Setting sail for South America, the Canaries and now ... Southwold!

The Saga Pearl II will be visiting Southwold in summer 2016

The Saga Pearl II will be visiting Southwold in summer 2016 - Credit: Saga

A luxury cruise ship that has toured exotic destinations across the globe will visit Suffolk’s coast next summer in a move welcomed as a sign of the county’s ever growing tourism industry.

Southwold

Southwold - Credit: Archant

The Saga Pearl II has docked in ports in South America, the Canaries and the Caribbean, but in July 2016, the 449-berth vessel will be dropping anchor near Southwold as part of a 12-night cruise around the British Isles.

Tour operators Saga claim no other cruise ship has ever visited the “dainty port” of Southwold, where it is expected to receive a ”warm and enthusiastic welcome when she sails in”.

A Saga spokesman said the company was “very excited” to be visiting Southwold, which was possible by using the smallest of its two cruise ships, which can sail into ports of call that larger vessels cannot make.

Guests will be taken to shore using the ship’s tenders, arriving at Southwold Harbour from where they will be invited to enjoy the town’s attractions and those in neighbouring towns and villages.

Captain Wesley Dunlop, who will be returning to his home town Southwold during a Saga cruise in summ

Captain Wesley Dunlop, who will be returning to his home town Southwold during a Saga cruise in summer 2016 - Credit: Saga


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Saga said it will be speaking with businesses and attractions to arrange potential shore excursions “in due course”.

Customers’ satisfaction surveys on the various ports of call visited will determine whether Southwold could become a regular destination during Saga’s summer cruises.

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Tourism leaders in Suffolk have welcomed the county’s inclusion, which is expected to boost its tourism economy further.

Amanda Bond, brand manager for Visit Suffolk, said it was a “really exciting development for tourism in Suffolk” as any of the passengers coming ashore could be inspired to return for a future holiday in the county.

Highlighting attractions along the coast, Ms Bond said “those on board will be able to appreciate our amazing coastline from a unique viewpoint”.

“It offers up an alternative way to visit the county and will help to highlight the uniqueness of Suffolk compared to other destinations on the itinerary,” she added.

“It’s positive for tourism businesses to benefit from day tours and the local economy as a whole especially, but not limited to, those along the coast as it will highlight Suffolk to new audiences.

“Ideally, any of the 449 passengers seeing Suffolk for the first time will be inspired to return for a future staycation.”

The Saga Pearl II visits Southwold on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

Community reaction

Businesses and community leaders in Southwold have welcomed the town’s inclusion as a cruise ship destination, which could bring more than 400 extra visitors, as a boost for tourism.

John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said the visit was “very good news”.

“Tourism is the prime industry in this area and so anything that brings more visitors is to be welcomed because it helps the whole economy,” he added.

Southwold councillor Simon Tobin said the town’s inclusion was “verification of its unspoilt and unique character”.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the news as it can only help the tourism industry on which we rely,” he added.

Peter Websdale, general manager of Southwold Pier, said the visit would be “amazing for the town, its businesses and the county of Suffolk”.

The Harbour Inn will be in a prime position to welcome the visitors off the tenders when they arrive.

Landlord Nick Attfield said he would work with other businesses to encourage the visitors to stay “and hopefully it might become a regular occurrence.”

Adnams marketing director Emma Hibbert said the maiden call will be “great news for the town”.

“Adnams and Southwold are all about making visitors welcome and that will be especially the case for Captain Dunlop’s Homecoming Cruise,” she added. “The stop off should give an additional boost to our pubs, hotels and shop just before the main summer season begins.”

Captain ‘filled with pride’ for homecoming cruise

The captain of the cruise ship will be returning to his home town when he arrives in Southwold next summer.

Captain Wesley Dunlop said he was “delighted“ to be at the helm for his homecoming cruise and was “filled with pride” to be sailing to Southwold.

“To be the first ever cruise ship to visit this quintessential British town will, without doubt, be a highlight of my career,” he added.

“Knowing the townsfolk well, we’re sure to be in for the warmest of welcomes and I for one cannot wait.”

Saga has named the voyage Captain Wesley Dunlop’s Homecoming Cruise, in reference to the Southwold connection.

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