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Marine / Cruise ship season comes to an end – with strong advance bookings for 2023

Lerwick Harbour's cruise season closed with the final visit of Nicko Cruises' Vasco De Gama. Photo: Liam Slater

THIS year’s cruise ship season has come to an end, with strong bookings already in place for next year.

The final arrival in Lerwick this season was the 55,877 gross tonne Vasco De Gama carrying 466 passengers. She was the 94th ship to visit in 2022.

Stormy weather in northern waters has forced Hurtigruten to call off a visit by its vessel Spitsbergen on Thursday (6 October), which was the last scheduled arrival of Lerwick’s season.

Lerwick Port Authority’s cruise and marketing manager Melanie Henderson said the continued recovery of the cruise ship sector following Covid restrictions has benefitted Shetland tourism.

“Although initial predictions of record highs in 2022 were not quite reached due to itineraries changing and unseasonable spring and summer weather in the North Sea, our season bounced back with vigour,” she said.

“A key to the success was the tremendous response by the islands’ tourism and transport businesses, despite the post-pandemic challenges and staff shortages.

“As the restrictions were lifted, guests explored independently, rather than in bubbles, returning benefits for local retailers and adding to the vibrancy in the town centre.

“Cruise lines have made considerable efforts to restore activity in what has been an extremely difficult time for the industry.”

Many smaller expedition vessels also visited outlying islands too.

Passenger numbers were down 23 per cent on the 2019 total at 58,450 as operators continue to rebuild occupancy. The predominant nationalities were from the USA, Germany and the UK.

There is said to be strong advance bookings, currently up 40 per cent for the 2023 season.

The port authority said cruise ships visiting during the international Tall Ships Races next year will “contribute to the spectacle of the magnificent maritime event” being hosted at Lerwick between 26-29 July, with passengers set to enjoy free access to the event.

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