New river cruise ship was christened by Libbie Rice of Ensemble Travel Group in Lahnstein, Germany
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Author: Lindsay James/Friday, May 24, 2019/Categories: Interview, Ports and destinations
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
There’s no question that Wales is now firmly on the map as a must-visit cruise destination. Over the last twelve months it has attracted a whole host of new lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Aida, Regent Seven Seas and Phoenix Reissen. “Business is really booming,” says Suzanne Thomas, head of Cruise Wales. “We are doing everything we can to ensure that this trend continues.”
Cruise Wales’ efforts are clear to see. The port of Holyhead is awaiting planning approval for a new 370-metre berth which could provide a huge boost in tourism and capacity. And work is progressing well at Milford Haven which is undergoing a new marina development which will create several new restaurants and four custom-built 'Flotel Cabins' which provide overnight accommodation with a difference.
And this is just the start. “The port of Fishguard is now welcoming newer, bigger ships, such as AIDA Cruises’ AIDABella, which has double the capacity of its sister ship, AIDAAura,” Thomas explains. “And Cardiff port will see Cruise & Maritime Voyages cruise line continue to offer turnaround cruises in 2019 to the Mediterranean, following the second successful year of sailing out of Cardiff port, where 750 passengers boarded and disembarked the Marco Polo cruise vessel.”
Fundamental to the growth of cruise tourism in Wales is the continued efforts to provide a warm welcome to guests. “We’re joining with local businesses and service providers to encourage them to go above and beyond when it comes to the customer experience,” Thomas says. “For example, Fishguard is seeing great results from a new artisan market which it is running dockside to showcase local suppliers. We’ll be expanding this to other ports soon. We’re also working with local taxi firms to establish a flat rate and we are continuing to train language ambassadors. We’re also investing in more technologies that enable us to deliver our services in multiple languages. There’s a lot going on!”
In addition to all of this, there’s a new and improved excursion offering, which Thomas says meets the demand for more immersive experiences. “We’ve really been trying hard to showcase the very best of Wales’ heritage and culture,” she explains. “We’ve developed a number of new excursions including a microbrewery tour, a visit to the local woollen mill, cookery classes and a whiskey experience. We have also developed a new tour of the Wales Millennium Centre building with the original architect; and for passengers arriving in Fishguard, we have developed a whole afternoon, offering a Hwyl event featuring entertainment to showcase Welsh heritage and culture. Wales has so much to offer, and I think we can now truly reflect this in our itineraries.”
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