Coronavirus: First cruise ship visits Belfast since start of pandemic

Coronavirus: First cruise ship visits Belfast since start of pandemic

6/17/2021 3:06:00 PM

Coronavirus: First cruise ship visits Belfast since start of pandemic

The MSC Virtuosa is the largest passenger ship to visit the city, with 1,000 passengers on board.

The MSC Virtuosa is on a one-day visit to BelfastThe first cruise ship to visit Belfast since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic has arrived at Belfast Harbour.MSC Virtuosa, which has just under 1,000 on board, is on a one-day visit, and passengers are able to visit the city in controlled bubbles.

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The vessel is the largest to arrive in the city.Belfast Harbour expects 70 cruise ships this year, which isdown on a record 145 in 2019.Michael Robinson, Port Director at Belfast Harbour, told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme there has been a great deal of planning ahead of the ship's arrival.

"We have our own Covid management plan which was approved by the Public Health Agency and we did an emergency planning exercise earlier this year to plan for events such as a Covid incident on board," he said."This year is very, very different. Passengers are on controlled bubble excursions so they must book with the ship and leave on a bus.

"In this case they are going on panoramic tours of County Down and Belfast and unlike previous years where they could walk around the city and make their own way about that's not permitted this season," he said.image captionBelfast has been welcoming cruise ships since 1996

Crew members are not permitted ashore in ports, unless they are involved in operational duties such as tour dispatch or check in.The MSC Virtuosa was not permitted to dock in Scotland due tothe country's health regulations.Belfast welcomed its first cruise ships in 1996 and the sector has continued to grow but the pandemic effectively closed the industry globally.

Michael Robinson told BBC News NI the economic benefit will return as restrictions ease."We've estimated in previous seasons that cruises bring about £15 million into the local tourism economy and this year, today in particular, it will be bus companies that will be taking the passengers around Northern Ireland.

"We have to admit that is limited, but over time and through this season if restrictions ease there'll be more impact for local venues," he said. Read more: BBC Health News »

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