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#DublinPort - MSC Meraviglia is set to break a record (in passenger capacity) as the largest ever ship to visit an Irish port with a maiden call to Dublin Port in the early hours of tomorrow, writes Jehan Ashmore.

At 19 decks high and towering 65m above the waterline, the 5,700 people-carrying 'Vista' class leadship of Swiss based MSC Cruises is to depart Scotland this evening. The cruiseship currently in Greenock on the Clyde, is the cruiseport for Glasgow. 

The massive ship of 171,589 gross registered tonnes, is ranked as the world's fifth largest cruiseship just after Royal Caribbean's 'Oasis'-class vessels. The latest in that series, Symphony of the Seas at 228,081 (grt) is the world's largest cruise ship.

MSC Meraviglia, is scheduled to dock in Dublin Port in the early hours of tomorrow morning at around 03.45 and remain until Saturday late afternoon. The 2,200 cabin ship will then sail overnight to Cork (Cobh) with an arrival this Sunday, as part of a 12-day European itinerary.

Launched last year at the STX French shipyard in Brittany, MSC Meraviglia is the first of MSC Cruises next-generation ship to come into service almost a year ago. The newbuild made a debut last June as part of a €10.5 billion investment plan. At a christening ceremony held in Le Havre, Normandy, actress Sophia Loren, (godmother to all of the MSC fleet) named the cruiseship.

The first season in Northern Europe saw MSC Meraviglia, designed for all seasons, offers world-class entertainment with Cirque du Soleil at Sea, a wide choice of dining options serving a range of international and Mediterranean cuisines. A promenade has an array of bars, restaurants and shops. Among the notable features is the longest LED Sky Screen ever built on a ship.

At 315m MSC Meraviglina is not the longest cruiseship to visit Dublin Port. That title went to a fleetmate the 333m MSC Splendida which as Afloat previously reported made a maiden call to the capital in recent years.

Today, a slightly shorter cruiseship, the 330m Royal Princess, built by Italian shipyard, Fincantieri, arrived in Dublin Port this afternoon carrying more than 3,000 passengers and crew from Cobh. On the call to the capital today, the 'Royal' class ship entered the port astern with the tugs meeting the cruiseship beforehand in Dublin Bay. The precedure of the ship 'reversing' has occured previously, (see story). 

The arrival of the Princes Cruises operated giant of 142,714grt, kickstarts a record cruise season for the capital with 151 cruisecalls confirmed for 2018. In total these calls will bring just over 270,000 visitors to the city.

Last month, another giant in the form of US operator, Celebrity Cruises 'Soltice' class Celebrity Eclipse with 2,850 passengers capacity, became the first major cruise ship to call Dublin a “home port”. Again this 19 deck ship of 121,878grt boosts capacity along its 317m length.

The call of Celebrity Eclipse to Dublin Port marks a growing trend towards home-porting. Also the season features 17 further partial turnarounds, where cruise passengers can either start or end their journey in the capital's port.

Published in Dublin Port

#MARINE WILDLIFE - Two killer whales have been spotted near Kinsale in recent weeks, the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) reports.

Two separate sightings of the orca pair near Barry's Head have been confirmed by the group, via photos provided by John Murphy and Richard Cussen on 5 March, during what is normally the 'low season' for whale watching in Ireland.

The pair comprises one adult male and a smaller whale which is likely an adult female. It is not yet known, however, whether the whales are new to Irish or Scottish waters.

According to the IWDG's Pádraig Whooley, it is "interesting that they have stayed close to their original position and suggests they may have found 'rich pickings'".

In other news, the Whale and Dolphin Roadshow will be at the Galway Shopping Centre from 22-25 March in time for the European Cetacean Society Conference.

The roadshow "is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about whales, dolphins and porpoise of the ASCOBANS region" that encompasses the Baltic Sea, Northeast Atlantic and Irish and North Seas.

Published in Marine Wildlife

Fastnet Yacht Race 

This race is both a blue riband international yachting fixture and a biennial offshore pilgrimage that attracts crews from all walks of life:- from aspiring sailors to professional crews; all ages and all professions. Some are racing for charity, others for a personal challenge. For the world's top professional sailors, it is a 'must-do' race. For some, it will be their first-ever race, and for others, something they have competed in for over 50 years! The race attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts, from beautiful classic yachts to some of the fastest racing machines on the planet – and everything in between. The testing course passes eight famous landmarks along the route: The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, the Lizard, Land’s End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater (now Cherbourg for 2021 and 2023). After the start in Cowes, the fleet heads westward down The Solent, before exiting into the English Channel at Hurst Castle. The finish is in Plymouth, Devon via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland.

  • The leg across the Celtic Sea to (and from) the Fastnet Rock is known to be unpredictable and challenging. The competitors are exposed to fast-moving Atlantic weather systems and the fleet often encounter tough conditions
  • Flawless decision-making, determination and total commitment are the essential requirements. Crews have to manage and anticipate the changing tidal and meteorological conditions imposed by the complex course
  • The symbol of the race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point in the challenging race
  • Once sailors reach the Fastnet Rock, they are well over halfway to the finish in Plymouth.
  • The lighthouse first shone its light on New Year’s Day in 1854
    Fastnet Rock originally had six keepers (now unmanned), with four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Each man did four weeks on, two weeks off

At A Glance – Fastnet Race

  • The world's largest offshore yacht race
  • The biennial race is 605 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Plymouth
  • A fleet of over 400 yachts regularly will take part
  • The international fleet is made up of over 26 countries
  • Multihull course record: 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (2011, Banque Populaire V)
  • Monohull course record: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi)
  • Largest IRC Rated boat is the 100ft (30.48m) Scallywag 100 (HKG)
  • Some of the Smallest boats in the fleet are 30 footers
  • Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001
  • The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result

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