CRUISE ships are set to return to Lerwick this year as early as February in a boost to the sector in its ongoing recovery from the Covid pandemic.
Swiss-based Viking Cruises has booked five visits with its new 900-passenger Viking Venus in the first quarter of 2022, starting with its maiden call on 3 February at Mair’s Pier.
It will be the earliest start yet to the cruise season in Shetland.
While there have previously been early arrivals in late February and March, the main season generally starts in April.
Meanwhile Viking Cruises has booked 20 calls in Lerwick this year – the highest number by a single operator in Shetland.
With schedules for this year subject to finalisation, there are currently more than 100 ships lined up to call at Lerwick, which could mean record numbers of passengers, vessels and tonnage of shipping.
The cruise sector in Scotland suffered a 17-month suspension due to the pandemic before reopening in July last year.
Lerwick Port Authority cruise and marketing manager Melanie Henderson said: “We see the Viking programme, with its early start and high number of bookings, as a vote of confidence in the harbour and Shetland, including the way the restart was handled through 2021.
“It gives great encouragement to everyone involved to see the recovery in our overall bookings for 2022 and that activity is on the way back, albeit with some Covid measures still in place, such as shore excursion ‘bubbles’ in the short term.
“Interest from the industry to develop Scotland’s cruise potential adds to our hopes that February and March sailings can be built into an annual winter cruising itinerary, extending the established window for visits to Lerwick.”
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