’ they didn’t have more time to explore Aberdeen

The first passengers arrived at about 10.15am – two hours later than planned – while others had to wait even longer for a boat to carry them across the water.

We caught Dutch passenger Ingmar De Vries outside St Nicholas Kirkyard just as he arrived in the city centre at about 1pm.

The 51-year-old had been looking forward to his visit, having carefully planned his whole trip in advance.

AIDA cruise ship passenger Ingmar De Vries.
Ingram had a whole plan about his visit to Aberdeen. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

But due to his late arrival, he wasn’t able to capture some of the sights he had hoped to.

“We wanted to go to St Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen as we’ve heard great things about it,” he says.

“But that just won’t be possible now. It will have to be a quick walk around the city centre and then go back to ship.

“It really is a shame we didn’t have more time to go around the city.”

A cruise ship tourist taking a picture of St Machar Cathedral in Old Aberdeen.
Last year’s passengers from the AIDAaura cruise ship were thrilled with their excursion to Old Aberdeen and St Machar Cathedral. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Trip cut short – but spirits still running high

And yet, Ingmar is still upbeat, determined to make the most of his trip, visiting Union Terrace Gardens, Aberdeen Art Gallery and His Majesty’s Theatre.

Visitors getting off the Aida cruise ship at Aberdeen's North Harbour.
The morning delays meant cruise ship visitors lost about two hours of their stay in the north-east. Image: Newsline/Port of Aberdeen.
Aberdeen cruise ship visitors at Union Terrace Gardens.
His Majesty’s Theatre was a prime destination for those exploring the city centre. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

However, he sadly didn’t really catch the sparkle of the granite Aberdeen is famous for.

“I really like culture and exploring new cities, so I do like it here,” he adds with a grin.

“The architecture in the city is interesting, so there is still plenty to see.

“But why is it so grey – is it always like that?”

Ingmar wasn’t totally impressed with the colours of the Granite Mile. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

What was supposed to happen in the morning?

Much like Ingmar, Arne Guenther was also caught up in the delays.

The 43-year-old has been travelling with his wife Franziska and two children, seven-year-old Leo and five-year-old Emilia.

The family had just made it to Union Terrace Gardens when we meet them taking a photo in front of the Hollywood-style “Aberdeen” letters.

Cruise ship visitors in front of the Aberdeen sign at Union Terrace Gardens.
The huge sign spelling out ‘Aberdeen’ at UTG also caught visitors’ eye. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson.

So far, they had only managed to see a bit of Union Street and Castlegate – and were already getting ready to be whisked off back to the ship.

If everything had gone to plan, they would have grabbed a First Bus shuttle from the South Harbour to the beach, city centre and Old Aberdeen.

It is the usual plan for most – if not all – 59 cruise calls scheduled for 2024, aimed at promoting Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire as a tourist destination.

AIDA cruise ship at sea, off the coast of Aberdeen.
AIDAsol is the first of many cruise ships expected to dock at Aberdeen harbour. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

Passengers also get to chose between a range of excursions to a variety of well-known sites across the north-east – including to Dunnotar Castle and Balmoral.

However, with the unfortunate weather issues at hand, Arne and his family had to settle for a quick walk in the city this time round.

‘Union Terrace Gardens is great for tourists’

But they didn’t seem too bothered, having taken a liking to Union Terrace Gardens – hailing it as a great asset to Aberdeen, especially for tourists.

As Leo and Emilia run about the green lawn, he says they have “really enjoyed” their visit so far.

Arne, Leo, Emilia, and Franziska Guenther at Union Terrace Gardens.
Arne, Leo, Emilia, and Franziska Guenther at Union Terrace Gardens. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson.

“Union Terrace Gardens are great – especially for people like us who travel with kids,” Arne adds.

“The playground is a very nice touch. It’s always nice to come across cities that have that sort of entertainment for children in the city centre.

“The delays in the morning meant we had to leave the harbour very late and walk to the city centre, so that has taken most of our time for exploring Aberdeen.

“But still, everything we have seen so far has been really nice.”

Bookings extend as far as 2027, by which time over 100 cruise calls are anticipated, featuring industry giants like Fred, Olsen Cruises and Holland America.