Liverpool Cruise Terminal Celebrates its 10th Anniversary
THE most visible sign of Liverpool’s transformation into a top tourist hot-spot is the Liverpool Cruise Terminal which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Brilliant Liverpool Tours meets many of their guests disembarking from ships at the Cruise Terminal. These visitorsmay be forgiven for thinking this fairly simple facility is no more than what it looks – a medium-sized temporary-cum-permanent tent on the Mersey waterfront at the Pier Head, lurking behind the Titanic Memorial.
But this basic structure and its attendant landing stage has played an absolutely critical role in allowing many of the biggest cruise liners afloat to berth in Liverpool’s city centre. This has boosted tourist numbers by 110,000 visitors from 64 liner calls in this year alone. No other tourist centre has achieved this sudden surge from an entirely new stream of visitors.
This deep-water berth is unmatched by any of Liverpool’s historic rival UK city ports, such as Bristol, Glasgow or Newcastle, which are all too far upstream on their respective rivers to handle big cruise liners. In fact, this combination of deep sea access to an historic city seaport puts Liverpool in an elite global group that includes New York, Venice and Sydney, where a huge cruise liner can pull up and its passengers roll off into town.
Yet until 2007 this had not been possible for 35 years. Liverpool’s unsurpassed geographical asset of the mighty River Mersey is also its Achilles’ heel. This is because the river’s tidal range is around 30ft (the difference between high and low tide twice every 24 hours) and it flows at six knots (7mph). As a result, it is impossible for ships to dock alongside the river wall and instead a floating stage which moves up and down with the tide is essential.
Sadly, the highly characterful Princes Landing Stage (the world’s longest floating structure at a quarter mile long) which had served the city so well for nearly a century from 1874, was broken up in the mid-1970s when ocean liner travel was vanquished by jet air travel.
What nobody predictedwas the incredible rise in cruise holidays which began almost simultaneously, but far away in Miami. Almost as surprising was that this was launched by two redundant Liverpool ocean liners, Empress of Britain and Empress of Canada. Renamed Carnivale and Mardi Gras, they were rebranded “The Fun Ships” by their new owners Carnival Cruise Lines.
Carnival’s success has been unstoppable, with its formula for turning cruising into mainstream, unstuffy holidays, rather than once-in-a-lifetime, post-retirement trips. Appropriately, it was the world-famous RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 which opened the new Liverpool Cruise Terminal in 2007, as this great liner was flagship of Cunard Line, founded in Liverpool in 1840 – and a company now owned by Carnival Corporation, parent of Carnival Cruise Lines.
Liverpool Cruise Terminal was designed to handled QE2’s successor, the world’s biggest ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary 2, which at 148,500 gross tons is twice the size of her predecessor. QM2 celebrated Cunard’s 175th anniversary in Liverpool in 2015 with her fleetmates Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth, drawing crowds of 1.5m people lining the waterfront. The giant ocean liner then departed for New York, the first Cunard transatlantic crossing from Liverpool since 1968.
Building on Liverpool Cruise Terminal’s outstanding initial success, a new more substantial and expanded terminal will be opened in about two years’ time. This will be able to handle some 3,000 passengers, compared to the present Terminal’s 1,200 capacity.