Irish and UK cruise passenger number hits record two million

Controversy over Dublin Port’s plan to temporarily limit the number of cruise ships so it can expand its freight capacity

Irish and UK cruise passenger numbers hit a record two million last year, figures from the Cruise Lines International Association show.

The association bundles together Irish and UK numbers as most of the cruise itineraries take in both islands.

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) welcomed the record-breaking numbers, noting they signalled a 2 per cent year-on year-growth in passenger numbers.

"The cruise industry is demonstrating considerable growth, and has become an important part of both inbound and outbound Irish tourism," said ITAA chief executive Pat Dawson.


"By hosting turnarounds Irish ports allow tourists to end their sailing here and travel within Ireland before flying directly home, while Irish holidaymakers join the ship to set sail on their adventure."

Nonetheless Mr Dawson said it is disappointing that Dublin Port was reducing the number of cruise liners it will host.

Last year saw 150 ships call to Dublin Port and we expect this to rise to over 160 by the end of 2019.

“However from 2021 only 80 will be permitted by Dublin Port. This is a major blow to the choice of cruise available to Irish holidaymakers,” he said.

The Dublin Port Company has come in for criticism over plans to temporarily cut by 50 per cent the number of cruise ships docking in Dublin in the coming years. The move is designed to expand its freight capacity as more container ships are expected to arrive direct from the continent after the UK leaves the EU.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross said recently that cruise ship bookings were already at 140 for 2020, and would "hit a new peak this year" of 160, but would be cut to around 80 in 2021.

Dublin Port Company’s plan will see cruise ship numbers restricted for three cruise seasons between 2021 and 2023, but the intention is to take 150 cruise ships for the 2024 to 2025 season.


The cruise business brought 442,000 visitors to Dublin last year, which contributed €50 million to the economy.

The Cruise Lines International Association reported an estimated 90 per cent of Irish and UK first-time cruisers set sail again within 12 months of their first voyage.

Cruises to central and western Mediterranean regions remain the number one destination for European cruise passengers, while the research also reports strong growth in cruises to northern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Canary Islands and the Baltics.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times