The 2013 cruise season casts off at Lerwick Harbour this week, with the arrival on Friday 26 April from Balestrand, Norway, of the first vessel, Fram - a visitor in past years which is scheduled to call again in May and September.

Also making a welcome return this summer will be Costa Pacifica on 15 June - at 114,288 gross tonnes, the largest cruise ship yet to enter the port.

Eight maiden calls will also feature a number of larger vessels - MSC Magnifica (95,128 gross tonnes) on 3 June, Eurodam (86,273 gross tonnes) on 26 July, Caribbean Princess (112,894 gross tonnes) on 31 August and Norwegian Star (91,740 gross tonnes), the last ship of the season, on 23 September.

June and July will again be the busiest months, with 12 and 11 calls respectively. However, following the port’s best season yet in 2012, there will be no new records this year.  The 40 cruise ships currently booked have a total gross tonnage of 1,222,383 gross tonnes and are expected to bring around 29,000 visitors to Shetland. Tonnage and passenger figures are comparable to 2010 and 2011, when activity set various records in both years.

Victor Sandison, Lerwick Port Authority, Deputy Chief Executive, said: “It is disappointing that bookings have been reduced by a number of cancellations due to what is hopefully a one-off combination of different factors affecting a number of operators – including one going out of business and operational and ship deployment reasons.

“There are already 38 ships booked for 2014 – adding up to 1,840,183 gross tonnes and an estimated 40,000 passengers, the highest figures yet so far in advance – so the outlook is positive looking ahead.”

Interests, including the Port Authority, continue to lobby for a constructive solution to the possible longer-term impact on the UK cruise industry of the UK Border Force’s stricter interpretation of passport checks on arriving passengers, with the Home Office currently gathering information as part of a policy review.

The Port Authority is continuing its support for a Meet & Greet project at Lerwick, with local greeters providing both an onboard and onshore welcome to visiting cruise passengers and crew, with basic orientation, including leaflets and maps, and traditional Shetland music on the quayside. A shuttle bus service to-and-from the town centre for passengers on ships berthed at the port’s Holmsgarth facility is also provided.