CORK is braced for a cruise bonanza in 2018, with some 200,000 people due to arrive on liners to Cobh, Ringaskiddy and the city centre this year.
The long-term outlook is even more promising, with officials at the Port of Cork confirming that early bookings for 2019 have already exceeded last year's total arrivals.
The first cruise liner is due to arrive in Cobh in mid-March, with 95 liners set to dock before the season ends on December 20.
Captain Michael McCarthy, commercial manager at the Port of Cork, said that the outlook for the year is 'very promising.'
"Last year, we had 67 bookings. This year, it is closer to 100. We are up about 30-35%," he said.
"The long-term outlook is good, too. 2019 is already looking even better. We are only part of the way through booking in liners and we have already exceeded the total for last year."
Mr McCarthy expects 150,000 passengers and an additional 50,000 crew to arrive at Cobh, Ringaskiddy and Custom House Quay over the coming year. This is an increase from 2017 when 100,000 passengers and 43,000 crew visited the region.
The increase in traffic is largely driven by an increase in bigger vessels visiting, Mr McCarthy added.
This includes the Brilliance of the Seas, which will bring 2,500 passengers and more than 850 crew on each of her four scheduled visits, and the Independence of the Seas, which can carry 4,000 passengers and 1,300 crew. It is due in Cobh twice in May.
The Celebrity Eclipse, due in April, and the Celebrity Silhouette, which will dock in August, will both bring more than 4,000 passengers and crew, while the Queen Victoria, due in May, will carry close to 3,000 people in total.
Later in the season, the Disney Magic cruise liner will bring 2,700 passengers and 1,000 crew on two visits in September.
"We have been chasing that one for quite a few years," Mr McCarthy said.
"For us to get the brand - to have Mickey Mouse coming into the harbour - it is a great booking."
Longer term, Mr McCarthy expects demand to continue to grow.
"Cork and, indeed, all of the north-west of Europe remains a stable and attractive destination for cruise passengers so we anticipate that these figures will continue to increase," he said.
"There is great optimism in the sector. There are 94 new ships on order between now and 2025."
Cork is well positioned to take advantage of the new additions in the coming years, with the Port's plans for a second terminal in Cobh expected to be finished by 2021, Mr McCarthy confirmed.