Scotland’s Port of Cromarty Firth is looking ahead to the 2024 cruise season with an abundance of optimism, especially since it enjoyed a robust 2023 and is eager to host Cunard’s newest ship, Queen Anne, after her spring 2024 debut. Known as the gateway to the Highlands, the port is in Scotlands’ far northeast corner.
Port Gears Up for Queen Anne’s Maiden Call
The Port of Cromarty Firth, a Scottish Trust Port with its main harbor at Invergordon, closed out its 2023 cruise season with great results, including a record 130 ship calls and 221,000 cruise arrivals. The industry contributed £29 million ($36 million USD) to the local economy.
The cruise figures from 2023 were improvements over 2022, when 109 ships called and cruise arrivals topped out at 142,000, since most ships were not sailing full. The port’s pre-pandemic record, set in 2019, was 166,000 arrivals, port data shows.
Port officials are now planning for the upcoming season, which promises to be an exciting one, with the inaugural call by the highly anticipated Queen Anne, Cunard’s first new-build since Queen Elizabeth launched in 2010.
The 3,000-guest Queen Anne, under construction at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Marghera, Italy, is scheduled to call at Invergordon on May 29, 2024, during her 14-night British Isles Festival Voyage roundtrip from Southampton.
“Inaugural calls are always a special occasion and we are delighted to be hosting the Queen Anne as well as five other ships that will be visiting Invergordon for the first time in 2024,” said Allison McGuire, Port of Cromarty Firth Cruise Manager.
In addition to Invergordon, other ports on Queen Anne’s itinerary are Kirkwall, Isle of May, Edinburgh, Isle of Skye, and Glasgow, Scotland; Cork, Ireland; and Liverpool, England.
Queen Anne will sail her maiden cruise on May 3, 2024, a 7-night saying from Southampton to Lisbon, Portugal. In addition to British Isles cruises, the ship in 2024 will offer voyages to the Canary Islands in Spain, the Norwegian fjords, Iceland, and other Northern Europe destinations.
Queen Anne will be among 118 cruise ships slated to call at the Port of Cromarty during Scotland’s short cruise season, which runs from April through October.
Other ships scheduled to make inaugural calls at the port in 2024 include Viking’s Viking Saturn, Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Lyrial, Albatross Expeditions’ Ocean Albatros, TUI Cruises’ MeinShiff 7, and Azamara Cruises’ Azamara Onward.
Following the record-breaking 2023 season, officials at the Port of Cromarty Firth are expecting more than 230,000 cruise arrivals.
“While the number of calls scheduled for next year is slightly lower than in 2023, there will be more of the larger vessels calling and capacities are up on recent years, with the ships 90 to 95% full,” said Cruise Manager McGuire.
The Port of Cromarty was not the only Scottish port to break records in 2023. Stornoway, a growing port on the Isle of Lewis, considered the gateway to the remote Outer Hebrides island chain, welcomed 8,000-plus cruise guests during the first week of July 2023 — the most ever recorded in a one-week period. One-hundred ships visited during the full season.
Port Made Headlines With Horn Blast Complaint
Invergordon was in the news in June 2023 when a controversy erupted over cruise ship horn blasts, which are a maritime tradition as vessels leave a port. The custom prompted a noise complaint from one local resident, and port officials asked ships to silence their horns while the complaint was investigated and considered.
The resident faced backlash from other locals, and more than 1,200 people signed a petition in support of the horn blasts. There is no UK or international maritime law that regulates horn blasts, but local authorities could ban the practice. It is unclear whether the ban will remain in effect during the 2024 season.