It’s no surprise that 2023 is set to be a busy cruise season in Orkney, with many familiar lines – with 20 new vessels – due to call into the islands.
It’s difficult to quantify the exact value of cruise to Orkney but it is estimated as being between £12-15 million annually with a significant number of people working directly and indirectly with cruise and tourism in the islands.
At present there are a total of 230 ships booked to berth in the county over the course of the year with the first caller due to arrive in Orkney is due to arrive in March and a very busy season running through until October.
With 15 different locations this year being used, there will be plenty of different sights for the 41 lines visiting Orkney to visit and enjoy.
Paul Olvhoj is Business Development Manager with Marine Services at the Orkney Harbour Authority. He said: “We are delighted to be gearing up again for another busy cruise season.
The popularity of Orkney as a destination means that organising the process of cruise line calls to our berths is complex and it is critical that the correct staffing and skills are employed to ensure the safe handling of liners with up to 4,000 passengers.
“We are proud that our Meet and Greet, Security and Shuttle Bus teams are all paid staff providing a dedicated and skilled workforce. On top of this the substantial employment required to service the shore excursions to our destinations and the support they need is another benefit to the Orkney economy notwithstanding the excellent retail opportunities for passengers and crew to spend into our economy.”
Interestingly, according the to the last visitor survey carried out in 2017 16% of visitors to Orkney (non-cruise) had first called to Orkney on a cruise ship – and then returned by other means to spend longer in the county.
“The larger liners calling into Orkney make up a very small percentage of the overall numbers and we work very hard to minimise days with larger numbers of passengers to enhance the visitor experience. We do not want to stretch our infrastructure and we do not want anyone – cruise passengers or independent travellers to have anything other than a first-class experience while here.
“We continue our efforts to extend the tourist season into the shoulder months and this is working. There is no question that we must ensure that tourism - whether cruise or independent travellers - which is central to the local economy in Orkney and a vital source of employment throughout the islands, is properly managed.
How we manage the environmental impact of lines calling at Orkney is a challenge not just for locations but the industry itself. Although there is a trend towards cleaner fuels for vessels it is important that shore power from green energy sources is considered. Our commitment to deliver a first class service to all our visitors and benefitting the Orkney economy, through continual improvement and dedication, is a challenge that we are confident we can rise to”