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Portland Port welcomes record-breaking 130,000 passengers in 2023

MSC Virtuosa was the first cruise ship to use Portland Port’s new £26m deep-water berth
Portland Port received more than 130,000 passengers in 2023, the largest number in its 27-year history, and will welcome cruise ships through most of 2024.  

The record number of passengers arrived on 56 ships over eight months, from April to November, contributing more than £10m to the local economy. 

‘Our record season shows how Portland continues to increase in popularity as a cruise destination,’ said Ian McQuade, Portland Port’s commercial GM and chair of Cruise Britain. 

‘Our location so close to the main English Channel shipping lanes, at the heart of the Jurassic Coast, makes Portland Port an attractive transit port for guests wishing to see the many and varied attractions of Dorset and beyond.

‘We’re grateful for the support of all of those who made 2023 such a successful year and helped us inject more than £10m into the local economy while raising the profile of the area and its many attractions.’ 

The first call of the season was AIDAbella on March 7. This was followed by Holland America Lines’ Zuiderdam on April 15 and Hurtigruten’s Otto Sverdrup on April 16, which both made inaugural visits. Other ships to make inaugural calls were Oceania Vista, Oceania Riviera, Disney Dream, MSC Euribia and AIDAmar.

The final cruise call of the year was AIDAmar on November 14, which arrived with 2,134 passengers. 

2024 plans 

McQuade said that planning for the 2024 season is well underway, ‘We have cruise calls planned for 10 out of 12 months next year with an early start to the season in February. The cruise calls don’t just fall into our laps. We have to work hard to attract the cruise lines and then even harder to ensure that we provide excellent service when they are in port.’ 

A popular complimentary shuttle service takes passengers into the nearby town of Weymouth, but ‘remains under constant review to ensure it operates in the best way possible,’ McQuade explained, extending appreciation to Weymouth's Dorset Volunteer Ambassadors for their support. ‘We also try to ensure that the guests receive a memorable farewell with music on the quayside before a three gun salute by the Nothe Fort Artillery Volunteers,’ he remarked. 

According to McQuade, 2024 ‘looks set to be another busy and successful season in the development of the cruise industry in Dorset.’ The port will share more details about its plans for next year in due course. 

2023 facts and highlights

Portland Port’s new deep-water berth was christened by MSC Virtuosa when it arrived on April 28 with 5,015 passengers – the highest number of cruise passengers in Portland, until the ship returned on October 26 with 6,025 passengers. 

In October, the new berth also played host to the port's largest double cruise day, when Norwegian Star and MSC Euribia brought 2,269 and 5,227 passengers, respectively (total: 7,496.)

Portland Port hosted Cruise Britain’s annual summer gathering in partnership with Princess Cruises in June.

Passengers visiting Portland came from a wide range of countries, the USA (50,000,) Germany (24,000,) UK (20,000) and Canada (just under 10,000) leading the way.