As Afloat.ie previously reported, MSC Splendida becomes largest ship ever to visit Dublin Port - one of 83 cruise liner calls confirmed for 2015 cruise season. Dublin Port Company is celebrating the official launch of its 2015 cruise season this week with the arrival of two leading luxury liners, followed by the inaugural visit of MSC Splendida, the longest ship to ever call at Dublin Port. They are among 83 cruise calls confirmed for Dublin Port this year, which will see a total of 140,000 passengers arriving to sample the sights of Dublin.
Dublin Port's cruise season springs into life tomorrow with the arrival of the 290m long Caribbean Princess carrying over 4,200 passengers and crew. She is followed on Friday, 8th May by the 294m long Queen Victoria with 2,914 people on board. On Monday, 11th May Dublin Port will make maritime history, welcoming the largest ship to ever call at the port with the arrival of the 333m long MSC Splendida. She currently ranks as the 11th longest cruise ship in the world and accommodating her is pushing the limits of the port's operational limits.
Carrying 1,370 crew and 3,247 passengers primarily from mainland Europe, the MSC Splendida boasts a VIP section with 24 hour butler service and features more than a dozen bars and lounges, spa and Turkish baths, four swimming pools, squash courts and a Formula 1 simulator, all spread over 18 decks.
In preparation for her arrival, the port's Harbour Master, Capt. David Dignam, and the port's pilots have carried out a detailed analysis of the manoeuvres required to bring ships with lengths greater than 300m into the port. This has involved simulation exercises in the National Maritime College of Ireland with captains from the major cruise lines actively involved.
Dublin Port's current operational limit on ship length is 300m. At 300m, ships that enter the River Liffey are able to turn in Alexandra Basin West prior to departure. The MSC Splendida and other large ships cannot turn within the Liffey and must, therefore, either reverse in or reverse out.
Dublin Port Company's Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project is intended to transform the port and allow larger ships of all types, including the world's largest cruise ships, to routinely call to Dublin Port. In the case of cruise ships, they will berth upriver at the East Link Bridge and will be able to turn in the expanded Alexandra Basin West. The project, once complete, will mean that Dublin Port can handle the world's top ten largest cruise liners, including the 360m long Allure of the Seas.
Commenting on this year's cruise season and on the arrival of the MSC Splendida, Eamonn O'Reilly, Chief Executive, Dublin Port Company, said:
"2015 is an extraordinary year for our cruise business which we have been patiently building over the past decade. We started this year with 82 cruise ships booked to call to Dublin Port with a further 18 ships longer than we normally handle going to anchor in the bay, including the MSC Splendida. We are delighted that the MSC Splendida has now opted to call into Dublin Port.
"So great is the attraction for cruise passengers to disembark in the heart of Dublin City, we were asked by the major cruise lines to see if we could accommodate their largest ships and we are delighted to be able to. Bringing ships larger than we routinely handle demonstrates the strong demand in the market for enhanced infrastructure in Dublin Port and also gives us an opportunity to showcase to the people of Dublin what they can expect to see in future years as we develop the port.
"The cruise market is very dynamic and fast changing. We handled 86 ships last year and welcomed 141,000 visitors. We now expect that we will exceed these figures this year as many of the 18 ships which had originally planned to anchor in the bay may now opt to come into Dublin Port. All the signs from the cruise lines point to Dublin as the port of choice for their passengers, and we are confident that this demand will heighten further next year."
Commenting on the challenge of bringing the MSC Splendida into Dublin Port, Dublin Port's Harbour Master, Capt. Dignam, explained:
"When asked whether we could accommodate these larger ships our first challenge was to see how we could safely bring a ship into and out of the port, especially when the river is too narrow to allow it to turn within the port.
"The result of our many simulation exercises has convinced me and the cruise lines that, weather permitting, we can safely enter the port bow first and then manoeuvre stern first out (or vice versa).
"Due credit must be given to the skills of our pilots and the masters of our tugs "Shackleton" and "Beaufort", combined with the expertise of the cruise ships' Masters and their ships' enormous manoeuvring capabilities. "