The number of cruise liners docking at Dublin Port has grown exponentially since the first luxury ship arrived back in 1995. Indeed, 2015 saw 149,000 visitors on 93 cruise ships visiting the port, up 8.1% and 5.9% respectively on 2014. The strong growth was driven, in particular, by the port handling cruise ships greater than 300 metres in length for the first time. Indeed, visiting cruise ships included some of the world’s largest liners, such as the Royal Princess and MSC Splendida, both of which check in at over 300 metres.
“Last year was the most successful year we have had in the history of the Port, including our cruise business,” explains Pat Ward, Head of Corporate Services. “Previously, 2007 was our best year, which was at the height of the Celtic Tiger, so we are back in that space.” What makes the cruise business really exciting is the potential for further growth, according to Mr Ward: “Dublin is the cruise capital of Ireland and is considered a marquee port in the context of the cruise industry globally, and the potential for us to grow the business in the coming years is there for all to see.”
One significant boost to Dublin Port’s cruise business will be the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) programme. July 2015 saw Dublin Port Company getting the green light from An Bord Pleanála for the development, which will see the creation of brand new berths that can easily accommodate luxury cruise ships.
“It is essential that Dublin Port Company continues to facilitate passenger demand so the city remains the port of choice for cruise,” Mr Ward explains. The ABR project will allow DPC to “take the biggest cruise ships in the world and bring them right into the city centre,” he adds.
The cruise business itself has changed in recent years. Like many other sectors, the cruise industry has seen a number of operators merge and amalgamate, to the point where Mr Ward feels it is now “a rather small family, run by a number of companies”.
Cruise passengers too have changed: “At one point in time, cruising would have been considered a luxury holiday for those in retirement but that’s no longer the case,” he explains. “Nowadays, you have young and old, independent travellers, couples and families. Cruising is no longer for the elite of society. It is a very affordable holiday for families.”
So just what is it that makes Dublin such a popular cruise destination? “Well it’s not the weather,” laughs Mr Ward.
“People are coming here for the culture, the history, the food and drink and of course for the friendly welcome they receive. There has been a fundamental shift in the dynamic of the cruise industry, who recognise that not everybody wants to go to the Caribbean and sit in the sun: there are people who want more adventurous or cultural cruise holidays, so there are various different markets and we have done very well in Ireland, and in Dublin in particular, in promoting our brand. Long may that continue.”