The MSC Meraviglia, the largest ever cruise ship to visit Orkney, called into Hatston Pier early this morning, carrying almost 5,000 passengers.
Preparations have been put in place for the arrival of the cruise ship, which is one of the largest in the world, and the largest ever to tie up in a Scottish Port.
The ship, which is less than a year old, arrived from Invergordon and is due to leave for Greenock at 8pm.
At 315 metres long and 65 metres tall, she is a total of 19 decks high, with a gross tonnage of 171, 598.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Michael Morrison, business development manager with Orkney Marine Services, said: “Detailed planning has been underway ahead of the visit, involving a broad range of stakeholders including Police Scotland, tour operators and the council’s roads team.
“It will be a busy day for Orkney, but everyone involved has put in a considerable effort to ensure that the visit goes smoothly.”
Four bendy buses will run an all-day shuttle service between Hatston Pier and the Kirkwall Travel Centre. To prevent congestion in Junction Road, the shuttle buses will turn right into West Castle Street when leaving the travel centre and then right again into Great Western Road, before heading for Hatston.
Passengers will also have tour options to visit Stromness, with dedicated coaches operating between the ship and the town.
As more than 3,000 passengers will be coming ashore, Bridge Street and Albert Street in Kirkwall will be closed to traffic between 10am and 4pm for safety reasons. Broad Street will remain open as usual.
In recent times, daily cruise ship visitor numbers have been limited to less than 4,500 passengers.
“However, the visit by MSC Meraviglia was booked while the ship was still under construction and had a planned capacity of 4,500 passengers,” Mr Morrison added.
“That number increased when she went into service but by then all the shoreside arrangements, involving many local businesses, were in place and we decided to honour the booking, along with two more later this year.
“We are more than confident that the arrangements will work well as these, including bus numbers, have improved significantly since the 4,500 passenger number was set. The visit of the Meraviglia will therefore allow everyone involved to draw on the consider able experience and expertise we have in Orkney of managing visits of this kind – and making sure the many passengers who come ashore enjoy their time in our islands.”
During 2018 there are fewer visits to Orkney by large-capacity cruise ships than in previous years, and more by vessels carrying between 1,000 and 2,000 passengers.
Eleven of the 144 cruise ship visits this year (8%) are by large-capacity vessels. This reflects a trend in the cruise industry. The full programme of visits is available on the Cruise Orkney website: www.cruise-orkney.com