The UK’s busiest cruise port is preparing for another hectic day on Saturday when it hosts six cruise ships for only the second time this year.
Southampton’s facilities – on the quayside and in the city itself – will be put under strain as more than 33,500 passengers return from holidays or prepare to embark. Extra pressure will be created as a result of on-going strike action by council workers.
The cruise invasion could bring as much as £9 million of business for local hotels, shops and taxi drivers.
Strictly speaking, the port does not have dedicated terminal facilities to accommodate so many cruise ships, and its facilities were stretched to the limit on January 6 when there were six in port for the first time in 50 years. Plans are in hand for the £30 million development of a conversion of a fruit warehouse into a fifth terminal building, but work is not expected to be completed until 2013.
The port handles about 300 cruise ship visits each year, and the number is expected to grow to 400 within four years.
This Saturday’s line-up is:
Balmoral, carrying up to 1,350 passengers, will be returning from an eight-night cruise to Norway and is setting out on a 16-night voyage to Italy and the Western Mediterranean from the Mayflower Terminal.
Crown Princess, which accommodates up to 3,782, will also be at Mayflower. She is back from a week-long cruise to the fjords and embarking on a 12-night cruise around the United Kingdom.
Grand Princess – a slightly smaller sister to Crown with a capacity for 3,100 passengers – returns from 17 nights in the Adriatic and Mediterranean to embark on a seven-night cruise to Norway from the Queen Elizabeth 2 building.
Ventura, one of P&O’s biggest ships and with a profile similar to the Princess ships, carries up to 3,500. Back from two weeks in the Med and heading for a week among the fjords, she will be berthing at the new Ocean Terminal.
Celebrity Eclipse, with up to 3,145 on board, is at the City Terminal, returning from two weeks in the Med and ready to spend the next 14 nights cruising in the Baltic.
Artania, which until earlier this year sailed as Artemis for P&O will be making a return to Southampton, also squeezing into the Mayflower Terminal. The 1,200-passenger ship, originally Royal Princess and launched by Princess Diana in 1984, now sails for German travel company Phoenix-Reisen.
Extra transport is being laid on to take passengers to the city centre, railway station and airport, and coaches will be on standby in case there are not enough taxis. Staff from CruiseSouthampton.com will be on hand in the terminals to distribute guides to the city and to help passengers find their way around.
Associated British Ports director Doug Morrison said: “With such a large volume of people travelling to and from the port on the 16th July, passenger travel from the docks is as imperative to us as berthing a cruise ship. ABP’s teams have been working in unison to ensure that we are well prepared to have all six cruise ships in Southampton Port by 6.30am, all ready for disembarkation by the respective cruise ships. ”
And Nigel Lingard, Marketing Director for Fred.Olsen, said: “We are delighted that, for the second time this year, we will be part of such an historic occasion. With the increasing success of Southampton as a cruise port ,and the ever-growing demand for ex-UK cruises, I expect we will see more of these magnificent line-ups in future.”