THE first cruise ship ever to call to Cape Clear arrived last Thursday when the Ocean Nova droped anchor with a group of 70 eager birdwatchers onboard.
The 2018 season will see a total of 12 cruise ships visit West Cork’s harbours and islands, delivering approximately 5,000 visitors into the area.
The visits have come about as a result of Cork County Council’s pioneering work in cruise tourism, attracting cruise ships into West Cork’s harbours and islands.
In 2016, Bere Island was included in the itinerary of a German cruise company, Hapag Lloyd Cruises, a visit which proved so successful that they return again on May 18th and twice next year.
Cape Clear guests were escorted by guides from Birdwatch Ireland who have a manned bird observatory on the island, and visited some of the island’s prime birdlife, wildlife and marine life viewing spots. While the main focus of the visit was birdwatching, they also took time to visit the island’s museum which depicts life on Cape Clear, past and present, and view its impressive exhibit about the building of the iconic Fastnet Rock.
Upon departure, the ship sailed around Fastnet and entered Schull Harbour, another first. From there, coaches brought passengers to the Mizen Head Signal Station and Visitor Centre where they enjoyed, not only the spectacular scenery of this Wild Atlantic Way Signature Discovery Point, but they also observed the wonderful bird and marine life in the area. Again, Birdwatch Ireland experts were be on hand to point out interesting bird and marine life.
County mayor Declan Hurley said the cruise business is diverging into two trends – mega ships carrying thousands of passengers on the one hand, and smaller ships, with fewer passengers, but ones that want to really engage with the destination. ‘West Cork has a very rich natural and cultural offering for these enquiring travellers and the islands, in particular, hold great appeal to the cruise companies and their clients.’
Chief executive of Cork County Council Tim Lucey added: ‘Through our promotional efforts, West Cork is becoming better known and is adding to the attraction of Cork county as a cruise destination. We are unique in that we can offer a cruise company one type of experience in Cobh, and a completely different one then as they sail west to Bantry, Glengarriff and the islands. The feedback we receive from the cruise companies and their guests confirm that what we have in West Cork is world-class and we are confident that more such business will follow.’