Lerwick harbour is set for a big finish to the cruise season, with the largest vessel yet to bring visitors to the Shetland Islands due in port next week.

The arrival of the 108,806 gross tonne, 289.5 metre long Grand Princess  on Tuesday, 28 September, will round off a record-breaking five months which will also have seen the highest number of passengers yet at around 30,000 and cruise vessels topping the one million tonne mark in  a season for the first time, at 1,220,455 gross tonnes.

A total of 48 cruise ships will have visited Lerwick this year, with passenger numbers up from 24,146 in 2009.

With around 2,200 passengers on board, Grand Princess, one of eight on maiden calls to the port this year, will be en route from Bergen, Norway, to Torshavn, Faroe, on a trans-Atlantic repositioning cruise.

Victor Sandison, Lerwick Port Authority, Deputy Chief Executive: “It’s been another milestone cruise season, and not just for the hat-trick of new records reflecting increased activity and the valuable contribution to the Shetland economy. We have also continued to develop our visitor facilities and the trend to larger vessels continues to be seen in the already high level of bookings for 2011.”

The harbour’s new welcome ashore pavilion is being trialed today with the arrival of Norwegian Sun. 

The £85,000 investment by the Port Authority complements the development of the pontoon system introduced in April 2006 for tendering passengers from anchored ships.  The pavilion, on Victoria Pier and immediately adjacent to the landing point, will provide a dedicated facility for the Meet-and-Greet team where over a coach load of passengers at a time will receive orientation and information.

Supported by the Port Authority, the Meet and Greet service includes an onboard and quayside welcome for  passengers, while for those on ships berthed outside the immediate town centre area, shuttle buses are provided.
 
A choice of tours has been arranged for the Grand Princess  passengers in conjunction with local shore excursions specialists, including  the Jarlshof prehistoric and Viking settlements as part of a scenic south mainland drive; the scenery of western Shetland; Shetland ponies and Scalloway Castle; and walking tours in Lerwick, featuring historic Fort Charlotte.  
 
There are already 44 cruise ships – a total of 1,477,493 gross tonnes  -  booked for 2011, including two more record breakers, Crown Princess (113,651 gross tonnes) due 7 June and Costa Pacifica (114,500 gross tonnes), scheduled for 11 June. Both will be on maiden visits, as will another five of the vessels currently lined up.

A visit by Crystal Serenity to Lerwick will coincide with the spectacular Parade of Sail day when participating vessels in the Tall Ships Races depart for Stavanger on 24 July.

Lerwick Port Authority, a member of the Cruise Scotland and Cruise Europe marketing organisations, actively promotes the harbour as a gateway to Shetland’s many attractions, including seabird colonies, marine life, beaches and cliffs, Scandinavian and Scottish heritage and culture, and locally produced foods and crafts.