Northern Ireland had its red carpet at the ready this week as the majestic Royal Princess cruised into port. The 3,560 passenger ship arrived in Belfast Harbour to a crowd of excited well-wishers wanting to catch a glimpse of the £470 million vessel operated by Princess Cruises. At 1,083 feet long Royal Princess is quite the sight, with Roy Adair, chief executive at Belfast Harbour saying, “The Royal Princess is one of the largest cruise ships operating in Northern Europe and we are delighted to have worked closely with Princess Cruises over the years to make sure that Belfast is now firmly fixed on their ‘must see’ list of cities.”
Belfast is booming
May marks the official commencement of the Northern Hemisphere summer cruise season, will Belfast crowned as one of this year’s most popular up-and-coming cruise destinations. The arrival of the flagship vessel confirms that Princess Cruises definitely considers Belfast a member of the royal family when it comes to ports of call that are guaranteed to please.
According to the latest figures Belfast is set to welcome over 115,000 passengers and crew members this year! The huge influx of tourism is set to seriously boost Northern Ireland’s economy and position it as one of Europe’s must visit destinations for travellers from across the globe.
“Cruise ships are now a regular and familiar sight in Belfast across the summer months. We are particularly pleased that we have extended the season yet again this year, with first arrivals now docking at Belfast Harbour as early as March and running right through to November,” says Adair.
Luck, leprechauns and a legion of holidaymakers
While in the past Belfast and the greater Northern Ireland region have been largely overlooked by cruise companies, this year the trend is set to terminate. Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive at Visit Belfast, explains that the Cruise Belfast campaign was hugely successful and “is vitally important to our growing tourism economy as it brings significant numbers of first time visitors to not only Belfast but the wider Northern Ireland region.” He maintains that grand scale ships such as the Royal Princess provide “a substantial boost to business for our visitor attractions, tour operators, transport and hospitality providers.” Not to mention the opportunity for passengers to explore the unique activities, attractions and itinerary ideas the land of luck and leprechauns has to offer!
“Belfast and Northern Ireland offers a wealth of unique itinerary ideas for international cruise operators looking for memorable experiences for their customers. We’re delighted to continue our successful partnership with Belfast Harbour in promoting the region as port of call for international cruise ships,” adds Lennon.
Paving the way for the future King of England
In just weeks Prince Charles will make an official visit to Northern Ireland, accompanied by the ever lovely Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The visit is part of a collaborative effort to cement reconciliation work and continue to build strong bonds between the two countries. While their visits won’t coincide the arrival of the Royal Princess to Belfast shores is a grand way for the city to gear up for his arrival.
A ship fit for a princess
As well as her regal name and calendar coordination with Prince Charles, the Royal Princess was christened by none other than the Duchess of Cambridge herself. Back in 2013 the Duchess graciously smashed a £1,250 bottle of Nebuchadnezzar of Moet et Chandon champagne against the hull, much to the delight of onlookers.
The Royal Princess is the largest ship scheduled to dock in Belfast Harbour in 2015, and is sure to create quite the flurry every time she sails in.
Images sourced via Princess Cruises and Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Princess Cruises, Iker Merodio, Glenn Euloth