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Belfast Harbour named UK and Ireland's best port of call for cruise ships after record 2019

Belfast Live logo Belfast Live 12/01/2020 Shauna Corr
a large ship in a body of water: The Azamara Pursuit at Belfast Harbour © Brian Morrison The Azamara Pursuit at Belfast Harbour

Cruise experts have named Belfast Harbour the best port of call in the UK and Ireland for 2019.

A global panel gave the NI city the title after a record breaking year in which 146 cruise ships docked, bringing 280,000 visitors.

They especially liked the new cruise terminal built with a £500,000 investment from Belfast Harbour and Tourism NI and opened in July, alongside its "easy access to the city’s world-class attractions, such as Titanic Belfast in the city's famous Titanic Quarter".

Belfast Harbour’s CEO, Joe O’Neill, said: "With our partners Visit Belfast we’ve worked hard to market Belfast Harbour and Northern Ireland under the ‘Cruise Belfast’ initiative as one of the best cruise destinations in Western Europe.

"We've also invested in a new terminal with the support of Tourism NI to encourage further growth in this strategically important sector. Considering the quality of other destinations in the UK and Ireland, we're delighted to win the award.

"Cruise tourism fits with Belfast Harbour's wider commitment to support the city's development through the creation of an iconic waterfront for Belfast. A successful cruise tourism sector will encourage new tourist and leisure projects, and further enhance Belfast’s reputation as a leading destination including within the cruise market."

Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast said cruise numbers have risen by a whopping 135% in the last five years.

He added: "In the 20 years since Visit Belfast was established, we have worked with Belfast Harbour to attract cruise visitors to the city and region, and the result has been an enormous increase in the number of visitors and ships coming to the city. In total, Cruise Belfast has brought 784 ships to the city since 1999.

"Cruise is now a key contributor to Belfast’s tourism economy, and that is down to investment in infrastructure, and the commitment of our tourism industry partners to providing more and better products for visitors to enjoy while they are here."

John McGrillen, Tourism NI Chief Executive, dubbed it a "great achievement for Belfast’s international visitor reputation".

"The new terminal can accommodate the bigger cruise ships bringing visitors from key markets across Europe and ensure that once they are here, they are easily able to access all of our world-famous attractions and hospitality. 

"Congratulations to Visit Belfast and Belfast Harbour for their hard work in building Belfast’s reputation as a leading cruise destination. We are continuing to work in partnership with them to deliver world-class experiences for the cruise market visitor both in the city and across the wider region."

The award was based on Cruise Critic editors’ impartial expertise which draws upon first-hand experiences and industry knowledge.

Adam Coulter, UK Managing Editor, Cruise Critic said: "The desire for more experiential holidays, especially amongst younger travellers is certainly helping to boost the UK cruise sector. There is more choice than ever before in ocean, river and expedition cruises as a result of an array of exciting new ships launched this year and next. Whether you are cruising as a multi-generational family, a couple or solo, there really is a cruise for everyone."

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