Cruise & Maritime Voyages 'Discovery' during a call at Port of Lerwick, ShetlandWith the first cruise ship of the season due at Lerwick Harbour this weekend, over a month earlier than usual, the port said it is on course for another record-breaking season.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages’ Discovery will berth on Sunday March 9 on the first of three visits this month on voyages between ports in Scotland, England and Norway. With capacity for 700 passengers, the vessel will make a further five calls this year.

With 52 ships currently booked, matching the 2012 record, passenger numbers are estimated at 44,725, topping the previous high of 37,572, also set in 2012.

The tonnage of shipping reflects the trend to larger vessels. The 114,000-ton Costa Pacifica, the biggest yet to visit Lerwick, will return on June 25. Other large vessels will include the 90,000-ton Celebrity Infinity on June 9 and 30, and the 113,500-ton Ruby Princess on Sept. 11 – both on maiden visits.

There will be a total of eight first-time callers in a season which runs to late-September, with peak months in June and July, each with 14 arrivals.

According to Lerwick Port Authority’s Deputy Chief Executive, Victor Sandison, advance bookings for 2015 currently add up to 31 ships, carrying an estimated 32,640 passengers.

Photo: the Discovery on an earlier visit to Lerwick.