Almost 500 passengers are this morning exploring Derry after a cruise ship docked at Lisahally as part of its maiden voyage.
The Saga Quest for Adventure , which recently underwent a £14million revamp, is on an eight day trip around the British Isles, and is also scheduled to dock at Tobermory, Dublin and Cobh.
Derry’s Mayor Maurice Devenney was among those to welcome the 700 passengers and crew to the city.
“It is great to see the return of cruise ships to the city. Passengers on board the Quest for Adventure will get the opportunity to visit the city and surrounding areas and sample our unique history and friendly welcome,” he said.
“I am delighted to hear it is one of a series of cruise visits to the city this summer. It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our city as we prepare for hosting a series of world class events this summer ahead of the UK City of Culture celebrations in 2013.”
Passengers were treated to VIP hospitality as they reached the shore and were welcomed by Irish Dancing performances from the McKinney Academy of Dance. Passengers were also greeted by the Derry Visitor & Convention Bureau tourist information staff who were on hand to provide literature, maps and information about the destination.
The Saga is the first of nine ships due to dock here over the summer months.
Aoife Thomas from Derry Visitor & Convention Bureau said despite the current economic downturn : “The cruise industry is the fastest growing sector in the tourism industry and we welcome the positive financial impact it has on the region benefiting local businesses such as tour guides, attractions, cafes, retailers and coach companies.”
“DVCB in partnership with the Londonderry Port have been working to grow the number of cruise ships to the region and have undertaken a series of marketing activities targeting UK, European and US cruise operators.”
Harbour Master Captain Bill McCann said the Quest for Adventure was to berth at Lisahally early this morning, with the first passengers due ashore at around 9am. The ship is due to sail again at 7pm this evening.
“It is the first cruise ship of the season to visit the port this year, but it’s going to be a very busy season with 9 cruise ships in total scheduled to call in 2012.”
The Cruise North West initiative which is a partnership between Derry City Council, Londonderry Port & Harbour Commissioners, the Loughs Agency and Derry Visitor & Convention Bureau aimed at attracting cruise business to the region.