A welsh welcome awaits the cruise industry

Over the past twelve months, Cruise Wales has redoubled its efforts to put Wales on the map as a top destination. Lindsay James spoke to Suzanne Thomas to find out how these efforts are paying off

A welsh welcome awaits the cruise industry
Cruise passengers can enjoy welsh delights such as the Tenby Coast (pictured) and the longest zip wire in Europe

This article was first published in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

In 2018, Wales welcomed over 51,000 cruise passengers from over 100 calls – that’s a significant upturn on the figures from 2017 and a trend that Suzanne Thomas, head of Cruise Wales, is hoping will continue. “We’re hoping to see 20-30% growth year on year,” she said. “To achieve this, we’re doing everything we can to attract new lines.” 

These efforts are undoubtedly paying off. At the port of Fishguard, for example, a new floating pontoon is enabling larger vessels to anchor. Meanwhile, the ‘Fishguard Friendly Faces’ – made up of local communities who pull together to give cruise ship passengers a unique welcome – has recently won a National Tourism Award. 

“The Fishguard Friendly Faces is a great example of how we’re bringing together local communities, authorities and businesses,” said Thomas. “It has been so successful that we’re thinking of replicating it at other ports. We’re also testing out a local supplier market at the next Aida call. We’ll invite all sorts of local businesses, from microbreweries, cheesemakers and specialist chocolatiers through to gin makers and suppliers of fresh fish, welsh beef and welsh lamb. I’m positive that it will be a success.”

The port of Holyhead is also to undergo change, with a new multi-use berth development under consideration. “It will be 340 metres long and will be able to accommodate vessels up to 365 metres in length,” said Thomas. “We hope it will be in place by 2020.”

What’s more, revised plans for a multi-million pound marina redevelopment in Milford Haven have been approved by Pembrokeshire County Council. “We’ll see new hotels, shops and restaurants at the port,” said Thomas. 

There’s also a huge number of attractions that will keep cruise passengers busy during their stay. “Holyhead is the gateway to Anglesey and Snowdonia, which are extremely popular tourist destinations,” said Thomas. “But there’s a whole lot more to explore. For example, in Snowdonia there’s the longest zipwire in Europe and the Fforest coaster. For the non-thrill seekers there’s Portmeirion village, the Snowdon Mountain Railway and the very popular Bodnant Gardens & Conwy Craft Centre. The Anglesey coastline excursion is also very good, plus there are lots of castles and stately homes to explore. 

Cruise Wales is also developing a new ‘food safari’ for its guests, which showcases the best of welsh heritage and culture. “We cater to the different needs of visiting cruise lines,” Thomas said. “They may want champagne and canapes or a traditional welsh afternoon tea. Either way we hope these safaris will prove to be very successful.” 

What’s clear is that there’s something for everyone. “Whatever your interests, Wales certainly has it all,” Thomas concluded.  “We’re looking forward to welcoming more guests in the years to come and sharing everything that we have to offer.” 

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
Friday, January 25, 2019