East Anglia’s ports tap into fast-growing domestic cruise market

Island Sky at ABP's Port of Lowestoft on 23rd July 2021

Island Sky at ABP's Port of Lowestoft on July 23, 2021 - Credit: Stephen Waller/Uniserve

The pandemic has opened cruise voyagers’ eyes to the delights of East Anglia’s coast, a port owner says.

An increasing number of cruise vessels have started dropping in at ports such as Lowestoft and Ipswich after travel restrictions made the industry look closer to home.

Associated British Ports (ABP) said its short sea ports attracted more cruise calls after the domestic industry resumed in May 2021.

Among them was Noble Caledonia’s flagship vessel MS Island Sky, which was welcomed on its maiden call at ABP’s ports of Lowestoft, Ipswich, Swansea and Troon.

The ports saw the successful return of cruise ships last year after the pandemic brought the industry to a halt.

It has since seen a strong comeback. Mike Deegan, head of fleet operations at Noble Caledonia, said it had given guests an insight into what the new destinations had to offer.

“I visited many of the UK ports over the summer and the over-riding feeling of our guests was that while they may not have chosen to cruise the UK coast outside of a pandemic, they are now wondering why they haven’t previously,” he said. 

Most Read

“This was equally true of the visits to ABP ports where we found much to interest our discerning guests in terms of local history, heritage, flora and fauna. We shall be back.”

In 2019, ABP received 18 cruise calls at its Wales and Short Sea Ports and 2021 saw 22 cruise calls with an increased number of luxury and new cruise ships.

Mr Deegan said: “Our extended UK season this year has given us the opportunity to call at locations we have not used previously and ABP’s ports at Swansea, Lowestoft and Ipswich, which were maiden calls for us, were perfect for our small, expedition-style cruise vessels. 

“In addition, the use of Troon as a turnaround port was ideal for us not only in terms of location and proximity to transport links but also in terms of the warm welcome and “can-do” attitude afforded by port staff there. 

Paul Litten, ABP’s head of commercial, Wales and Short Sea Ports, said: “Last year was an unpredictable year but notwithstanding, we were delighted to have seen and been able to support the return to cruise.”