New records and a £20m boost to the Highland economy on the horizon as Port of Cromarty Firth prepares for latest cruise liner season

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March 21st 2023

The Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF), in the Scottish Highlands, is preparing to welcome record numbers of passengers and ships during the 2023 cruise liner season, which will get under way at the start of next month (April).

With more than 125 vessel visits currently scheduled, at least 200,000 seaborne tourists are expected to arrive at the Easter Ross Port between April and mid-October.

Offering visitors from around the world a gateway to the Highlands’ famous landmarks, scenery and history, the cruise sector will boost the region’s economy by an estimated £20million this year.

The first ship, Ambassador Cruises’ Ambience vessel, which has capacity for 1,700 passengers and a crew of 600, is due to berth at Invergordon on Saturday April 1.

The Norwegian Star, owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines and carrying up to 2,500 passengers along with 1,000 crew, is scheduled to be the final visitor of the year, on Monday October 16.

During the season, 15 liners will make their maiden calls at the Port, with AIDA Cruises’ AIDAdiva, the first to arrive, on Wednesday April 19.

In 2022, a record total of 109 cruise vessels visited Invergordon, although Covid-19 precautions saw the overall number of passengers lower than in some previous years, at just under 142,000. In 2019, during the last full season before the pandemic, 166,000 tourists and 69,000 crew arrived at the Port.

Allison McGuire, PoCF’s Cruise Manager, said: “The record numbers of ships and passengers due to arrive at Invergordon this year shows the continuing popularity of cruise holidays and the enduring appeal of the Highlands as a destination for visitors from around the world.

“The cruise season brings a buzz to the Port and the local area and we are looking forward to welcoming the vessels and everyone aboard. It’s great to see such a high number of maiden calls scheduled and it’s always a particularly special occasion when a vessel arrives at the Port for the first time.

“The significant rise in passenger numbers this year will increase the local spend and contribute in excess of £20m to the wider Highland economy.”

The largest cruise vessel scheduled to visit Invergordon this year is P&O Cruises’ 143,730 gross tonne (GT) flagship, Britannia, which has capacity for 3,900 passengers and 1,350 crew and is due to call at the Port on Monday June 19.

At the other end of the scale, the smallest ship is Noble Caledonia’s 2,183 GT Ocean Nova, which is expected to make its maiden call on Monday May 8. The small expedition ship can carry up to 70 passengers, with a crew of 40.

In total, the gross tonnage of cruise vessels due to arrive in the Firth in 2023 amounts to 9,473,861 GT.