UK Port Celebrates Record Cruise Arrivals

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Portland Port in the UK marked an exceptional year, celebrating a record-breaking cruise season. Over the span of eight months, Portland Port welcomed an unprecedented number of guests, the highest in its history. These guests arrived on 56 cruise ships, contributing significantly to the local economy in South Dorset.

Portland is a coastal town located in the South West of England. Known for its unique geology and maritime heritage, the area is known for its rugged landscape, historic sites, and as an important D-Day embarkation point.

Portland Records Busiest Year To Date

Portland, a small island connected to the UK mainland by a narrow causeway, has recorded the busiest cruise year to date. 

More than 130,000 passengers visited the island during 56 cruise ship calls between March and November 2023. Of those 130,000, there were 50,000 visitors from the United States, 24,000 German visitors, 20,000 from the UK, and almost 10,000 Canadian passengers. 

The small island’s popularity is growing with cruise ships sailing from major cruise homeports in the UK, particularly nearby Southampton and Portsmouth. 

The 56 calls included visits from AIDAbella, MS Zuiderdam, Oceania Vista, Disney Dream, MSC Euribia, and MSC Virtuosa. The season concluded with AIDAmar’s visit, which brought 2,134 guests.

MSC Cruise Ship Docked at Portland
MSC Cruise Ship Docked at Portland (Photo Courtesy: Portland Port)

Ian McQuade, Portland Port’s commercial general manager and chair of Cruise Britain: “Our record season shows how Portland continues to increase in popularity as a cruise destination.”

“Our location so close to the main English Channel shipping lanes at the heart of the Jurassic Coast makes Portland Port an attractive transit port for guests wishing to see the many and varied attractions of Dorset and beyond.”

Portland Port’s recent success can be partly attributed to its considerable investment in infrastructure. This includes the significant £26m deep-water berth opened this year, enabling the port to host much larger cruise ships.

Investments Bring Economic Windfall for Portland Residents

Portland Port’s recent developments, particularly the inauguration of the deep-water berth, have brought significant economic benefits to the local community. 

This investment in infrastructure enabled the port to welcome larger cruise ships, such as the MSC Virtuosa, which set a record by bringing in 5,015 passengers on its first visit and surpassing that with 6,025 guests on a later visit.

The port’s growing popularity and influx of international visitors has had a substantial economic impact on the local area, contributing over £10 million.

Cruise Ships in Portland, UK
Cruise Ships in Portland, UK

The economic benefits come not just from the spending of day excursion visitors in shops, bars, cafes, and takeaways, but also from cruise passenger spending at various local tourist attractions, such as UNESCO world heritage sites like the Jurassic Coast, Stonehenge, and Bath. 

Looking forward, Portland Port is already planning for the 2024 season, with cruise calls scheduled for 11 out of 12 months, beginning in February with a visit by AIDAsol. Through June, there are visits scheduled from Regal Princess, Ms Rotterdam, Celebrity Apex, Seven Seas Splendor, and several others.

Overall, Portland’s strategic investments to attract more cruise ships yield significant economic benefits, especially with the increasing interest from cruise lines in homeporting their vessels in the UK. As more cruise ships sail to the UK, Portland’s businesses will continue to profit. 

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