New Booking System to Boost Cruise Management at Port

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On August 22, 2023, Orkney Islands Council granted a green light to enhance cruise reservation and validation protocols in Orkney. This new booking policy seeks to create a clearer and simpler process for the busiest Orkney cruise ship destinations, helping streamline ever-busier cruise schedules.

Managing Orkney Islands Ship Arrivals

The Orkney Islands Council has recently provided its support to an improved cruise reservation and confirmation framework. This fresh strategy aims to institute a more accurate, readily understandable process for the most commonly visited locations in the Orkney area.

Due to surging cruise passenger numbers visiting highly sought-after destinations in the Orkney Islands, discussions have been ongoing about placing restrictions on cruise ship arrivals. Occasionally, the islands face days with over 7,000 cruise ship visitors at once. For comparison, the islands only have a population of just over 22,000 people.

Dramatic Orkney (Photo Credit: Bill McKelvie / Shutterstock)

Orkney is an archipelago situated off the northeastern coast of Scotland. The archipelago includes about 70 islands, with 20 of them inhabited. Most major cruise lines visit these picturesque islands, typically stopping in the primary harbor of Kirkwall.

This new reservation policy is anticipated to bring about a better, more streamlined distribution of berths at Orkney docks like Hatston Pier, Kirkwall Anchorage, and the Kirkwall Piers.

“All cruise ships that currently call here in Orkney will continue to be able to do so,” said Paul Olvhoj, Orkney Harbour Authority Business Development Manager.

“This policy has been developed by looking at models from other ports around the world so we can ensure we operate the best possible booking procedures which offer clear and transparent guidance to Cruise operators and enhance the experience for passengers.”

The aim of these new booking policies is to offer busy Orkney personnel an improved ability to oversee both the scale and frequency of vessels mooring in Orkney. Furthermore, the new policies should enhance the management of local infrastructure to cater to visitors and residents alike.

Hands on a Keyboard
Photo Credit: sergey kolesnikov / Shutterstock

The cruise industry injects £12-15 million ($15-19 million USD) annually into the region, sustaining a significant workforce. Cruise ship tourism is big business in the Orkney Islands, which is why the local council is working diligently to find a balance between the large numbers of cruise ship guests and maintaining a quality way of life for the local population at the same time.

Why Cruise Lines Favor Orkney

Many cruise ship lines include Orkney as a destination on their itineraries. Some of the main draws of these beautiful islands include the ancient Neolithic village of Skara Brae, St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, as well as many natural marvels like dramatic sea stacks, a stunning coastline, and towering seaside cliffs.

“Orkney Harbours is the busiest port for transit passengers (day trips only) in the UK. Across the year we welcome up to 200,000 passengers…” Olvhoj pointed out.

Cruise lines that typically visit Orkney on their British Isles and Northern European cruise itineraries include Cunard Line, which runs ships like Queen Mary 2Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria, along with Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, Oceania Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and many others.

Shuttle Bus at Orkney
Shuttle Bus at Orkney (Photo Credit: Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock)

A sample of some of the vessels calling on Orkney for the remainder of 2023 include — but are not limited to — Viking Cruises’ 47,800-ton Viking Jupiter; Princess Cruises’ 142,714-ton Royal-class Regal Princess, with a capacity of up to 4,272 guests; AIDA Cruises’ 42,289-ton AIDAaura; and Germany’s TUI Cruises’ 99,430-ton Mein Schiff 3, with a maximum occupancy of 2,700 passengers.

British Isles cruises, Ireland and Scotland trips, and even Arctic Circle voyages, like the one scheduled for AIDAaura, tend to visit the Orkney Islands.

During the 2023 sailing season, 41 scheduled cruise lines will swing by Orkney in total, cementing its status as a top UK cruise port and a beacon of success for other UK ports.

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