Lerwick's cruise season ends with record input to marine tourism

Monday, October 9, 2023 - 18:12 by lerwick

Yachting and Tall Ships mean triple contribution to Shetland economy.

Lerwick Harbour has completed its most successful cruise season yet, with the sector’s record book at the Shetland port rewritten.

The 2023 cruise programme closed on Wednesday 27 September with the arrival of AIDA Cruise Lines AIDAsol, the 129th and final vessel of the season, a new high for the Shetland port.

With 2,142 passengers on board, AIDAsol arrived from Bergen, Norway, en route to Invergordon and anchored at the inner harbour.

The 253 metre, 71,304 gross tonne AIDAsol brought the total number of passengers to a new annual high at around 124,000.

There were 19 maiden calls, the most yet in a single season. New operators – Explora Journeys and Swan Hellenic – were a feature of the year – alongside hosting cruise ships during The Tall Ships Races.

The tonnage of cruise shipping since the season opened in mid-April was a new record at 5.8M gross tonnes.

Lerwick Port Authority Cruise & Marketing Manager, Melanie Henderson, said: “The successful performance of our marine tourism sector on three overlapping fronts has made it a year like no other.

“The Shetland supply chain, the islanders with their warm welcome, stakeholders and our staff deserve the highest praise for their efforts.

“The favourable impression made on cruise operators means there are already 160 vessels booked for 2024, with the schedule yet to be finalised, and another busy yachting season is anticipated as we continue to develop marine tourism.”

This year has also seen the highest number of yachts in a season, with 594 arriving so far since March, including the 34th Bergen-Shetland Race. This was a 15% increase compared to pre-covid levels, reflecting the popularity of Lerwick as a gateway to Shetland’s many attractions.

A four-day visit by 37 vessels participating in the spectacular, international Tall Ships Races was an outstanding highlight of the tourist season. The third-time event at Lerwick, with quayside entertainment, attracted around 40,000 spectators across the four days.

Tall Ships and sail training vessels visiting Lerwick this year total 69, including 15 first-time visitors.
Lerwick's cruise season ends with record input to marine tourism
Lerwick Harbour’s quaysides were bustling with record-breaking numbers of visitors this season. (c) Ben Mullay.

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