Cobh welcomes its first cruise liner in two years

An overcast morning couldn’t rain on the parade in Cobh on Friday, as the historic port town welcomed its first liner in two years.

The Borealis docked at the Cobh cruise terminal at 10 a.m., bringing 2,000 passengers and an electric buzz to the city that has been starved of the vital cruise tourism trade, which has been wiped out by the pandemic.

Although the city has enjoyed regular domestic tourist activity, especially on sunny days over the past couple of years, it accounts for only a fraction of the city’s overall commerce. The liner is the first of dozens to visit this year, with many companies eager to make up for lost time.

John Sweeney of Cobh and Harbor Chamber said the sight of the ship moored opposite Cobh’s iconic stacks of colorful houses and the imposing cathedral was “fantastic” after two “rather dismal” years.

The Port of Cork Company hopes to welcome around 90 cruise ships between April and November 2022.

“We have been deprived of tourism in this city for the past two years, and it is wonderful to see a day like today come to fruition. There’s a lot of business done when the liners are there, and when they weren’t there, it was like the city was sort of dead,” he said.

Waters Edge Hotel manager Aga Ruttle said that after years of work, the huge ocean liners parked along their waterfront balconies were no longer part of the daily landscape – but Friday’s arrival was special.

“We were all excited. When we got to work this morning, believe it or not, we were all on the balcony, literally waiting like we’d never seen an ocean liner before, even though we’ve seen hundreds of them,” he said. she declared.

There’s huge excitement, the phone skips, people are excited and it feels like it’s back to normal.

Eoin McCarthy, owner of the Mauretania Bar, said he was delighted to see the ships’ passengers returning.

“I can’t stress how much fun it is when the cruise ships are there and you just have super crazy with everyone. It’s just great to have them back. For us, around 40% of our business is e-commerce based, so that’s just great, and that’s after two tough years without that,” he said.

  A visiting cruise liner and mild weather brought crowds to Cobh today, despite the overcast weather.  The city park was very busy.  Photo: Andy Gibson.
A visiting cruise liner and mild weather brought crowds to Cobh today, despite the overcast weather. The city park was very busy. Photo: Andy Gibson.

Cormac Mac Coitir, owner of Keen House and Keen on Sport, which sells apparel and sportswear, said they were looking forward to welcoming familiar faces from cruise crew back.

“For us, the crew is often as important as the passengers. We look forward to seeing people we would have known on the cruise ships, with whom we have formed relationships. Crew members and officers who would have returned regularly, every six weeks, that we order things for so they can pick them up when they get back,” he said.

“Exciting is definitely the word for today, after a crazy few years,” he added.

One of the city’s real success stories in recent years is the Titanic Experience, which attracts tourists from all over Ireland. Sonia Joyce, director of the Titanic Experience and the Tregan Craft Centre, said the return of ships to Cobh is still a “game changer”.

“The Irish have really played a big part in keeping the hospitality going over the past couple of years, and we’re very grateful for that, but it’s been a long year outside of just eight weeks of domestic tourism. The return of the ships gives us a whole new energy, focus and confidence that international tourism, in general, is back,” she said.

After spending the week commemorating the passengers who departed Cobh 110 years ago on Titanic’s fateful maiden voyage, Ms Joyce said it had been a “moving and busy two days”.

    The Borealis cruise ship leaves Cobh at 5pm tonight, heading for Galway.  Photo: Andy Gibson.
The Borealis cruise ship leaves Cobh at 5pm tonight, heading for Galway. Photo: Andy Gibson.

“Unfortunately, today [Friday] marks the actual sinking of the Titanic itself. So these have been very poignant and busy days for us. But then the arrival of this cruise ship this morning just gave us such a boost of confidence and created such excitement and vibrancy in the city,” she said.

The Borealis is the first of 90 ships to sail into Cork Harbor this season, a tourist trade that brings up to €17 million to Cork’s economy.

Conor Mowlds, commercial director for the Port of Cork, echoed the sentiments of everyone in Cobh on Friday, saying it is “hugely exciting” to see the return of cruise trade to Cork.

“Covid has been difficult for everyone, but the complete loss of cruise has been quite brutal, especially for companies that are solely focused on supporting the cruise business, it has been very difficult for them to lose their business for two years off a cliff,” he mentioned.

“Even though the tourism industry came back last year with vacations, we haven’t seen the return of cruising, and so it’s been two whole years without this activity and income for the local economy. So we are delighted and relieved to have him back,” he added.