FOUR cruise liners will come to Cork this Christmas, including one on Christmas Day, bringing 5,000 visitors to the region.
The increase in winter cruise-liners highlights a changing industry. Cork traditionally welcomes cruise-liners into Cobh from April to October, and 58 vessels arrived this year.
The larger ocean liners are then redeployed to the Caribbean, the Meditteranean, or to the southern ocean around Australia.
However, increased competition means vessels operated by UK and German cruise companies are continuing in northern Europe throughout the winter.
Earlier this week, the Bodicea called to Cobh and will be followed by the Balmoral, on Saturday, and the Marco Polo, on Monday.
Then, on Christmas Day, The Black Watch, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, will come to Cobh. The four vessels have a capacity of 5,600 passengers and crew.
Captain Michael McCarthy, the commercial manager of the Port of Cork, said the changes to the winter-cruise industry present a challenge, but also an opportunity for tourism operators here in Ireland.
“What we are seeing is that cruise vessels are no longer confining themselves to the April to October season. Rather than lay up the vessels, they are looking for an alternative and are now operating itineraries throughout the winter.”
“The challenge for the ports is to keep attractions open in places such as Killarney, Kinsale, Fota, the Jameson Experience in Midleton,” he said.
“But we would also expect that those who have a positive experience here in Cork, on a winter cruise, may very well return here in the summer.”
Captain McCarthy is also the chair of Cruise Europe and said that Cobh and Cork Harbour continue to increase in popularity as cruise destinations.
“We are already talking seriously about 70 vessels coming next year, and even 2018 is looking very positive.”