Spanish Armada, French Armada, English forces, Vikings, the Lusitania. West Cork towns have had their share of maritime history over the years but this coming week will see history in the making when new visitors, this time invited ones, will arrive by sea to experience some of County Cork’s gems.
This Thursday, June 9th, the German cruise ship, the Bremen, will anchor just off Bere Island and 100 German passengers plus crew will zip ashore on some of the ship’s 12 onboard Zodiacs. With Hungry Hill as its backdrop and the historical island its destination, passengers will land at Lawrence Cove Marina, where they will be whisked to the Heritage Centre to learn about the island, its history and culture. From there, they have the option of hiring bikes, joining a guided walking tour or participating in some unique experiences – pulling a pint in the village pub or footing turf, for example.
“The community of Bere Island has gone out of its way to customise experiences for these guests and we are confident that the welcome they have planned for them will result in exceptional feedback from the passengers and crew and future calls of even longer duration in coming years.
“We are excited by the opportunity we believe the West Cork Islands present for expedition operators such as Hapag Lloyd Cruises and are in no doubt about the economic benefit that direct calls such as these can deliver to the community. ” says Clodagh Henehan, Divisional Manager, West Cork for Cork County Council.
Later, on June 13th and again on the 20th. National Geographic Orion, with mainly American guests onboard, will call to Kinsale. Anchoring in sight of the spectacular, clifftop, Charles Fort, the Orion’s guests will enjoy historical walking tours of Kinsale Town and take in the Old Head of Kinsale on the Wild Atlantic Way.
This is the first season that the Orion has been deployed in Europe – it is more usually to be found in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Combining adventure with luxury for its discerning and highly experienced travelers, this expedition ship also seeks out smaller harbours on its itineraries.
“Guests on these smaller cruise ships are seeking destinations where larger ships and mass tourism has not reached. It’s all about authentic experiences and West Cork, with all it offers, is ideal for them”, comments Clodagh Henehan. “Additionally, in recent research, 67% of cruise passengers said they returned to a destination after visiting it on a cruise. So, for us and for tourism development in the region, it’s a no-brainer.”
At the end of 2013, as part of its economic development remit for the region, Cork County Council identified the need to actively intervene to arrest the decline in cruise ship calls into Glengarriff, for which they were then responsible. They put in place a two-pronged promotional campaign that sought
to attract additional cruise ships into West Cork and to increase the shore excursions for cruise passengers in West Cork.
With decisions about deployment taking place some 3 years down the line, this is the first year that the efforts on the itinerary planning side are now paying off and the opportunity of attracting smaller ships into lesser known harbours has been realised. A further new cruise ship company is scheduled to call to Kinsale in 2017.
Additionally, Glengarriff which is serviced now by the Port of Cork, will have 7 ship calls in 2017, many of them new clients and all of them larger ships with an average of 600 passengers each. Significantly, one of these companies, Holland America Line, is one of the first American companies to call to Glengarriff which has traditionally appealed to a more European and UK market and it is hoped this will attract further US cruise operators to West Cork.