Lerwick on course in rebuilding cruise traffic. Successful season foreshadows continuing upturn in 2023

On a record breaking day at Lerwick, MSC Meraviglia towers above the Town Centre, bringing over 5,000 passengers to view the isles attractions (July 2018) (Credit: Ryan Leith)Lerwick Harbour is on course in restoring cruise traffic at the Shetland port in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions, with the first full season since 2019.

The final arrival this season was Nicko Cruises 55,877 gross tonne Vasco De Gama carrying 466 passengers, the 94th ship to visit in 2022. She berthed at Mair’s Pier, en route from Stavanger, Norway, to Kirkwall.

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.

Melanie Henderson, Lerwick Port Authority Cruise & Marketing Manager, said: “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.

“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 made the most of Shetland’s unique geography by visiting outlying islands too.

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

Shetland’s increasing popularity is reflected in strong advance bookings, currently up 40% for the 2023 season, from late March to October. There is optimism for continued growth in the sector, both in passenger numbers and the introduction of new tonnage.

Cruise ships visiting during the international Tall Ships Races will contribute to the spectacle of the magnificent maritime event being hosted at Lerwick between 26-29 July, with passengers enjoying free access to the event. There has been nineteen tall ship visits this year.

(Lerwick Port Authority)