Belfast shapes up for cruise ship boom
Thirty-three cruise ships are scheduled to bring in more than 58,000 passengers and crew to Belfast over the summer months.
The Crown Princess returned for the first of five visits to Belfast this year on Friday to confirm the 2011 cruise season was under way.
More than 950ft in length, it has nine different restaurants and eateries on board, as well as a spa and fitness centre, three theatres and a film screen.
It brought more than 4,000 visitors and crew with it.
Joe O'Neill, Commercial Director at Belfast Harbour, said the harbour had continued to develop and invest in port facilities, which had "enabled Cruise Belfast to successfully attract an increasing number of cruise liners to the city".
"Belfast has transformed over recent years and Belfast Harbour, as the maritime gateway, continues to play its part in helping the city achieve its full economic potential," he said.
"Tourism is a key part of the local economy and Belfast Harbour will do all it can to help the city welcome even more visitors in the future."
Gerry Lennon from Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau said the 10th visit of the Crown Princess to Belfast since 2008 confirmed investment in tourism over the last decade was "paying dividends in attracting new and repeat cruise ship visits".
"The cruise market is a global industry and Belfast had to work hard to get recognition in the early days through our Cruise Belfast Initiative in partnership with Belfast Harbour," he said.
"Positive feedback from those first arrivals has seen Belfast quickly establish a reputation as a 'must see' destination.
"Today we have a highly developed cruise experience and can offer visitors a range of tours and visits around the city and beyond during their stop in Belfast.
"Last year the cruise sector contributed a significant £15m into the local tourism economy and continues to provide a key role in introducing visitors to Belfast."