Why more passengers are cruising the Welsh way

Wales is witnessing a surge in popularity among cruise tourists, particularly in the expedition market. Suzanne Thomas, head of Cruise Wales, tells Lindsay James more

Why more passengers are cruising the Welsh way
Wales has attracted expedition cruise lines with its reputation as ‘the Galapagos of the UK’

More than 51,000 cruise passengers visited Wales last year – a significant rise compared to the previous year’s figures. “We’re keen for this upward trajectory to continue,” says Thomas. “We’re going to great lengths to ensure that cruise lines feel at home in Wales.”

While Wales already plays host to some of the world’s biggest cruise lines, its ports have attracted several new ones for the coming season. “Fishguard port is a particularly compelling proposition thanks to its new pontoon which allows large vessels to anchor off and tender in. The main berth can take vessels up to 185 metres alongside,” Thomas explains. “Norwegian Cruise Lines is visiting Fishguard for the first time this year, as is AIDA Cruises’ AIDAbella which, bringing 2,500 passengers, will be the largest ship to call in the port to date.”

Expedition cruise lines are also seeing the appeal of the region, particularly in the ports of Newport, Cardiff and Swansea which are lock-based. “We’ve seen a marked rise in expedition vessels visiting the area – and that’s because we’ve got a huge amount to offer,” Thomas explains. “It’s been said that Wales has become the Galapagos of the UK, and I think that’s a pretty accurate comment. We have Lundy Island off Tenby, and Skomer Island, Ramsey and Skokholm off Fishguard. Out of Cardiff there’s Flat Holm and Steep Holm. Meanwhile, the Gower, off Swansea, is an area of outstanding natural beauty, as is Snowdonia and much of the north Wales coast.”

Cruise Wales’ boutique tour offering from Fishguard is also proving popular with the expedition market. “We’ve got some very talented local artists who take guests out to draw the wildlife,” Thomas explains. “Then there’s a wonderful foraging day, where guests can pick and cook their own lunch. We’re also planning on introducing home hosting.”

At the heart of Wales’ charm is it’s warm and friendly welcome – something that Thomas is incredibly proud of. “Pembrokeshire Radio recently gave Fishguard its ‘Hospitality Stars’ award for its Fishguard Friendly Faces welcome for cruise passengers, which is a great achievement,” Thomas says. “We’re building on that welcome and replicating it across all ports. There’s now a welcome centre which includes some fabulous entertainment, as wells as quayside stalls with local crafts and produce.”

And this is just the start. “We’ve just been lucky enough to receive funding through the government supported Regional Tourism Engagement Fund for a new project called ‘on the crest of a wave’ which is run by Anglesey council. The initiative, which will provide funding for Holyhead, Fishguard, Milford Haven, Pembroke, Cardiff and Swansea, will help us make our welcome consistent throughout all ports and will also enable us to create materials for business to business events and other marketing activity.”

With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why Thomas is excited about the future. “There’s a lot going on that will keep Wales on the map when it comes to cruising,” she says. “I look forward to many successful years ahead.”

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Lindsay James
By Lindsay James
14 January 2020

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