Isles of Scilly Cruise Arrivals to Smash 2023 Total

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The picturesque Isles of Scilly, off England’s southwest coast, officially opened its cruise season with the celebrated arrival of its first ship visit of the year. Local officials predict the number of cruise ship calls will surpass 2023’s total, bringing welcome economic benefits to the region.

Cruise Ship Calls Expected to Break 2023 Record

The Isles of Scilly marked the arrival of the destination’s first cruise ship call of the season on April 24, 2024, when the 530-guest MS Maud anchored in the harbor of St. Mary’s Island. The vessel is operated by HX (formerly Hurtigruten Expeditions) and is a longtime visitor to the port.

The destination is an archipelago of five islands roughly 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall. Cruise ships typically call at St. Mary’s, the largest of the islands, and tender guests into the island’s Hugh Town. Ferry services operating between the islands enable visitors to tour multiple islands.

Nearly 60 cruise ship calls are expected in 2024, bringing some 30,000 cruise guests to the islands. The number represents an increase from the 53 ship visits in 2023, when about 25,000 cruise guests arrived in the destination.

The Isles of Scilly is a special place and I’m delighted so many passengers are getting to experience everything we have to offer. We have a strategic plan to improve the passenger experience and bring more local businesses to the cruise ship sector of the islands’ tourism industry,said Tom Jackman, managing director of Scillonian Marine Consultants.

Tom Jackman, Managing Director of Scillonian Marine Consultants
Tom Jackman, Managing Director of Scillonian Marine Consultants

The consultancy provides port and excursion management services to cruise ships calling at the Isles of Scilly. Records show that 2023’s cruise ship calls reflect the highest number since 2018. Each ship call brings revenue to the region through local vendors catering to visitors.

Guests aboard HX’s MS Maud enjoyed a variety of excursions, such as tours of Tresco Abbey Gardens, a lush landscape of 19th century gardens with the ruins of an 11th century abbey, and sea safaris to watch seals and marine life.

The ship is due to call at St. Mary’s four more times this season. HX, an expedition line based in Norway, was in the news recently when it announced it is shifting to an all-inclusive format fleet-wide at the end of 2024.

The economic benefits of bringing cruise ships to Scilly are huge for our remote islands. It’s been estimated they bring in approximately £1 million ($1.2 million USD) per year to the local economy, which is fantastic for island businesses. I firmly believe that through an improved management service this figure could easily rise to £2 million ($2.5 million USD) in the next few years,Jackman added.

Isles of Scilly
Isles of Scilly (Photo Credit: tony mills / Shutterstock)

The destination mainly caters to smaller ships, such as those operated by Ambassador Cruise Line, whose 1,400-guest Ambience and 1,248-guest Ambition will make nine calls between them to St. Mary’s.  

Other cruise ships scheduled to call during the season, which runs through October, include Seabourn’s 264-guest Seabourn Venture, Silversea Cruises’ 200-guest Silver Endeavour, Hapag Lloyd’s 230-guest Hanseatic Nature, and Scenic Group’s 228-guest Scenic Eclipse

Other English Ports See Rises in Cruise Arrivals

The Isles of Scilly is among other southwest England ports that are attracting higher numbers of cruise ships. The closest port to St. Mary’s is Plymouth, on the Devon coast some 94 nautical miles east of the Isles of Scilly.

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Plymouth is expecting a hefty 40% spike in cruise ship arrivals in 2024 vs last year, leading to about 10,000 cruise visitors arriving aboard 14 ships. 

Farther east, Portland Port, located on the Dorset coast, had a record-breaking 2023, when 56 cruise ships called, delivering 130,000 cruise guests. This larger port has a longer season than the Isles of Scilly, with ship calls starting in March and extending into November. Portland also is the gateway to England’s famous Jurassic Coast.

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