The UK’s Portland Port has claimed a record year as its cruise line business continued to grow.
It welcomed more than 130,000 pax – the largest number in its 27-year history as a commercial port – which involved 56 ships between April and November, 2023.
Visits to the South Dorset port made a contribution in excess of £10 mill to the local economy. This was on top of shuttle bus, support services and salaries provided by the port.
The port has invested heavily in its infrastructure for several years, the largest of which being £26 mill on the 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.
It was christened by ‘MSC Virtuosa’ on 28th April with 5,015 pax – the most on board any ship until she returned with 6,025 passengers on 26th October.
The new berth also played host to the largest double cruise day in October when the ‘Norwegian Star’, with 2,269 pax, and the ‘MSC Euribia’, with 5,227 pax, both called, giving a total of 7,496 pax.
The first call of the season was made by the ‘AIDAbella’ on 7th March. She was followed by Holland America Lines’ ‘Zuiderdam’ on 15th April and Hurtigruten’s ‘Otto Sverdrup’ on 16th April, which both made their inaugural visits.
Other ships to make their first visit were the ‘Oceania Vista’, ‘Oceania Riviera’, ‘Disney Dream’, ‘MSC Euribia’ and ‘AIDAmar’.
The final cruise call this year was the ‘AIDAmar’ on 14th November when she arrived with 2,134 pax.
In addition, during the year, Portland Port hosted trade association Cruise Britain’s annual summer gathering for the first time held in partnership with Princess Cruises.
Ian McQuade, Portland Port’s Commercial General Manager and Chair of Cruise Britain, said: “Our record season shows how Portland continues to increase in popularity as a cruise destination.
“Our location so close to the main English Channel shipping lanes at the heart of the Jurassic Coast makes Portland Port an attractive transit port for guests wishing to see the many and varied attractions of Dorset and beyond.
“We’re grateful for the support of all of those who made 2023 such a successful year and helped us inject more than £10 mill into the local economy while raising the profile of the area and its many attractions.
“Planning for the 2024 season is already well underway. We have cruise calls planned for 10 out of 12 months next year with an early start to the season in February.
“The cruise calls don’t just fall into our laps. We have to work hard to attract the cruise lines and then even harder to ensure that we provide excellent service when they are in port.
“Our complimentary shuttle service taking passengers into the nearby town of Weymouth is hugely popular and very much appreciated by our cruise visitors but remains under constant review to ensure it operates in the best way possible. The support we receive from the Dorset Volunteer Ambassadors in Weymouth is also greatly appreciated in this regard.
“Next year looks set to be another busy and successful season in the development of the cruise industry in Dorset and we look forward to sharing more details about our exciting plans in due course,” he said.
The Portland Port estate employs around 300 people in non-seasonal work. Portland Port itself directly employs 54 out of the 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 the direct employment.