World Cruise Call Marks Start of Port’s 2024 Season

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Portland Port has officially launched its 2024 cruise season with the arrival of AIDAsol, a cruise ship operated by AIDA Cruises. This visit marks the beginning of what is anticipated to be the busiest season ever for Portland, a small port located on the southern coast of the UK. From February through December, the port expects to receive cruise ship calls each month.

After opening its deepwater berth in 2023, Portland has seen a steady increase in cruise ships sailing to the port. As a port with easy access to UNESCO World Heritage sites like Stonehenge, visitor numbers have been booming in the last twelve months.

AIDAsol Marks the Beginning Of Portland Cruise Season

Portland’s cruise season has officially begun with the arrival of AIDAsol on its 117-day world cruise, making the port its penultimate stop before concluding the voyage in Hamburg. 

With 2,194 guests and over 600 crew members onboard the 71,304 gross tons cruise ship, the vessel’s stopover at Portland’s new deepwater berth confirms the port’s status as a new but important cruise stop in the UK. 

The visit is the first of five scheduled calls by AIDAsol to Portland this year. Other cruise ships that are scheduled to call at the port include Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream, Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess, TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 3, Oceania’s Oceania Nautica, and Holland America Line’s Rotterdam

The port will also welcome first-time visitors such as Ponant’s Le Champlain and Compagnie Française de Croisières’ Renaissance, adding a French touch to the season.

Ian McQuade, Portland Port’s commercial GM and chair of Cruise Britain: “The cruise market continues to grow in the UK and globally. A great deal of hard work constantly goes into winning valuable cruise business in the face of tough competition across the UK and Europe.”

“The vast majority of cruise calls this year were booked two years ago in 2022 and we are already well advanced in planning our itinerary for 2025 and 2026.”

AIDAsol Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Enrico Powell / Shutterstock

This means that cruise lines have recognized the importance of Portland as the gateway to idyllic Dorset and the Jurassic Coast, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Stonehenge, the historic beach town of Weymouth, and the trendy southern English city Brighton. 

With growth expected to continue for the cruise industry, the effects on Portland Port and its surrounding areas are complex. The economic benefits are significant, yet the influence on the lives of Portland and nearby Weymouth residents is profound.

Cruise Industry Seeing Steady Growth

The cruise industry continues to witness steady growth, with the Cruise Lines International Association projecting an increase in cruise passenger numbers from 31.5 million in 2023 to 36 million in 2024, and 39.5 million in 2027. 

Portland Port celebrated a record-breaking year in 2023 with 56 cruise ship arrivals over eight months, bringing 130,000 passengers and generating £10 million in revenue.

These figures are projected to be slightly lower for 2024, at 47 cruise calls and 94,000 passengers expected. However, typically cruise calls increase over the year as plans change, so this number is likely to end up higher than projected.

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

‘We’re grateful for the warm welcome and support provided by local residents, businesses, tourist attractions and organisations who see the benefit of cruise visits for the area,’ continued McQuade. ‘We’re looking forward to another superb year sharing the delights of our area with tourists from all over the world whilst supporting the growth of the local economy.’ 

Impact on Local Residents

With growth comes challenges, particularly concerning the impact on local communities. The increased number of cruise visitors to Portland and the neighboring town of Weymouth has led to traffic congestion and logistical challenges, notably on days when shuttle buses for cruise guests significantly increase road traffic. 

Residents of Weymouth are considering legal actions to address the traffic surge, which sees up to 188 buses passing through in just seven hours on busy cruise days.

The 2024 cruise season at Portland Port marks another important moment in its development into a top cruise destination; however, the port will need to continue carefully weighing the benefits of growth against the effects on the local community.

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