First cruise ship set to arrive in Scotland since start of pandemic

The first cruise ship to visit Scotland since early 2020 is scheduled to arrive in Lerwick Harbour on Monday (July 19).

The Scottish government has lifted its Covid-19-related ban to enable the reopening of Scottish ports to cruise ships on UK-only sailings, from Monday.

Domestic return voyages from English ports have been operating since mid-May and cruise lines had to quickly alter itineraries when the Scottish ban came into force last month.

Noble Caledonia’s MS Island Sky will berth at Lerwick in Shetland with 66 passengers – half the capacity of the vessel.

The voyage is a circumnavigation of the UK, taking in remote locations before and after Lerwick.

Mike Deegan, head of fleet operations for Noble Caledonia, said: “We are delighted to be re-affirming our strong connections with our friends in Scotland, a country we have visited regularly over the last 30 years.

“Our strict Covid-safe protocols, both on board and ashore, will ensure we shall visit with safety of local communities and those onboard paramount.”

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Captain Calum Grains, Lerwick Port Authority chief executive, added: “We’ve been working through the many steps required with all interested parties to ensure that Covid measures are in place to protect everyone involved during cruise ship visits.

“These measures meet official requirements and complement the comprehensive steps taken by cruise operators which set some of the highest standards seen in the tourism industry.”

In the initial restart phase, passengers coming ashore at Lerwick are likely to travel in “bubbles” of up to 15.

Steve Matheson, Shetland Islands manager for VisitScotland, commented: “The news the Scottish government is allowing resumption of domestic cruise visits to Scottish ports is a major boost for the industry and it’s great Shetland will be one of the first to benefit.

“The return of passengers will be a welcome financial boost for bus operators, tour guides, attractions and retailers.”

Lerwick only had two cruise ship visits in 2020 – in February – ahead of the industry’s voluntary suspension of visits in what should have been another record year for the port, with about 100 calls.

Grains said cruise ships can visit Lerwick until October and there are strong bookings for 2022 and into 2023.

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