Orkney: a cruise destination success story

Paul Olvhoj of Orkney Harbours discusses the port’s accomplishments and plans for the future

Orkney: a cruise destination success story
Orkney will welcome a combined total of more than 200 cruise ship calls in 2023

By Alex Smith |

The Orkney Islands, located off the north coast of Scotland, are one of the UK’s most popular cruise destinations. The towns of Kirkwall, Stromness and most of the Outer Islands of Orkney will welcome a combined total of more than 200 cruise ship calls in 2023, demonstrating the appeal Orkney has for cruise lines and their guests. 

But what keeps the cruise lines coming back? According to Paul Olvhoj, business development manager at Orkney Harbours, there are four main reasons: location, local attractions, port facilities and shoreside services. 

“We’re in an ideal position for the Arctic exploration cruises from the Baltic, and the islands provide a varied experience that’s part Scandinavian, part Scottish and part British, but uniquely Orcadian,” explains Olvhoj. “The islands also have a range of bucket-list sites, like the Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae, which are within a 30-minute drive from the port and perfect for shore excursions.  

“Our facilities allow us to accommodate even the largest cruise vessels very easily, with the Hatston pier exclusively working as a cruise berth throughout the summer. Our shoreside services – which include meet-and-greet welcoming with paid members of staff and a free shuttle bus service from the berth into Kirkwall town centre – make the experience as smooth as possible for cruise partners and guests.” 

While the harbour authority considers the resulting success of Orkney’s cruise industry remarkable it is carefully managing its growth to ensure that both the local community and its cruise partners see the benefits. Consequently, the authority is looking to ensure cruise guests have a memorable experience of the islands instead of focusing solely on increasing their numbers. 

“We’ve reached a point where there is a balance between the number of visitors and the local community, so our focus is on managing our cruise experience,” says Olvhoj. “We’re looking to follow the trends in the industry and offer something that’s very different. We want to create a bespoke offer for all of the cruise lines that are expected to visit us in 2024. We’re exploring options ranging from delivering local produce and sustainability initiatives to experiences with local people and crafts. Building up those connections and opportunities is critical for our future as a destination.”   

This article was first published in the 2024 issue of Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox. 

Contact author


Subscribe to the Cruise & Ferry newsletter

  • ©2024 Tudor Rose. All Rights Reserved. Cruise & Ferry is published by Tudor Rose.