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Invergordon's record-breaking 2023 cruise season under way with arrival of Ambassador Cruises' Ambience at deep water port

By Hector MacKenzie

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There's no mistaking this arrival. Picture: James Mackenzie.
There's no mistaking this arrival. Picture: James Mackenzie.

THE first of upwards of 200,000 seaborne visitors expected to arrive in an Easter Ross town this year disembarked at the weekend to set the scene for a record-breaking season.

Invergordon's 2023 cruise season got under way on Saturday when Ambassador Cruises’ Ambience turned heads as she berthed at the deep water port with 1340 passengers and 614 crew aboard.

Allison McGuire, Port of Cromarty Firth's cruise manager, said: “It was great to get our latest cruise season under way on Saturday, with a warm Highland welcome for the Ambience on a lovely morning in Invergordon.

"The visit went smoothly from start to finish, with the ship leaving the Port in the early evening, after those aboard had the opportunity to explore the town and enjoy excursions further afield.

“Saturday’s visit sets the scene for a busy, record-breaking cruise season ahead, which is expected to contribute more than £20million to the Highland economy.

“We are looking forward to welcoming our second visitor of the year, the AIDABella, on Wednesday and to a return visit by the Ambience the following day.”

The PoCF is preparing to welcome record numbers of passengers and ships.

The Ambassador cruise ship at Invergordon. Picture: James Mackenzie.
The Ambassador cruise ship at Invergordon. Picture: James Mackenzie.

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With more than 125 vessel visits currently scheduled, at least 200,000 seaborne tourists are expected to arrive at the Easter Ross Port between April and mid-October.

The port offers visitors from around the world a gateway to the Highlands’ famous landmarks, scenery and history with the cruise sector expected to boost the region’s economy by an estimated £20m this year.

The Norwegian Star, owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines and carrying up to 2500 passengers along with 1000 crew, is scheduled to be the final visitor of the year, on Monday, October 16.

Ambassador's Ambience cruise ship at Invergordon on Saturday, April 1, marking the start of the 2023 season. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Ambassador's Ambience cruise ship at Invergordon on Saturday, April 1, marking the start of the 2023 season. Picture: James Mackenzie.

During the season, 15 liners will make their maiden calls at the Port, with AIDA Cruises’ AIDAdiva, the first to arrive, on Wednesday, April 19.

In 2022, a record total of 109 cruise vessels visited Invergordon, although Covid-19 precautions saw the overall number of passengers lower than in some previous years, at just under 142,000.

In 2019, during the last full season before the pandemic, 166,000 tourists and 69,000 crew arrived at the Port.

Allison McGuire said the numbers due to arrive at Invergordon this year "shows the continuing popularity of cruise holidays and the enduring appeal of the Highlands as a destination for visitors from around the world".

She said: “The cruise season brings a buzz to the port and the local area and we are looking forward to welcoming the vessels and everyone aboard. It’s great to see such a high number of maiden calls scheduled and it’s always a particularly special occasion when a vessel arrives at the Port for the first time.

“The significant rise in passenger numbers this year will increase the local spend and contribute in excess of £20m to the wider Highland economy.”

The largest cruise vessel scheduled to visit Invergordon this year is P&O Cruises’ 143,730 gross tonne (GT) flagship, Britannia, which has capacity for 3900 passengers and 1350 crew and is due to call at the Port on Monday, June 19.

At the other end of the scale, the smallest ship is Noble Caledonia’s 2,183 GT Ocean Nova, which is expected to make its maiden call on Monday, May 8. The small expedition ship can carry up to 70 passengers, with a crew of 40.

In total, the gross tonnage of cruise vessels due to arrive in the Firth in 2023 amounts to 9,278,064 GT.

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