Saga Cruises Spirit of Discovery’s return to the port after visiting last summer highlights the growing attraction of the city to the industry.
The liner’s return on Friday morning comes hot on the heels of Saga’s announcement last week that all its 22 cruises will leave from Portsmouth rather than Southampton next year.
It was a sign of the times on a busy Friday at the port as Spirit of Discovery was joined by Viking Cruises Viking Jupiter – bringing in more welcome investment to the city.
It comes off the back of a successful 2021 which laid down a marker of what was to come as the port hosted a number of exciting cruise liners.
These included Saga’s new liner Spirit of Adventure which was named at a traditional bottle smashing ceremony in July.
Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas and Marella Cruises’ Marella Explorer also pitched up in a series of bigger cruise ships able to berth at Portsmouth International Port thanks to a huge £18m investment from its owners Portsmouth City Council to upgrade facilities.
The stream of cruises coming into the city is thought to bring in £1.5m for every visit, according to city council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who heralded the ‘golden ticket’.
He said: ‘It is great news that Saga is moving all its cruises to Portsmouth from Southampton next year. We look forward to welcoming them. It was good to see Spirit of Discovery return once again.
‘We are working to get more boutique cruises into Portsmouth which is very good for the city with each cruise bringing in £1.5m to the city economy.
‘We hope the cruise ships we have coming to the port will bring more to the city as we have shown how attractive we are and that we are able to do it.
‘The significant long term investment will provide profit for Portsmouth and boost the local economy.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the council’s investment in the port will ‘make Portsmouth attractive’ to cruise ships. Work to widen berths and deepen the water to accommodate 300-metre cruise ships is part of the £92m ‘masterplan’ to transform the area.
The council chief said other benefits included people who had never been to the city returning whilst pointing out a spike in trade from the hundreds of people working on the ships.
‘Tourists stay in hotels and get to see Portsmouth and end up coming back again because they are impressed,’ the council boss said.
‘The crews from the ships go shopping and visit shops. They have been using Commercial Road a lot - bringing in more money to shops to help keep them going.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson promised to keep up the upward momentum with the cruise industry. He added: ‘We will continue to build on it.’
Andrew Williamson, passenger operations manager at the port, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Spirit of Discovery back to Portsmouth, particularly following last week’s announcement that Saga will be basing a large number of their ships in Portsmouth next year.
‘Their premium cruise offering fits perfectly with the range of luxury and boutique vessels we currently have visiting the port, and we’re looking forward to Saga’s ships becoming a familiar sight in 2023.
‘It was a busy Friday at the port, with Viking Cruises Viking Jupiter also bringing passengers in to visit our historic waterfront city and world class attractions.’
Mike Sellers, port director, added: ‘It’s a great start to what will be a busy Easter weekend here at the port for both cruise and ferry travel, as we welcome back Saga’s Spirit of Discovery and Viking Cruises Viking Jupiter.
‘Following on from last week’s reveal that Portsmouth will be Saga’s chosen regional port for their 2023 summer sailings, we’re looking forward to their ships becoming a regular sight through the harbour.
‘Viking are also bringing in over 900 passengers for this destination cruise call, who will have the day to explore our brilliant city.
‘Calls such as these bring profit to local businesses and attractions, and we hope to strive forward with our ambition to put Portsmouth on the map as a unique passenger experience. On average, each cruise ship call brings over £1m to the local economy.’
SEE ALSO: Danger driver in court
Meanwhile Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said: ‘Welcoming the Spirit of Discovery to our city, following Saga’s exciting decision to choose Portsmouth International Port for its cruises for 2023, is good news for Portsmouth.
‘As I have long said, our port's success is our city’s success. These 22 departures from Portsmouth will be a welcome boost to our local economy and is a ringing endorsement of what our city has to offer.
‘I will continue to support the port in both its economic growth and delivery of its green targets, including its commitment to become the first net carbon neutral UK port by 2030.’
The port masterplan includes a range of short, medium, and long-term priorities such as new 'smart' booking systems to dredging and berth extensions to cater for larger passenger ships.
The £92m strategy for the port sets out a raft of measures to 'secure its future' and meet changing demands in the cruise and cargo industries over the next 20 years.
The masterplan also outlines major work to extend berths and deepen the water to be able to accommodate 300-metre cruise ships and reveals plans for a new satellite site outside the city for lorry drivers to reduce congestion coming into the city.
The strategy also sets out measures to increase shore power provision to accommodate hybrid ships and the potential for a fully-electric ferry service operating to and from the Isle of Wight.
Brittany Ferries will begin operating its LNG-powered Salamanca from the port this spring.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said in February it would 'help the UK's trade and travel sectors thrive' and was 'hugely important' for the city.
'This really is transformational,' she said. 'There are real opportunities for us, particularly post-Brexit and this masterplan sets out how the port can take advantage of them.
'Work is already underway to construct a brand new terminal extension, which has been made possible by a successful Levelling Up funding bid. This terminal transformation will provide showcase facilities and attract new customers to the city.'