The port of Cromarty Firth is looking forward to another record year as it brings more cruise ships and maritime tourists to the north than ever before.
In the first full season since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, 115 ships, carrying around 200,000 passengers, are due to call at Invergordon.
This exceeds the last full season before the pandemic, 2019, which saw a record total of 103 ships and 167,000 passengers visited the Cromarty Firth.
The cruise industry is estimated to contribute around £18million a year to the Highlands economy and its return will boost tourist attractions and other businesses in the Highlands which have been hit hard by the pandemic. Foreign visitors were particularly missed as they tend to be bigger spenders than domestic tourists.
The 2022 season is due to start on Tuesday April 5 with the arrival of the Viking Venus, carrying 900 passengers and 460 crew.
The liner is one of 21 new ships due to make their first calls at the port of Easter Ross during the year.
Monday July 25 is expected to be the busiest day of the season at Invergordon, with three ships using port facilities at the Port of Cromarty Firth (PoCF) on the same day for the first time. The Mein Shiff 3, Ocean Odessy and AIDAsol will bring a combined total of nearly 5,000 passengers and approximately 1,600 crew members to the region.
The Emerald Princess, due to make its first call in May and a number of return visits, will be the largest cruise ship to visit the port during the year, carrying 3,300 passengers.
The season will be longer than previous years and will end on October 9, when the Norwegian Dawn, with 2,500 passengers and 1,100 crew, is due to call.
Alison McGuire, Port of Cromarty Forth Cruise Manager, said: ‘It’s very exciting to look forward to a full and busy cruise season here again.
“Until 2020 we had seen a steady increase in the number of cruise passengers visiting Invergordon and it is good to see a return to this after two very difficult years for the industry and the many businesses that benefit from it.
“This year we will see over 20 new ships of varying sizes entering the port for the first time, as well as the return of many familiar ships to take advantage of our excellent facilities and the incredible attractions the region has to offer.
“This is very good news for businesses and communities in the Highlands who have gone through such a difficult time during the pandemic.”
Bob Buskie, Port of Cromarty Firth Managing Director, added: “After all that has happened over the last two years, it is fantastic to look forward to yet another record cruising season on the Cromarty Firth.
“These ships will bring around 200,000 tourists from the UK and around the world to the Highlands this year, playing a crucial role in creating and supporting jobs in a number of areas including: tour guides, shipping agents, ground handling personnel, transport providers, pipers and employees of local distilleries, golf clubs and the hospitality industry.
As part of measures to ease traffic congestion in Invergordon, work is currently underway on two new parking areas on Shore Road for coach pick-ups and drop-offs when visiting liners. A pedestrian crossing has also been installed at the entrance to the Port.