BUSINSESSES in the Outer Hebrides are forecast to reap the benefit of the forthcoming cruise season.

Stornoway Port Authority has announced that more than 100 vessels with a capacity for 180 passengers are scheduled to arrive between April and September.

It is expected that the vessels will bring tens of thousands of tourists to the islands.

READ MORE: Isle of Arran restaurant Stags Pavilion on market for £475,000

The MS Spitsbergen, with capacity for 180 passengers and operated by Hurtigruten Expeditions, is the first due to arrive. The ship is expected to tie up at Stornoway on Thursday April 20, as part of an 11-day island-hopping cruise of Scotland’s west coast.

The season will close on September 28 with the arrival of Hebridean Island Cruises’ Hebridean Princess, which can carry up to 48 people and has been a regular visitor to the Outer Hebrides over more than two decades. 

The season’s largest visitor, at 139,072 gross tonnes and 333 metres in length, will be the MSC Preziosa, operated by MSC Cruises. The ship, which can accommodate up to 3,500 passengers is due to anchor off Stornoway on September 18 and is one of a number of vessels making their maiden calls at the port this year.

READ MORE: Pioneering Linn Products hails 'phenomenal' response

Alex MacLeod, chief executive of Stornoway Port Authority, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming the ships and everyone aboard over the next few months.

“The port is a gateway to the Outer Hebrides, offering cruise passengers the opportunity to enjoy the unique hospitality, culture, history, mystique and many famed landmarks our islands have to offer.

“The number of calls scheduled this year highlights the growing popularity of the Outer Hebrides among cruise operators and their customers from the UK and around the world.

“The season will bring a significant boost for many businesses in the islands as they continue to work to recover from the challenges they have faced in recent years.”

Mr MacLeod added that the number of cruise ship calls is expected to increase in 2024, following the opening of Stornoway Port Authority’s £59 million Deep Water Terminal.

The new facility, which is nearing completion, will have a minimum 10-metre alongside depth and be able to accommodate vessels up to 360m in length.