For the 9 million people that emigrated to the New World, Liverpool was their last sight of the UK. Now the City could be welcoming back thousands of people. But this time they’ll be cruise passengers. Economic necessity drove most of the emigrants away but a very different motivation is drawing these tourists back, notably the chance to see Liverpool’s shops and cultural attractions including, of course, those associated with the Beatles.
This year, Liverpool hopes to welcome about 86,000 passengers and, if its plans to build a new terminal go ahead, those numbers could rise to around 200,000 per year. OK. Not quite the same number as 9 million, but these tourists boost the local economy by £7 million. And that’s the big number that we’re sure the City would prefer.
The City, according to its head of cruise operations, Angie Redhead, is once again “in love with our river”. That it fell out of love is surprising given that Liverpool was home to the first scheduled transatlantic passenger service (in 1840) when Cunard’s paddle steamer Britannia sailed from the Mersey.
But love is definitely in the Liverpool air once again, helped by a new passenger terminal, Pier Head, which opened in 2007 and which this year will handle 61 cruise calls. Those ships will include Disney Magic, a cruise ship owned by the Magic Kingdom owners themselves, the Walt Disney company. Capable of carrying 2,700 Mickey-loving passengers, the vessel has included Liverpool (and Newcastle) in its first UK itinerary. And at 84,000 tonnes, she’ll also be the largest cruise ship to visit the city.
Despite facing West towards the Atlantic and North America, transatlantic sailings from the port ended in 1968 and although none are planned for the foreseeable future, cruises to Morocco and the Canary Islands are proving popular. Last year’s highly acclaimed visit to the port by Cunard’s ‘Three Queens’ stirred up a lot of nostalgia. Perhaps it might stir up some transatlantic cruising ambitions once again too.