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£10m boost to local economy as Port of Cromarty Firth prepares for record numbers of visitors during bumper cruise ship season 11/03/2015
The Port of Cromarty Firth is gearing up for a record breaking seven months as both staff and the Invergordon community prepare for the arrival of the first cruise ship next week, marking the earliest ever start to the cruise season.
Between 17 March and 15 October, a total of 56 cruise ships will sail into the Port, bringing around 91,000 passengers and 30,000 crew to the area – the highest number of visitors since this area of the Port’s business began in 1978.
The new passenger record equates to a significant increase of 26.4 per cent on last year and will boost the local economy by more than £10 million, which is spent at shops and businesses in Invergordon and across the Highlands.
The first ship into the Port on the 17 March will be the Magellan.  This ship will be calling into Invergordon on its inaugural voyage around the UK, on a journey which falls less than a week after this latest addition to the owners’ (CMV) fleet is named by Gloria Hunniford in Tilbury, London. 
The cruise sector has a crucial role to play in the Cromarty Firth, supporting the creation of local jobs in a number of areas including; tour guides, shipping agents, ground handling staff, taxi and mini-bus drivers, employees within the hospitality industry, tourist attraction guides, pipers, local distilleries, golf clubs and marine staff. 
Bob Buskie, Chief Executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth said; “This is gearing up to be a really exciting year for us. With more passengers than ever before coming to Invergordon, this is a great opportunity for all our stakeholders to showcase everything that the area has to offer as the Gateway to the Highlands.”
Invergordon is not only seen as a gateway to the Highlands but is increasingly becoming an attraction in its own right, with its golf club and the towns’ famous murals including “The Long Goodbye” and “Volunteer Spirit”. Invergordon has also developed a successful arts & crafts scene, with its many gift shops.  This coupled with its strong history showcased by the Invergordon Museum and its Highland welcome has proven popular with cruise ship visitors.
Captain Iain Dunderdale, Cruise Development Manager, added: “Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in cruise tourism. As recently as 2002, there were only 21 ships and 12,900 passengers and we have now reached record numbers. This season will be getting underway earlier than usual, to allow passengers to see the solar eclipse, which will be best viewed between the Faroe Islands and Iceland.  It is also due to finish later than ever, in October.”
“We will also see some of the world’s largest cruise ships coming into Port, making use of the deep water that we have to offer. This is really good news for everyone and I look forward to welcoming new and returning vessels into the Port over the coming seven months.”
The average stay of cruise ships at the Port is between 10 and 12 hours. The maximum stay this year will be two days.
Passengers from countries all over the world will be heading for Invergordon over the season, with confirmed maiden calls being made by the MSC Splendida, the Royal Princess and P&O’s newest vessel Britannia, which is to be named by HRH the Queen this week.
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