Largest Cruise Ship to Visit Scottish Port Breaks Six-Year Record

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Lerwick Harbour in Shetland, Scotland, welcomed the largest cruise ship in its history on May 20, 2024, as the Maltese-flagged MSC Virtuosa by MSC Cruises made its maiden visit, breaking a nearly six-year record.

The 332-meter-long vessel, built in France in 2020, boasts 18 decks and can accommodate up to 6,334 passengers and 1,704 crew members.

MSC Virtuosa, weighing 181,541 gross tons, arrived from Southampton, U.K., on a 7-day Norwegian Fjords voyage. Anchored in the deep-water harbor, passengers were transferred by tender to Victoria Pier in the town center.

MSC Virtuosa at Lerwick Port
MSC Virtuosa at Lerwick Port (Photo Credit: Dave Donaldson, Shetland Flyer Aerial Media)

Said Melanie Henderson, Lerwick Port Authority cruise and marketing manager, “The majority of cruise ships visiting Lerwick are small- to medium-sized vessels. Virtuosa’s maiden call is another example of Shetland’s popularity as a tourist destination, and the port’s capacity to welcome the larger vessels is also operating.”

The previous record for the largest cruise ship to visit Lerwick was held by MSC Virtuosa’s sister ship, MSC Meraviglia, which weighs 171,598 gross tons and visited in July 2018.

The current visit is part of a record-setting year for the port in terms of tonnage and the number of vessels and passengers. English cruise line Noble Caledonia’s 120-passenger Hebridean Sky also arrived with MSC Virtuosa, berthed at Victoria Pier East.

Lerwick Port Braces for Record Cruise Traffic in 2024

Lerwick Port’s 2024 is anticipated to be the busiest yet, with 148 vessels and approximately 130,000 passengers expected by mid-November. In 2023, the port saw an increase in cruise traffic by 37%. 

However, this year’s 11 maiden calls do not match last year’s record-breaking 19 maiden calls that included ships from Explora Journeys and Swan Hellenic.

A gateway for more than 100 cruise ships each season, Shetland is ideally positioned between Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, the Scottish mainland, and Europe. The port can accommodate ships up to 230 meters in length at Mair’s Pier on Holmsgarth 5, while larger vessels transport passengers by tender.

Port of Lerwick, Shetland
Port of Lerwick, Shetland (Photo Credit: Lerwick Port Authority)

“The port significantly contributes to the local economy,” said Henderson, “providing employment, keeping the attractions and venues busy, and providing important footfall for local businesses.

The Scottish port welcomed its first cruise ship of the 2024 season with a March 30 call by British cruise operator Ambassador Cruise’s Ambition, arriving during an Easter British Isles Discovery cruise from London Tilbury.

Read Also: Scottish Port Kicks Off Busiest Cruise Season In History

The port will also welcome journeys from international cruise lines Viking Cruises’ Viking Neptune and Viking Saturn, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Silhouette, AIDA Cruises’ AIDAsol, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Star, Silverseas’ Silver Endeavour, Holland America Line’s Nieuw Statendam, and Seabourn Cruises’ Venture in May.

Port of Lerwick, Shetland
Port of Lerwick, Shetland (Photo Courtesy: Lerwick Port Authority)

Lerwick will also see ships from smaller cruise lines this month, including Germany’s Phoenix Reisen’s Amadea and Deutschland-World Odyssey, Portugal’s Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Navigator, British-owned Fred Olsen Cruises’ Balmoral, and Norway’s Huritgruten’s ms Spitsbergen.

Although MSC Virtuosa will not call again during the 2024 season, many cruise lines have ships returning throughout the spring through fall tourism period, including AIDAsol, which concludes the season on October 1.

Lerwick Port offers a walkable town center lined with shops and attractions like the Shetland Museum and Archives. As part of its welcome to cruise ships, the port authority provides a meet-and-greet service that includes shuttles to and from the town center and special welcomes for maiden calls.

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