Since the closure of the Royal Docks in London in 1981, London has been without a major cruise port. Whilst other options have served as cruise terminals within the capital – the appeal of being able to embark on a cruise ship from the heart of London is stronger than ever.
On Monday, The Times reported detailed plans for a new dockside hub in Greenwich will be submitted within weeks with plans for it to open within a couple of years. If built, the terminal would be able to allow ships of more than 650ft to dock yards away from iconic sights such as the Cutty Sark.
London does have three cruise options currently available with two moorings for small cruise ships at Greenwich and Tower Bridge - which have collectively accommodated a number of ships from Silversea, Windstar and Hebridean as well as Viking Ocean Cruises’ first ship, Viking Star. The other port is Tilbury Docks in Essex, which caters for some Fred. Olsen Cruise Line and Cruise & Maritime itineraries.
Whilst this new terminal in Greenwich would not be able to accommodate the largest ships in the world such as Cunard’s Queen Mary and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, it would be able to accommodate several larger ships over 200 metres long. But does London need such a facility?
According to 'MasterCard’s 2014 Global Destination Cities Index', London is the most popular city in the world for international overnight visitors. The city saw an 8% rise on 2013 and a 17% rise from 2013 which have collectively help to see London overtake the likes of other established destinations such as Paris and Dubai.
The appeal for being taken directly to the heart of London is clearly very strong and provides more options for international cruisers. The site of the proposed terminal is a short train journey away from popular venues such as Canary Wharf and the O2.
Much emphasis is placed on London when tourists from around the world come to visit the United Kingdom. To state the obvious, it has the largest airport and nearly every other train travels to the capital and with this in mind there is no better time for London to become more accessible to cruise ships.
Whilst London is the top global tourist destination in the world, is a new Greenwich terminal likely to be used as much for passengers embarking on a cruise? Statistics would suggest that is the case.
According to Cruise Market Watch, the United Kingdom sees more people embark on cruises than anywhere else in Europe - with over 1.6 million passengers set to sail in 2015. Perhaps this is due to the United Kingdom's position in Europe or perhaps the dreadful weather. Either way, these statistics speak for themselves and would suggest there is a demand for more ports or more accessible ports.
But do these passengers primarily travel from the existing London and Essex ports or do they opt for other locations such as Southampton and Dover? Due to their respective locations on the southern coast, it will always be easier for cruise ships to dock in Southampton and Dover and the largest ships in the world will always dock in Southampton. But London as a whole represents 8.3 million people - a figure far higher than any other location in the United Kingdom. If you can't get to the cruise ship, the cruise ship will come to you...
Additionally, the opening of London Gateway Port would suggest there is a demand for access from the seas direct to the capital. The Thames provides perfect access from east coast to London and only now is its full potential being realised.
Which ships would be most likely to utilise a new cruise terminal? Many Fred. Olsen Cruise ships embark from Tilbury and it is possible that the new terminal in Greenwich could accommodate the cruise line’s largest ship, Balmoral. Viking Ocean Cruise’s new ship will visit Greenwich on selected itineraries and may choose to make use of a new facility.
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