The Port of Cromarty Firth is looking forward to another record-breaking year, as it brings more cruise ships and seaborne tourists to the north than ever before.
In the first full season since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, 115 vessels, carrying around 200,000 passengers, are scheduled to call at Invergordon.
The cruise industry has been estimated to contribute approximately £18million-a-year to the Highland economy and its return will bring a welcome boost to tourist attractions and other businesses across the Highlands that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
In the last full season before the pandemic, in 2019, a record total of 103 vessels and 167,000 passengers visited the Cromarty Firth.
The 2022 season is due to get under way on Tuesday, April 5, with the arrival of the Viking Venus, carrying 900 passengers and 460 crew.
The liner is one of 21 brand new vessels due to make their maiden calls at the Easter Ross port during the year.
Monday July 25 is expected to be the busiest day of the season at Invergordon, with three ships using Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) dock facilities on the same day for the first time. The Mein Shiff 3, Ocean Odessy and the AIDAsol will bring a combined total of nearly 5,000 passengers and around 1,600 crew to the area.
The Emerald Princess, due to make its maiden call in May and a number of return visits, will be the largest liner to visit the Port during the year, carrying 3,300 passengers.
The season will be longer than in previous years, drawing to a close on October 9, when the Norwegian Dawn, with 2,500 passengers and 1,100 crew, is scheduled to visit.
Port of Cromarty Forth, Cruise Manager, Alison McGuire, said: “It’s very exciting to once again be looking forward to a full and busy cruise season here.
“Up until 2020, we had seen a steady increase in the number of cruise passengers visiting Invergordon and it’s good to see a return to that after two highly challenging years for the industry and the many businesses that benefit from it.
“This year we will see more than 20 brand new vessels of various sizes, coming into the Port for the first time, as well as welcoming back many familiar ones to take advantage of our excellent facilities and the incredible attractions the area has to offer.
“This is really good news for businesses and communities across the Highlands which have had such a tough time during the pandemic.”
Bob Buskie, Chief Executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, added: “After everything that has happened over the past couple of years, it’s fantastic to be anticipating a record-breaking cruise season on the Cromarty Firth again.
“These ships will bring around 200,000 tourists from the UK and around the world to the Highlands this year, playing a crucial role in creating and supporting jobs in a number of areas, including: tour guides, shipping agents, ground handling staff, transport providers, pipers and the employees of local distilleries, golf clubs and the hospitality industry.”
As part of measures to alleviate traffic congestion in Invergordon, work is currently under way on two new lay-bys on Shore Road for coach pick-ups and drop-offs when liners are visiting. A pedestrian crossing has also been installed at the entrance to the Port.