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Ships ahoy! Shetland cruise season reaches mid-way point with largest ships yet

Cruise ships in Lerwick harbour.

Cruise season in Lerwick has reached its mid-way point as the town welcomes three of its largest vessels yet.

After a 17-month ban during the pandemic, the government lifted restrictions on cruise stopovers in Scottish ports last month.

Though this cruise season has been shorter than usual, the harbour in Lerwick has still had its fair share of hustle and bustle since the first ship arrived on July 19.

The Marella Explorer 2, operated by Tui, docked in Lerwick on Tuesday, making it the tenth vessel to visit the island since restrictions were lifted.

Lerwick welcomed two more ships on Thursday, one of which was Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ 780ft Bolette.

The other was the similarly huge Spirit of Adventure, operated by Saga and weighing around 58,119 gross tonnes.

Melanie Henderson is cruise and marketing manager at Lerwick Port Authority.

She said: “All the hard work, planning and preparation by everyone is paying off, with the reduced season going smoothly.

“Local businesses and the Shetland community have played their part to help prepare for what will hopefully be a full season next year and increasing input to the economy.”

Cruise ship in Lerwick harbour. Picture by Dave Donaldson.

Ships are now loaded at full capacity, though they are still restricted in where their passengers can come from.

All cruise ships anchoring in Shetland this summer are UK-based as international sailings have not yet been authorised to dock in any Scottish ports.

Local business boost

Most cruise ships visiting Shetland are allowing passengers to disembark to spend time ashore enjoying and exploring the island.

Local businesses have missed the vital tourism that cruise ships bring to both the biggest town of Lerwick and the rest of Shetland.

Emma Miller, of Living Lerwick, said: “As we continue with the recovery from Covid, retail and hospitality businesses in the town centre have been glad to welcome back local and visiting customers.

“Cruise passengers are normally a significant addition to the footfall of the town centre in the summer months and it will be a further welcome boost to businesses to see these passengers come ashore to enjoy what our town centre has to offer.”

They are likely to make the most of increased visitor numbers until the final ship arrives on September 22.

Lerwick Harbour is set for a busy few years after being announced as the host of the Tall Ship Races in 2023. 

The town’s famous Up Helly Aa fire festival will also take place in the same year after being cancelled due to the pandemic.

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