THE FIRST cruise ship to visit Shetland and Scotland since early 2020 is scheduled to arrive in Lerwick next week.
It follows the Scottish Government’s lifting of a Covid-19-related ban and the reopening of Scottish ports to cruise ships on UK-only sailings, with UK passengers, effective Monday 19 July.
Operated by Noble Caledonia, the small MS Island Sky will berth at Victoria Pier on Monday with 66 passengers on board, which is half the capacity of the vessel.
The voyage is a full circumnavigation of the UK, taking in some rarely visited and remote locations en-route, both before and after Lerwick.
Head of fleet operations for Noble Caledonia Mike Deegan said “our strict Covid-safe protocols, both on board and ashore, will ensure we shall visit with safety of local communities and those on-board paramount”.
Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Captain Calum Grains said: “We’ve been working through the many steps required with all interested parties to ensure that Covid measures are in place to protect everyone involved during cruise ship visits.
“These measures meet official requirements and complement the comprehensive steps taken by cruise operators which set some of the highest standards seen in the tourism industry.”
In the initial phase of restarting, all passengers coming ashore at Lerwick are likely to travel in “bubbles” of up to 15 and observing all precautions.
VisitScotland Shetland manager Steve Mathieson said: “The news the Scottish Government is allowing resumption of domestic cruise visits to Scottish ports is a major boost for the industry and it’s great Shetland will be one of the first to benefit.
“The industry has developed excellent Covid-19 protocols for both onboard ship and port excursions, with community safety central to the measures in place. I know Shetlanders will welcome this cautious and responsible approach.
“The return of passengers will be a welcome financial boost for bus operators, tour guides, attractions and retailers. Tourism is a force for good, creating economic and social value in every corner of Scotland and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it.”
Captain Grains added it will be a “significant milestone in the road to recovery from Covid and rebuilding the industry’s important contribution to the Shetland and Scottish economy”.
Only two cruise ships visited Shetland in 2020, both in February.
There is potential for a number of other cruise ships to visit Lerwick in the remainder of the season through to October. There are strong bookings for 2022 and into 2023, the port said.
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