JUST before daybreak on a beautiful Shetland autumn morning the largest cruise liner ever to visit Lerwick harbour dropped her anchor at Breiwick.
The arrival of the 290 metre liner Grand Princess rounds off a successful summer season for Lerwick Port Authority, with 48 cruise ships entering the port during the last five months.
The 2,300 passengers on board the Grand Princess will push the number of cruise passengers visiting Shetland this year beyond the 30,000 mark for the first time.
The 108,806 gross tonne vessel arrived from Bergen, in Norway, this morning and is due to leave Lerwick later this afternoon bound for the Faroe Islands as part of a 14 day cruise that will take it across the Atlantic for the start of the season in the Caribbean.
Port deputy chief executive Victor Sandison said: “Today marks the end of a very successful cruise liner season here at Lerwick. We welcomed this year a record number of passengers, and also a record tonnage of cruise ships, and of course the Grand Princess is the biggest ship that we have welcomed to date.”
Preparations to make next year’s season even more successful are already well under way with many bookings for 2011 already confirmed.
Mr Sandison said the port authority was keen to be ahead of the game in what is seen as a major growth area of the tourism industry across the globe.
“The cruise traffic we see is very important to the port, value wise about £1.8 million to the Shetland economy. We are very keen to support this growing market and provide the facilities the largest ships require.
“Next year, of course, we already have 44 cruise ships due here at Lerwick, and we are also looking at increased tonnage and more passengers as well.”
The vessels are getting even bigger than the Grand Princess. The port authority confirmed that they will welcome two more record breakers next year, the 113,651 tonne Crown Princess on 7 June and the 114,500 tonne Costa Pacifica four days later.
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