THE Port of Cromarty Firth has declared that it is preparing to welcome a record number of passengers and ships in the 2023 cruise liner season.

More than 125 vessel visits, and at least 200,000 seaborne tourists, are expected at the Easter Ross port between April and mid-October, the port said. This compares with the 109 vessels that called into Invergordon in 2022, itself a record, though the overall number of passengers who came last year at just under 142,000 was lower than previous year because of Covid-19 precautions.

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The Port said it is estimated the cruise sector will boost the region’s economy by £20 million this year, as visitors take in the Highlands' famous scenery and landmarks.

The first liner to call in at the port this year is scheduled to berth at Invergordon on Saturday April 1. Ambassador Cruises’ Ambience vessel has a capacity for 1,700 passengers and a crew of 600.

The season will close on October 16 with the arrival of the Norwegian Star, owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines, which can carry up to 2,500 passengers along with 1,000 crew.

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Allison McGuire, cruise manager at Port of Cromarty Firth, said: “The record numbers of ships and passengers due to arrive at Invergordon this year shows the continuing popularity of cruise holidays and the enduring appeal of the Highlands as a destination for visitors from around the world.

“The cruise season brings a buzz to the Port and the local area, and we are looking forward to welcoming the vessels and everyone aboard. It’s great to see such a high number of maiden calls scheduled and it’s always a particularly special occasion when a vessel arrives at the Port for the first time.

“The significant rise in passenger numbers this year will increase the local spend and contribute in excess of £20m to the wider Highland economy.”

The Port noted that the largest cruise vessel scheduled to visit Invergordon this year will be P&O Cruises’ 143,730 gross tonne (GT) flagship, Britannia, which has capacity for 3,900 passengers and 1,350 crew. It is due to call at the Port on Monday June 19.

The smallest craft due to visit this year will be Noble Caledonia’s 2,183 GT Ocean Nova, which is expected to make its maiden call on Monday May 8. The small expedition ship can carry up to 70 passengers, with a crew of 40. In total, cruise vessels with a gross tonnage of 9,278,064 GT are due to call in this year.