CORK has officially welcomed back the cruise industry following the docking of the ‘Borealis’, the first of 90 cruise liners set to berth in Cobh this summer.
The town was abuzz as the ship sailed in before midday today, with crowds gathering to watch Cobh’s first cruise docking in over two years.
As the sun shone down and music played in the town square, a swarm of passengers soon made their way from the terminal and into local businesses.
Conor Mowlds, Chief Commercial Officer with the Port of Cork Company, toldthat it was a long-awaited moment.
“It’s extraordinarily busy and very exciting. Since Covid hit, we’ve had two years without cruise liners so today marks a really important time, especially for the local businesses here. It’s brilliant and next week we have an even bigger ship coming in,” Mr Mowlds said.
Though the liners usually only stop off in Cork for one day, Mr Mowlds said that the industry generates about €14m to €17m for the local economy every year.
“The average passenger spends about €85 while they’re here and the average crew member spends about €30. That money is spent not only in Cobh but in Cork City and in the other areas that people visit,” Mr Mowlds said.
“You’ll see the buses lined up when they dock in the morning and they’ll head off to Blarney Castle or the Jameson Distillery and then they come back and walk around Cobh and that’s where we see the real impact for the local community.
“We’re expecting 90 vessels to dock in Cobh this summer, which will be huge following a very difficult two years. We were only expecting about 40 originally so to get to 90 is brilliant and hopefully next year we’ll get past that 100 mark.”
Eoin McCarthy, Manager of the Mauretania Bar, estimates that up to 40% of his establishment’s income prior to the pandemic could be pinpointed to the industry.
“It’s not just the business that the passengers bring in, we get all the people who come into town to see the liners and they’ll spend a few bob. People will come in in the morning for their coffees and then for a few pints in the afternoon. I would estimate that 40% of our takings pre-Covid were from days when the liners were in and we are expecting that to come back this year.
“It’s great for every business - the clothes shops, the supermarkets - it’s massively important for the town and for the whole of Cork.”
One of the main draws of Cobh as a cruise liner destination is the town’s rich history, particularly its ties to the Titanic. John Sweeney, former President of Cobh and Harbour Chamber, said that the town’s connectivity is also a big attraction for companies.
“The train service here makes it so easy for people to travel around Cork and into the city,” Mr Sweeney said.
“A lot of people come from outside of Cobh to see the ships too and they’ll buy a coffee or a meal or an ice cream and that all adds to the economy as well.”
However, Mr Sweeney said that it was the locals who were most excited to welcome the tourists today.
“There’s been great anticipation for this. People were above on the High Road here looking down to see the ship dock and there was such a great buzz. The town really depends on tourism and businesses have suffered a lot over the past two years,” he said.
“Everything is really beginning to come right again. Hopefully, this is just the start of it.”