Portland Port expects stellar year

2024-03-01T18:12:15+00:00 March 1st, 2024|Ports|

On 19th February, the UK’s Portland Port welcomed its first cruise ship of 2024 when the ‘AIDAsol’ arrived with more than 2,000 pax.

Her call marked the start of an 11-month long season with 47 vessel visits and 110,000 pax due in South Dorset from February to December.

Guests from the ship, which is operated by AIDA Cruises for mostly German speaking tourists, travelled into Weymouth and the local area during the eight-hour stop over.

Cruise calls are estimated to contribute £10 mill to the local economy annually with most calls booked two years in advance.

Portland Ports’ CEO, Ian McQuade said: “It was wonderful to see our first cruise ship of 2024 arrive. The cruise market continues to grow in the UK and globally. A great deal of hard work constantly goes into winning valuable cruise business for Portland in the face of tough competition across the UK and Europe.

“The vast majority of cruise calls this year were booked two years ago in 2022 and we are already well advanced in planning our itinerary for 2025 and 2026.

“As well as raising the profile of the area and contributing to the local economy, cruise ship visits extend the tourist season beyond the summer peak.

“We’re grateful for the warm welcome and support provided by local residents, businesses, tourist attractions and organisations who see the benefit of cruise visits for the area.

“We’re looking forward to another superb year sharing the delights of our area with tourists from all over the world whilst supporting the growth of the local economy,” he said.

Some 2,194 pax, plus more than 600 crew arrived on the ‘AIDAsol’ when she moored at the port’s new £26 mill deepwater berth.

She visited Portland as the penultimate stop of a 117-day world tour, which ended in Hamburg on 21st February. It was her inaugural visit to Portland, the first of five calls at the port this year.

There are cruise calls in 10 out of 12 months this year at Portland – every month except January and March.

Vessels due at Portland include the ‘Disney Dream’ in September, the ‘Caribbean Princess’ in May, TUI Cruises’ ‘Mein Schiff 3’ in June, Oceania’s ‘Nautica’ in August and, Holland America’s ‘Rotterdam’ in October before the final call of the season on 10th December by ‘AIDAmar’.

Portland Port is also to welcome two first time French visitors, PONANT’s ‘Le Champlain’ and CFC’s ‘Renaissance’. CFC is a new French cruise line that started operations last year and is planning to make three calls at Portland in 2024.

There are a total of nine inaugural calls this year. As well as ‘AIDAsol’, ‘Le Champlain’ and ‘Renaissanc’e, they are Princess Cruises’ ‘Sun Princess’ and Caribbean Princess’, Norwegian Cruises Lines’ ‘Norwegian Pearl’, Regent Seven Seas’ ‘Seven Seas Mariner’, Seabourn’s’ ‘Seabourn Sojurn’ and Oceania Cruises’ ‘Sirena’.

The ‘Sun Princess’ is not only making her inaugural visit to Portland, she is also a brand new ship in her inaugural season.

Portland Port supplies a complimentary shuttle service for cruise passengers to visit Weymouth, which remains under constant review to ensure it operates in the best way possible.

The port has contracted a professional traffic management company for all calls, which includes the provision of traffic marshals, and has worked with bus operators to stagger the arrival of vehicles and limit the number on the road at any one time.

The port’s £10 mill contribution to the local economy is based on industry figures and includes spending by day excursion visitors to shops, bars, cafes and takeaways, along with expenditure on numerous local tourism attractions, tours of the UNESCO world heritage sites of the Jurassic Coast, Stonehenge and Bath, taxis and coaches.

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) trade body, 63% of cruise visitors revisit a destination they first visited on a cruise call – offering the potential for long term benefits for Weymouth and Portland, as well as on the day of a cruise call itself.

Portland Port has invested heavily in its infrastructure over several years, the largest investment being £26 mill on its deepwater berth, to increase capacity and capability.

This has allowed the port to welcome larger vessels, including ships up to 350 m in length on opposite berths on the same day.

The Portland Port estate provides employment for about 300 people in non-seasonal work. The port itself directly employs 57 out of this total.

About half of the people employed live on Portland and the rest in Weymouth, or very close by.

There are also indirect employees – such as at hauliers and suppliers – as a consequence of direct employment.

Another UK port, Associated British Ports’ (ABP) Plymouth, cruise bookings are up 40% on 2023 with the port due to handle 10,000 passengers this season, according to Cruise Britain.

Calls will start in April and continue until October. Inquiries are coming in for next year and 2026. The bookings are from operators based in the USA: Germany, France and the UK.

“Plymouth, Britain’s Ocean City, has been working hard to cement our reputation as a must-see port of call and a great many people are busy behind the scenes to make these cruise visits a huge success,” said Amanda Lumley, Destination Plymouth’s CEO.

“We recently hosted a two-day familiarisation visit by some cruise industry representatives, including cruise line executives, cruise media and a cruise line shipmanagement representative, to showcase some of the top attractions we have to offer…The Cruise Plymouth Partnership pulled out all of the stops to ensure our cruise industry guests’ visit was memorable, “ she said.

Around 14 cruise ships are expected to arrive at Plymouth this year – Ambassador Cruise Line’s ‘Ambition’ and ‘Ambience’ will be among the several ships calling at Plymouth for the first time in 2024.

Others include Noble Caledonia’s ‘Exploris One’, Oceania’s ‘Sirena’, Phoenix Reisen’s ‘Artania’, ‘Amadea’, and ‘Amera’, Ponant’s ‘Le Dumont D’urville’, Seabourn’s ‘Seabourn Venture’ and ‘Seabourn Sojourn’, Silversea’s ‘Silver Dawn’ and ‘Silver Spirit’ and Windstar Cruises’ ‘Star Legend’.

Plymouth’s cruise industry also has the support of Plymouth Waterfront Partnership – a not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve the entire visitor experience along the waterfront.

“Plymouth’s cruise business is going from strength to strength and enhancing the city’s reputation on an international level,” said Glen Gardner, Destination Plymouth’s new BDM – cruise. “The familiarisation visits have proved very popular, and were incredibly well-received, with more already planned.”

The facilities at Millbay Dock are being upgraded through an ABP multi-million pound investment programme to improve conditions for passengers and for cruise ships berthing.

The work is due to be completed before the 2025 season gets underway.

In 2021, the Cruise Plymouth Partnership was created to increase the number of cruise calls to the city. It includes the Cattewater Harbour Commissioners, ABP Mill Bay, Destination Plymouth, Business Improvement District (BID,) Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, Plymouth City Centre Company, Plymouth City Council, among others.