The Port of Cromarty Firth will welcome its first cruise ship since 2019 with the arrival of the Marella Explorer 2 on July 25.

The announcement comes as the Scottish cruise industry begins its much-anticipated restart following First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s confirmation that the nation will move to Level Zero from July 19).

The 72,000tn Marella Explorer 2 will be making her inaugural call to Invergordon with a further three calls throughout the season, carrying British passengers and calling at British ports only.

UK Government, Scottish Government and cruise operators have put in place a range of strict protocols and procedures to ensure the safety of passengers, crew and members of the public as the industry begins to resume activity. As well as following UK Government industry protocols on passenger numbers, cruise ships visiting Scotland will also be expected to follow all Scottish Government guidance and regulations.

Safety measures implemented by the cruise industry include, passengers and crew must produce a negative PCR test prior to embarking and consent to testing during the cruise. At this stage shore excursion bubbles are in place and passengers will only be permitted ashore on an organised ships excursion. This is subject to review by the Scottish Government at the end of the month.

Bob Buskie, Port of Cromarty Firth Chief Executive, said: “The region’s tourism businesses will be excited to see cruise ships return to the Highlands, and it is an honour to welcome the Marella Explorer 2 following a difficult 16-months for the whole travel industry. This marks a major milestone in our managed return to ‘normality’ which is a moment the whole country has been working towards.

“As we begin this journey towards the return of cruise, the safety of the local community and the Port’s staff remains our number one priority. Cruise tourism restarted in England in the middle of May. Nevertheless, we appreciate that some people may have concerns as restrictions are eased and we will work in partnership with them to address and alleviate any worries that they may have.

“Now that the July 19 date has been confirmed for Scotland to move to Level 0, we have scheduled a further Covid-secure check with our Port Health representatives from Highland Council Environmental Health Team ahead of the first arrival.”

The Marella Explorer 2’s arrival comes as the Port of Cromarty Firth progresses infrastructure improvements in Invergordon, in response to feedback from local stakeholders and in preparation for the return to cruise activity across Scotland.

The Port has worked in collaboration with The Highland Council, Invergordon Community Council, Invergordon Development Trust, Police Scotland, Stagecoach and local tour operators to identify and agree on solutions which will enhance management of cruise traffic and passengers in the town.

Among the improvements, the Port has funded a new pedestrian crossing, which will improve road and passenger safety. Upgraded visitor information signage is also set to be erected to help guide visitors to local businesses and attractions.

The Highland Council also have plans for the creation of a new passenger pick-up and drop-off zone adjacent to the Port’s West Harbour which will limit congestion, while newly marked parking bays will prevent buses and coaches from parking without risk of a fine.

While public transport provision falls outside of the Port’s responsibilities, Stagecoach have been engaged with community groups and agreed to provide increased public transport for locals.

Bob Buskie added: “Port of Cromarty Firth appreciates the anxiety that many stakeholders feel with regards to the transition to level zero and the opening up of society to pre-covid working arrangements.  Rest assured the Port and its customers, employees and supply chain are doing everything possible to manage this transition phase as constructively and safely as possible.”

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