This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
Wales – known for its castles, mountains, rugged coastline and rich Celtic heritage, this compact but geographically diverse country has long been a popular tourist hotspot. Thanks to some shiny new attractions, its northern region has been named one of the top places in the world to visit in 2017. Ranked fourth in the Lonely Planet’s annual Best in Travel list, North Wales has been praised for its host of exciting facilities, including inland surf lagoon Surf Snowdonia, described in the guide as “perhaps the most headline-stealing example of North Wales’ reinvention.”
Judging by the number of cruise passengers flocking to Wales’ shores, they agree too. “This season we’re expecting 89 cruise calls, up from 58 last year,” says head of Cruise Wales, Suzanne Thomas. “The cruise industry is our fastest growing tourism sector; we haven’t had a year where we’ve not show signs of growth. It’s very exciting, and it’s testament to our great working relationship with the cruise lines as well as our ability to deliver something passengers want.”
Welcoming calls from the likes of TUI Cruises, Viking Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and National Geographic, Wales attracts a diverse range of passengers seeking out adventure activities (such as Surf Snowdonia, Zip World – home to Europe’s longest zip line – and the nearby giant trampoline park Bounce Below in the caverns beneath Blaenau Ffestiniog) and local culture, booking in for classes at cookery schools, slate mine and castle tours, and much more.
There are plenty of new attractions on offer in the south of the country too, served by the ports of Cardiff, Fishguard, Milford Haven, Newport and Swansea. “One really popular family activity near Fishguard is Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm,” says Thomas. “It’s home to the Tropical Bug Zoo, Bug Museum and Grub Kitchen – the UK’s first edible insect restaurant where you can try such delicacies as cricket cake and bug burgers.”
This year, the country will be hosting some exciting events, including the UEFA Champions League final in Cardiff. To accommodate all of the extra visitors to the city, there will be a cruise vessel docked in the port of Newport, which will be used as a floating hotel. “It’s a really effective way of holding extra people,” Thomas explains. “We’re expecting the match to bring millions of people to the centre of our capital city.”
2017 also heralds the launch of the Year of Legends campaign, where cultural events have been planned throughout the year celebrating the country’s unique heritage and legends, new and old. And coinciding with the Volvo Ocean Race, which will visit Cardiff next year, 2018 will be the Year of the Sea. “Perfect for our sea-faring guests,” says Thomas.
Looking ahead, Thomas says that there are plenty of other exciting plans in the pipeline. “We’re looking at future developments in all our cruise ports, particularly when it comes to cruise facilities for passengers and crew,” she says. “We’re also carrying on our successful German-speaking ambassador programme, training up local German speakers to be on hand to welcome guests from regular cruise lines such as AIDA. Our cruise industry continues to grow at an impressive rate, and we’re doing all we can to keep the momentum going.”