Stornoway is fast becoming the new 'In Vogue' cruise destination. Credit: Shutterstock

Stornoway: Economy rescued by record cruise numbers

Author: Calum Brown

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It’s all go for Stornoway! The Hebridean capital has breached record numbers of cruise-ship visitors, and that’s before the new deep water cruise port opens next year. Big things are on the horizon, and it’s about time...

There has been a welcome boost for businesses in the Outer Hebrides lately, with an influx of cruise passengers lapping up the culture. All that activity has subsequently injected the Hebridean economy with much needed buoyancy.

That may sound like the usual waffle from outlets that copy-and-paste each press release, but if you delve behind the headlines, this announcement means more than a singular boost to tourism.

Those rooting for Scotland’s Eden-like paradise will be aware of the bedlam instigated by the Calmac Ferries situation , amid horrendous mismanagement from Scotland’s governing authorities, and the almost-permanent stress placed on local businesses.

The area’s recent popularity as a cruise destination has helped to counteract the detrimental mayhem caused by the recent failure of Stornoway’s imperative ferry service, showcasing the area’s charm and potential; rather than the ongoing political mayhem.

As a sign of things to come, this bustling activity will be welcomed with open arms. Especially as native businesses continue their recuperation from the prolonged pandemic recovery and current cost-of-living crisis.

MSC Poesia first graced Stornoway on July 5, 2023. Credit: Stornoway Port Authority

A record number of cruise visitors

The seven-day period ending on July 6 proved to be the busiest cruising week on record, with more than 8000 passengers from seven cruise ships absorbing the area’s unique mantra.

More importantly to those still reeling from the recent geopolitical domino-effect, those heritage-hungry visitors have been spending money by the bucaid load.

Of those seven hefty vessels, four ships made their maiden journey to Stornoway – including the MSC Poesia. At 92,627 gross tonne and 294 metres in length, accommodating up to 2,500 passengers, MSC Poesia remains the largest visitor this season so far.

That benchmark will soon be trumped by MSC Preziosa, weighing in at 139,072 gross tones, later in the year. And it won’t stop there, with nearly 100 vessel calls expected in Stornoway during the second half of 2023’s cruise season (April–September).

We reckon that record could be broken several times over the next two years. And it’s about time that Stornoway made the spotlight, as the Outer Hebrides – arguably - makes for the greatest British cruise destination on offer.

The best bit? All that progress comes before the opening of Stornoway Port’s Deep Water Terminal, set to unlock the Hebrides for cruise ships previously banished from port due to excessive dimensions.

Suddenly, the Hebridean economic future looks very bright, indeed.

The Hebridean Princess has proven to be Stornoway's VIP ship, and for good reason. Credit: Shutterstock

Fit for a Queen

Stornoway Port Chief Executive, Alex MacLeod, said: “The record number of ships that arrived last week again shows the growing popularity of the Outer Hebrides among cruise operators and their customers.

“It’s fantastic to see so many people from around the world arriving here to experience the unique hospitality and culture of the islands. And it is bringing a very welcome boost to many businesses in the islands.

“This level of activity gives everyone here a taste of things to come as we look ahead to more and larger ships coming to Stornoway following the opening of the Deep Water Terminal.”

Stornoway’s 2023 cruise season will draw to a close on Thursday September 28, with a visit from an old friend.

Hebridean Island Cruises’ Hebridean Princess may be far smaller than the headline-grabbing juggernauts (carrying up to 48 people), but she’s been a regular visitor to Stornoway since the 1990s.

The ship, which operates out of Oban, was the final caller of the 2022 season and retains VIP status for having been personally chartered by Queen Elizabeth II. No doubt, Her Majesty would also approve of any Cunard plans to utilise Stornoway with ships she was Godmother of; including Queen Mary II.

Having been nearby through thick and thin, Hebridean Princess will remain present throughout the port’s exciting new chapter.

A visual representation of Stornoway's completed deep water port. Credit: Stornoway Port Authority

Stornoway’s deep water terminal

We’ve previously covered the astonishing development of Stornoway’s upcoming deep water port, which is now nearing completion – offering a minimum 10-metre depth and accommodation for vessels up to 360m in length.

Mr MacLeod continued: “The new development will create opportunities which are becoming evident even now.

“Those involved with cruise ship visits, such as tour guides, meet-and-greet services and port security, will all need additional capacity in 2024.”

You can read more about the Stornoway Deep Water Terminal through the Hebridean investigation carried out by Cruise Trade News.

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About Calum Brown

Calum holds a deep interest in all things heritage and remains one of Britain’s most enthusiastic historians.

As a seasoned journalist, he has spent considerable time abroad and relishes all forms of transport. Shipping is in the blood, with a family connection to Stena Line embedded in his DNA. He also refuses to admit that 21st Century music exists.

Calum has developed a skill for bringing history alive, and always insists on making heritage accessible for everyone.