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Community / Cruise ship to call into Lerwick for Up Helly Aa

An image from the 2020 UHA procession. Photo: Chris Brown

A CRUISE ship with a capacity for up to 1,350 passengers is set to visit Shetland in January next year to allow tourists the chance to take in Lerwick Up Helly Aa.

The Fred Olsen cruise is scheduled to arrive into Lerwick early morning on Tuesday 26 January before leaving late night after the procession.

But the visit could potentially give rise to capacity concerns, with the torch-lit procession an already busy spectacle for locals and tourists.

The Wintertime Fjords with Shetland’s Up Helly Aa trip is an unusual departure from the summer season for cruise ships arriving into Lerwick.

It also marks a rare itinerary which has Shetland as a main destination, rather than a stop-off on a trip elsewhere.

Fred Olsen’s Balmoral cruise ship will take passengers from Southampton to Shetland via Norway before returning to England again.

The cruise’s blurb says passengers will “catch the Viking parade in the evening and see hundreds of guizers, dressed in traditional Viking costume and carrying flaming torches, march the streets before partaking in the ceremonial burning of a replica Viking ship”.

Lerwick North councillor Stephen Leask said it remains to be seen if an influx of passengers could create congestion issues with the procession.

“It would probably need to be looked into,” he said.

“But at the same time I think it might be good for the street traders as well. I don’t look at it too negatively.”