Warrenpoint moves into another gear
Warrenpoint Port is entering its third year of cruise but with new energy and focus, having recently taken on Catriona Dowling in the role of harbour master for the port. Employing Dowling, who was a navigation officer on board the QE2 and also spent several years working onboard P&O Cruises' and Princess Cruises' vessels, means that the port has expert industry knowledge close on hand. Dowling, who is a qualified ship’s captain, also comes from three years’ experience of working as assistant and later deputy harbour master in Belfast Harbour. With this appointment to a new role, she becomes the first female harbour master on the Island of Ireland.
The first ship to call Warrenpoint Harbour, the port she calls the “calm between two storms” of Dublin and Belfast, was Saga Pearl II on the July 20 2014. This year saw a return visit from Saga Pearl II and additional visits from the vessels Hebridean Princess and Bremen as the port begins to build in popularity within the cruise industry. Warrenpoint Harbour has proven to be so popular with the passengers on board the Saga Pearl II that Saga Cruises has already confirmed their third call to the port on September 18 2017.
Ships up to 165m in length can come alongside in the heart of this picturesque Victorian seaside town with its historic promenade, swimming baths, bandstand and parks. Passengers can walk into town or hop on a train to either Dublin or Belfast, each of which are just an hour away.
Shore excursions are available to sites such as Narrow Water Castle, Clonallon Park, Donaghguy Reservoir and Ross’ Monument, as well as for activities such as clay pigeon shooting, golf, fishing, dirt-track biking and watersports. These are, however, just some of the possibilities on offer to passengers in this diverse region which also boasts the town of Newry renowned for those wishing to indulge in a spot of retail therapy, conveniently located only a short drive away.
Dowling explains that Warrenpoint and Carlingford Lough is not competing directly with the larger ports but sees Warrenpoint as an opportunity for cruise vessels to increase the number of calls in the region and to offer passengers an alternative experience in Ireland.
Passengers visiting the region would be able to take advantage of the attractions of the major cities but also have the opportunity to experience the contrast of a port more akin to the Norwegian fjords. Warrenpoint is situated at the head of Carlingford Lough in a glacial valley formed during the last Ice Age approximately 20,000 years ago. It is framed by the Mourne Mountains, creating breathtaking scenery providing plenty of photo opportunities.
Looking forward, Dowling says: “We are keen to promote Warrenpoint and indeed Carlingford Lough as a cruise destination and we hope that other companies will see what Saga Cruises has already experienced, that Warrenpoint and Carlingford Lough is a passenger experience not to be missed.”