Belfast Harbour Named Best Cruise Port

Following a record year for cruise tourism to Northern Ireland, Belfast Harbour has been named the best port of call in the UK and Ireland for cruise ships.

The accolade was awarded by a global panel of cruise experts as part of the 2019 Cruise Critic Editors' Pick Awards.

It follows a record-breaking 2019 cruise season for the city with 146 cruise calls and 280,000 visitors. This year's season also saw the first dedicated cruise terminal open on the island following a £500,000 investment by Belfast Harbour and Tourism NI.

The welcome facility, which now includes a Visitor Information Centre managed by Visit Belfast also boasts new facilities for coaches and taxis, and an easily accessible deep water berth to accommodate larger cruise ships. The judges were impressed by the terminal, and praised its location for providing "easy access to the city's world-class attractions, such as Titanic Belfast in the city's famous Titanic Quarter".

Joe O'Neill, CEO of Belfast Harbour, welcomed the accolade. He said: "Considering the quality of other destinations in the UK and Ireland, we're delighted to win the award.

"Cruise tourism fits with Belfast Harbour's wider commitment to support the city's development through the creation of an iconic waterfront for Belfast. A successful cruise tourism sector will encourage new tourist and leisure projects, and further enhance Belfast's reputation as a leading destination including within the cruise market."

Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast added: "In the 20 years since Visit Belfast was established, we have worked with Belfast Harbour to attract cruise visitors to the city and region, and the result has been an enormous increase in the number of visitors and ships coming to the city. In total, Cruise Belfast has brought 784 ships to the city since 1999, and in the last five years alone, cruise visitor numbers have increased by 135%.

"Cruise is now a key contributor to Belfast's tourism economy, and that is down to investment in infrastructure, and the commitment of our tourism industry partners to providing more and better products for visitors to enjoy while they are here."

The awards are based on Cruise Critic editors' impartial cruise expertise which draws upon first-hand experiences and industry knowledge.

Adam Coulter, UK Managing Editor of Cruise Critic said Northern Ireland has capitalised on the growing desire for experiential holidays, especially amongst younger travellers.

"There is more choice than ever before in ocean, river and expedition cruises as a result of an array of exciting new ships launched this year and next. Whether you are cruising as a multi-generational family, a couple or solo, there really is a cruise for everyone," Mr Coulter said.

In addition to its record-breaking cruise season, Belfast Harbour also welcomed a number of firsts during 2019. These included the visits of 'Disney Magic' and SAGA's first ever new build vessel, the 'Spirit of Discovery'. The port also welcomed 6,500 visitors and crew onboard the 'MSC Meraviglia', the largest ship by passenger capacity to ever visit Belfast.

Belfast Harbour has also invested in new facilities to market Belfast as a cruise embarkation port. Cruise & Maritime has already scheduled a number of departures from Belfast for next summer including Norwegian Fjord and British Isles itineraries.

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