Magellan arrival signals start of record cruise ship season

by Tom Morton -

The 46,000-tonne, 1200-passenger Magellan, operated by Cruise and Maritime Voyages, arrived in Lerwick on Tuesday 13 March, the first cruise ship of what promises to be a record-breaking 2018 season.

Passengers on the 'Land of the Northern Lights' cruise from Tilbury had already taken in Reykjavik in Iceland and their next call was Kirkwall in Orkney. Most took advantage of the sunny, calm weather to enjoy the sights, shops and restaurants of Lerwick on foot, or to go further afield on a number of bus trips. Some found their inner viking identity by dressing in Norse garb at the Hoswick Visitor Centre, or visiting the cliffs at Eshaness in Northmavine.

But the Magellan - once a four-star 'flotel' during the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia - is a sign of record-breaking things to come for Shetland this year. Over the next eight months, Lerwick is set to break five records when it comes to hosting holiday ships:

  • Around 92,000 passengers are expected between March and October, up 81% on last year’s record 50,768.

  • The MSC Meraviglia will arrive with 4500 passengers plus over 1,500 crew - the largest number ever to come to Lerwick aboard a single ship.

  • Ninety-one cruise ships will visit.

  • The largest cruise ship yet to visit the isles will be MSC Meraviglia at 171,598 gross tonnes.

  • Lerwick will host the biggest tonnage of cruise ships in a season – 3,932,639 gross tonnes, up 83% on 2017.

Some found their inner viking identity at the Hoswick Visitor Centre

"This will be a great season for Lerwick and Shetland," said Victor Sandison, Lerwick Port Authority’s Senior Commercial Executive. "The outlook continues to be positive. We are currently anticipating over 107,000 passengers in 2019, with 109 ships already booked and more anticipated."

The last ship to call will be CMV’s Marco Polo on Thursday 11 October, arriving from Torshavn, Faroe. July and August will be the busiest months, with 26 and 22 calls respectively. Eleven ships will be paying their first visit to Shetland.

To cater for the increasing number of passengers, local shore excursion specialists Island Vista have added new experiences to their programmes, including a “Sound of Shetland” excursion treating visitors to a showcase of Shetland’s musical heritage in Mareel, Lerwick’s waterfront arts venue.

The MS Magellan was built in Denmark in 1985, and has had a colourful life. Initially called MS Holiday and owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, she was refitted for 2003, cruising to Mexico from Mobile, Alabama. But in 2005 she was chartered by US Federal Authorities to provide emergency accommodation in Mobile for those made homeless by Hurricane Katrina. She was refurbished in 2010 and transferred to the Ibero Cruises fleet, renamed MS Grand Holiday. She was transformed into a four-star floating hotel in Port Sochi Imeretinskiy in Russia during the Winter Olympics from 5 to 24 February 2014, then sold to CMV later the same year.

This will be a great season for Lerwick and Shetland