A remote cruise port in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, is basking in the glow of a robust return to global cruising in 2023, setting an all-time record for guest arrivals in one week.
Stornoway port officials last spring had predicted the summer season would be a major financial boon to the local economy, and they were right.
Remote Stornoway Welcomes 8,000 Cruisers in One Week
Stornoway, a growing port on the Isle of Lewis, considered the gateway to the off-the-beaten-track Outer Hebrides island chain, welcomed 8,000-plus cruise guests during the first week of July 2023.
Seven cruise ships called in the seven-day timeframe ending July 6, setting a record for the port, located off Scotland’s west coast. Four of the ships were making their maiden calls to the destination.
Upward of 100 cruise ships are scheduled to visit the port during the island chain’s short sailing season, which began in April and closes in late September.
“The record number of ships that arrived last week again shows the growing popularity of the Outer Hebrides among cruise operators and their customers,” said Alex MacLeod, Stornoway Port Chief Executive.
“It’s fantastic to see so many people from around the world arriving here to experience the unique hospitality and culture of the islands. And it is bringing a very welcome boost to many businesses in the islands,” he added.
New Deep Water Terminal to Debut in 2024
While the influx of thousands of cruise guests translates into welcome revenue for the region’s tour guides and operators, retail shops, eateries, and other local businesses, port officials believe the destination will attract even more cruise ships in the future, thanks to the construction of a new deep-water terminal due to open in time for the 2024 season.
“This level of activity gives everyone here a taste of things to come as we look ahead to more and larger ships coming to Stornoway following the opening of the deep water terminal,” explained MacLeod.
“The new development will create opportunities which are becoming evident even now. Those involved with cruise ship visits, such as tour guides, meet-and-greet services and port security, will all need additional capacity in 2024,” he added.
The $74 million terminal will be able to accommodate ships up to 1,181 feet (360 meters) in length. That capability will enable most of the industry’s largest ships to dock, but the largest of the mega-ships, such as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels, still would have to anchor offshore.
Among the ships that called during the busy first week of July was MSC Cruises’ MSC Poesia, with capacity for 2,500 guests. It was the ship’s maiden call.
Other ships scheduled to call at Stornoway this summer season include Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,340-guest Norwegian Dawn, Silversea Cruises’ 200-guest Silver Endeavour and 388-guest Silver Shadow, Cunard’s 2,081-guest Queen Victoria, Seabourn’s 604-guest Seabourn Ovation, and Oceania Cruises’ 1,250-guest Riviera.
Scotland Destinations Offer Unique Experiences
The Outer Hebrides archipelago is known for its stark beauty, with islands that offer visitors the chance to walk among mystical standing stones and enjoy adventures such as sea kayaking and hiking.
In Stornoway, a vibrant arts and culture scene awaits visitors, along with a golf course, and the historic Victorian-era Lews Castle, built in the mid-1800s.
Other Scottish ports are experiencing similar cruise industry success stories this season. The Greenock Ocean Terminal in Clydeport, located on the west coast of the Scottish mainland, expects a total of 91 cruise ships to call in 2023, a 25% increase versus 2022. The ships will deliver some 150,000 cruisers and about 38,000 crew members to the port.
On Scotland’s east coast, ports are thriving as well, with Edinburgh and Dundee seeing a 50% hike in ship calls this summer.