Five star cruising comes to Liverpool as Celebrity Infinity set for maiden call in 2013
Source: Liverpool Post
Five star cruising will come to Liverpool for the first time next year, bucking the recession and giving a huge boost to the visitor economy.
The 91,000 gross ton Celebrity Infinity will make her maiden call at Liverpool Cruise Terminal next May 1 on the first of four round-Britain cruises from Harwich.
But it is the 2,170-passenger liner’s final visit on September 1, 2013, which is the crucial call for both the public and the city’s economy.
This will be the first time a round- UK voyage, which features Liverpool as a key destination, will allow passengers to embark and disembark.
It is the next big quantum leap Liverpool has been seeking since the initial revival of turnaround (ie starting and ending) cruises on May 29 by m/v Ocean Countess after exactly 30 years.
Judith Feather, Liverpool council’s divisional manager of events and cultural infrastructure, said: “We’re going to raise our game.
“Staying as a three star-rated cruise liner port is not our ambition.
“Bringing in five star-rated liners like Celebrity Infinity is the way we’re trying to go, but we have to get the operation right.
“There are steps in place to make sure that will happen. This is a small, competitive industry and we must get what we do right all the time for these people.”
Stuart Wood, former chief Liverpool Pilot and maritime commentator, said: “The brilliant idea of splitting Celebrity Infinity’s round-UK cruise will show other operators the turnaround benefits of Liverpool.
“While Liverpool won’t reach the 85% cruise market share of Southampton, why not attract five star business on a ‘small is best’ principle?”
Ms Feather added: “Overall, we want a real mix of cruises on offer, from three star ships to the top.
“Starting turnaround cruises was a big challenge which turned into a success. To confirm our new place we must take it slowly, step by step.”
The six-member Cruise Terminal steering group will complete a report for the city council by October 15, to be presented a few weeks later.
It will be a series of recommendations to take the terminal forward over the next three to five years.
Ms Feather said: “Questions to be addressed include how many ships and what size can we cope with?”
Landside, the terminal is on the private Peel Holdings estate with limited space to expand.
But Peel Ports Mersey boss Gary Hodgson and another senior manager are on the steering group.
Stephen Carr, Peel Ports Mersey head of business development, said: “We welcome any move which will add to the Mersey’s offering as a multifaceted maritime hub.
“The development of the cruise liner terminal is an exciting opportunity for us all.”
The present temporary tent check- in, baggage-handling and customs facility is one year through its three year life. It can only comfortably handle up to 1,200 passengers and so is inadequate for the increasing numbers of 2,000-3,000 passenger ships.
Cllr Wendy Simon, Liverpool’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: “We do need to look at upgrading the terminal and future development.
“Our ultimate aim is a world class facility, but we needed to get the turnaround cruises running to see if we could manage the extra capacity.
“We have listened to the experts about developing the service as this is a very competitive market”
Liverpool can draw on a huge cruise market hinterland, stretching from the north Midlands to southern Scotland, as it once did when ocean liner travel was the norm.
It is this vast potential which doubtless spooks rivals, provoking such hysteria from Southampton.
During this cruise season (April-September) the terminal welcomed 30 liners with around 37,000 passengers and more than 15,000 crew.
There were 19 transit (ie visiting) ships and 11 turnaround sailings.
Depending on how it is estimated, the spend of cruise passengers in local economy ranged from £1m to £3.3m for the 2012 season.
Next year there will 38 cruise ship visits carrying 43,000 passengers and 13,500 crew with another four provisionally booked, taking the total to 42 ships and 50,000 passengers.
Of these ships, 13 will be turnaround cruises. The highly popular Fred Olsen Cruise Lines will return with 10 sailings by m/v Boudicca.
Olsen’s pulled out of Liverpool two years ago due to its dissatisfaction with Langton Dock Cruise Terminal in Bootle, but is happy to operate from the new Pier Head terminal.
The first cruise and hotel stay holidays are being launched next year. More waterfront events are planned to coincide with liner visits.
Ian Higby, chairman of Mersey Maritime, an association of local maritime-related businesses and Atlantic Container Lines boss, said: “The benefits of the cruise terminal in the future will be tremendous.
“The underlying theme for me is work. The more ships we have coming into the river the more work that there is to be done.
“The whole process starts with the voyage, the pilots, tugs, docking, victualling, disposing waste, baggage handling, passenger moving and spending.
“If a ship is based here there is even more work for more suppliers like ship-repairing. Ships are work and work is money for everyone.”
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[Image: Celebrity Infinity cruise liner]