One of the world’s leading cruise companies is to base its flagship vessel at the Port of Tyne.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines will base its 1,350-guest Balmoral on Tyneside from May to August next year, sailing from North Shields to 11 destinations around Europe.
Fred Olsen has been running passenger services from the Tyne for more than 100 years, and has been operating regular cruise calls from Newcastle since 2006.
The company currently runs services from Tyneside on its 800-capacity Boudicca liner, but the decision to bring its largest ship to the North East in 2016 will be seen as a vote of confidence in the region.
Mike Rodwell, managing director at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, said: “We are very excited to be basing Balmoral in Newcastle from May to August in 2016, as it means that we are almost doubling our capacity and offering our loyal guests in the North East an even greater number of cruise departures than ever before, with a choice of 11 in total.
“Bookings for 2016 have shown that, so far, our 14-night ‘The Wonders of Spitsbergen’ and our 11-night ‘Icelandic Wildlife, Falls and Hot Springs’ cruises are the bestsellers.
“The Port of Tyne is also ideally placed for our ever-popular Norway, Scandinavian and Baltic itineraries, and we can save up to three days’ cruising time sailing from Newcastle to Norway than from Southern ports.”
Cruise destinations from the Port of Tyne include Norway, Scandinavia and the Baltics, the Canary Islands, Madeira, the Azores, Portugal, Morocco and Spain.
The Port of Tyne’s International Passenger Terminal in North Shields welcomes around 620,000 passengers each year. Cruise and ferry trips generate around £60m for the North East economy each year, supporting over 2,000 tourism-related jobs.
Balmoral’s season next year will start with a five-night cruise to the Norwegian fjords and will also include trips to Iceland, Spain and Portugal, and a 10-night ‘UK castles’ cruise.
The 218-metre ship has 710 cabins, three formal restaurants, a pub, cabaret lounge and observation area. As well as its passenger capacity of up to 1,350 it carries a crew of more than 500.
Andrew Moffat, chief executive officer at the Port of Tyne, said: “The Port of Tyne’s cruise operations continue to grow and it is great news that Fred Olsen Cruise Lines are expanding their itineraries and basing their flagship at the Port from next year.
“Fred Olsen is one of many leading cruise lines operating from the Port of Tyne and in 2015 the Port has 27 cruise calls planned during the year, and 2016 promises to be a record year for cruise calls.”