She is one of 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. Currently ranked as the 11th longest cruise ship in the world, accommodating her arrival has pushed the boundaries of the port's operational limits.
As Afloat reported previously, the MSC Cruises ship built in 2009 has 4,600 passengers and crew that were greeted this morning by a Celtic-inspired welcome on the quayside. This featured a live ceili band, Irish drummers, dancers and entertainment before passengers departed for the city's shops and attractions.
On board, 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 a further boost for cruise tourism to the city, Dublin Port Company has also announced that Dublin Port will become the first Irish port to welcome Disney Cruise Line following confirmation that "Disney Magic" will call to Dublin in 2016.
The 300m long Disney Magic will make her maiden call to Dublin Port on 26th May 2016 as part of a transatlantic cruise starting in Port Canaveral, Florida and finishing in Dover, England. Disney Magic will visit Dublin again on 13th June 2016 as part of a 12 night cruise around Britain with Dublin selected as the only destination in Ireland. She will bring 2,700 passengers and a complement of 950 cast and crew to the city each time. The selection by Disney Cruise Line of Dublin as its chosen destination in Ireland highlights the strength of Dublin as an attraction for cruise tourism. Disney Cruise Line now joins a long list of the world's largest cruise lines choosing to call to Dublin Port.
Dublin Port Pilots guide MSC Splendida into her river Liffey berth this morning having sailed from Greenock, Scotland. Photo: Jehan Ashmore
In preparation for the arrival of MSC Splendida, 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.
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. The latest confirmation from Disney Cruise Line and securing the Cruise Europe Conference for Dublin in 2016 are testament to that."
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. "