By Helen Riddell
THE Bremen cruise ship became the first cruise liner to visit West Cork’s Bere Island, when it docked there last week.
Over the years Bere Island and its sheltered waters have played host to a variety of ships – from Viking longboats to the French Armada in 1798, and US and British battleships during WWI.
But last week was another first for the island – when the Bremen sailed into the sheltered waters of Lawrence Cove on the island’s eastern end and deposited its German passengers on Bere Island to enjoy an ‘authentic’ Irish welcome.
At 8am the following morning, a fleet of the ship’s own Zodiac inflatable craft brought her 100 passengers plus crew ashore to land at Lawrence Cove marina.
A number of mini-buses were on hand to transport the passengers to the island’s Heritage Centre, where they were greeted by traditional musicians and the visitors were able to view a permanent exhibition on the island’s unique history. They then had the opportunity to hire bikes and explore the island, attend a cookery demonstration on how to make Irish soda bread, or learn the art of pulling a pint in the village pub.
Lorraine Grainger, cruise marketing consultant with Cork County Council, had worked with John Walsh of Bere Island Project Group to set up the visit.
Lorraine went on to praise all those involved. ‘What happened on Bere Island cannot be trained into people. It was a spontaneous, warm welcome by a community proud to show off their island and share their stories. Everyone stepped up – from the people who came to the marina and greeted the passengers early in the morning as they arrived – to the drivers with their freshly cleaned minibuses, to the locals that were called upon to do the Siege of Ennis with the visitors before they left, and everyone the visitors and crew encountered along the way. Most of it was unplanned, but really honest and that’s what the passengers sensed and loved.’
The Captain of the MS Bremen also praised the organisation of the visit to Bere Island. ‘The feedback from our passengers was very positive and I am looking forward to coming back to Bere Island.’
Clodagh Henehan, divisional manager of West Cork with Cork County Council, outlined the Council’s plan to attract more cruise ships to West Cork. ‘Guests on these smaller cruise ships are seeking destinations that 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.’