Cruise ships welcomed to Northumberland port for first time
Cruise ships have made their first visit to Berwick in what is hoped will be the start of a valuable tourist trade for the town.
Around 500 passengers were on board the Saga ‘Spirit of Discovery’ which made for an impressive sight as it spent Thursday moored in Berwick Bay.
Passengers were brought into Tweed Dock by tender with some spending their day in the town and others enjoying coach excursions to local towns and villages.
However, Covid restrictions meant they had to stay in their own ‘bubbles’ and were not allowed to visit shops, cafes and restaurants.
Instead there were walking tours of the ramparts led by local historian Derek Sharman and Tweed boat trips with local operator David Thompson while coach parties visited St Abbs, Coldstream and Kelso.
A day earlier, the 66-passenger MS Island Sky visited, with its passengers enjoying a bit more freedom to explore the town.
The arrival of cruise ships has been a long-held ambition for Berwick Harbour Commission.
Work has been carried out at the port to pave the way, including replacement of a damaged wooden jetty and creation of a landing pontoon to receive passengers made possible thanks to a £2million grant from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund..
Port manager Paul Ruddick said: “Both visits went really well and the initial feedback we’ve had from passengers, the cruise ship companies and those running the excursions has been very positive.
"It has given us a little indication of the potential for the future once restrictions are fully lifted when we can hopefully bring a lot more people into the town.
"It’s been an anxious few weeks waiting for it to happen, with all the uncertainties there have been, so we’re pleased with how smoothly it went.
"At the port we’ve stuck to commercial shipping for a long time but they are few and far between so this has been an important step to take.”
The visit by ‘Spirit of Discovery’ only happened when it changed its itinerary due to tougher Covid restrictions at Scottish ports, although they have now been eased.
The only dampener was the mist which shrouded the town for its visit.
"It was a shame about the fog,” said Paul. “When they came off the tender we told them that we’d had sun for a fortnight before they arrived!
"They seemed to like the town and enjoy their visit though and said Berwick was a very friendly place.
"We hope that will help us to bring it back again in the future.”
The ship sailed on to Newcastle on Thursday evening with its passengers being offered trips to the likes of Seahouses.
"We pointed out that it’s a lot easier to visit Holy Island or Seahouses from Berwick than it is from Newcastle so hopefully they will bear that in mind next time,” said Paul.
Golden Horizon, the world’s largest square-rigged sailing vessel, cancelled its planned visit to Berwick on July 5 due to Scottish Covid restrictions which impacted its itinerary.
The MS Island Sky is due to return on August 4.