The importance of cruise ship calls to Cornwall has been highlighted once again this week following the successful visit of the biggest ship of the year, the Caribbean Princess.
The 112,000 tonne American ship spent a day in Falmouth Bay, with her 2,930 passengers coming ashore to enjoy the best the county has to offer.
Almost 2,000 passengers made their way into Falmouth, with the rest taking coach tours to destinations throughout Cornwall.
Mike Reynolds, Port Operations Director at A&P Falmouth, said: “It is impossible to underestimate the importance of cruise calls to the local economy – not just to Falmouth, but to the whole county.
“We have received lots of positive comments and would like to say a big thank you to our wonderful cruise ambassadors for all their hard work.”
Thirty of Falmouth’s cruise ship ambassadors worked throughout the day, from 7am to 4pm, and have received a letter of thanks from Princess Cruises for their efforts.
The ambassadors programme was established in 2006 and consists of a group of volunteers who love Falmouth and wanted to improve the experience of visitors to the town, in particular providing a warm welcome to the thousands of cruise ship visitors who disembark between April and October.
Phil Boddy, secretary of the ambassadors, said: “It was a really busy day for us all, but great fun and highly enjoyable. The majority of passengers were American with a smattering of Brits and Northern Europeans making up the total. Everyone was in good spirits and were highly complimentary of Falmouth and Cornwall in general upon their return to the ship.
“We also had many compliments which are always welcome and furthermore the sun shone for a change this summer too. It was a great day all round. Princess subsequently wrote and thanked us for all we had done and saying the call had gone well.
“We continue to prosper with an enthusiastic team of almost 40 local ambassadors. We’re just about to launch our own website and are greatly looking forward to the results of the dredging trials.”
Falmouth, reputed to be the third largest natural harbour in the world, is a popular stop for cruises, with 34 cruises and around 24,000 passengers calling at the port in 2012 – six thousand more than last year. Visitors from cruise ships spend more than £1.3 million a year in the county.
Given the depth restrictions of the channel into Falmouth harbour, there is unlikely to be any increase in cruise numbers unless dredging takes place and calls like Carribbean Princess into the bay are reliant on good weather, otherwise they divert to ports with alongside facilities like Cork and Brest.
Mr Reynolds said: “Five years ago Falmouth handled 60,000 cruise callers per annum, but as cruise liners and other vessels get bigger then the older, smaller ships that use Falmouth now are being pensioned off and Falmouth is down to 24,000 passengers this year.
“The solution is infrastructure capable of taking some of the largest ships in the world, such as the Freedom of the Seas – 340m long, 150,000t with 4,000 passengers and 1,500 crew that when visiting would put nearly half a million pounds in the Cornish economy in a single day.”
Ambitious proposals for the future of the port, which centre around Falmouth Docks, were formally endorsed by Cornwall Council’s planning policy advisory panel and cabinet in 2011.
One of the main issues highlighted by the study is the need to dredge the channel into Falmouth Docks, to safeguard the existing port functions as well as developing businesses requiring use of the port by larger vessels, including the cruise industry.
Thelma Sorensen, Chairman of Cornwall Business Partnership, said: “The tremendous success of the visit of the Caribbean Princess to Falmouth amply demonstrates the economic importance of cruise ship calls to the port and to Cornwall as a whole.
“It is obvious that the town and port of Falmouth, together with the enthusiastic, and obviously much appreciated, support of cruise ambassadors, is geared up to maximize the financial benefits generated by the arrival of such large numbers of passengers.
“However, these benefits cannot be fully maximized until the harbour has been dredged to accommodate the larger ships that wish to come here. With the global increase of the cruise ship industry, Falmouth needs to be in the position to be able to welcome, and accommodate, even the largest. There are plenty of other ports in the UK and Europe that are competing to do so and, in the present economic climate, the county cannot afford to miss out on the business that the visits of these extremely large vessels presents to the local economy.
“It is to be hoped that the current dredging trial will have a positive outcome that will allow the full dredging operation to go ahead and enable Falmouth and Cornwall to take full advantage of our outstandingly beautiful County, which so many visitors wish to enjoy.”