Tourist bosses have said they are detecting a “lot of interest” in the north-east as a destination for cruise ship operators.
A £350 million harbour expansion is under way at the Bay of Nigg, which will begin to welcome cruise ships when it opens in 2020.
Yvonne Cook, head of tourism development at Visit Aberdeenshire, described the new Aberdeen South Harbour as a “game changer” for the cruise market in the north-east.
She said: “It allows much larger ships to come to Aberdeen – up to 300 metres in length – for quayside disembarkation, thereby negating the need to tender passengers in by smaller boat.
“VisitAberdeenshire and Aberdeen Harbour Board are building good relations with cruise ship companies and shore excursion companies with a view to securing their business.
“We are detecting a lot of interest in the north-east of Scotland as a cruise destination.”
The tourist organisation has been working with local businesses to make them aware of the opportunities available in the cruise market and to provide information on what cruise companies are looking for.
Ms Cook added: “We have produced a ‘Being Cruise Ready’ business opportunities guide (available on visitabdn.com) to help answer many of the questions business may have.
“We work alongside Aberdeen Harbour Board, the local authorities and Aberdeen Inspired to ensure that preparations are in place to offer a warm welcome and to make it as easy as possible for cruise ship passengers to travel around the city and region while the ship is in port.
“It’s also important to remember that the existing harbour in Aberdeen and indeed Peterhead will continue to host smaller vessels.”
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
Chris Foy, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, said their long-term aspiration is for cruise companies to begin their voyages from the city as it increases the time visitors spend in the city.
He said: “It would be aspirational for that to happen but we recognise the reality that operators need to have the confidence that their core business can be serviced before they take the plunge.
“Both the harbour and ourselves can see that as a long term opportunity particularly because the ship’s crew can moor along the side, not like in the Forth where they have to moor up in the middle of the river and come into Edinburgh by boat.
“So it would make life a lot more logistically easier there but I think that’s a long-term aspiration. We need to secure the bread and butter business first.”
Mr Foy added a number of cruise ship operators have already confirmed they will call at the new harbour when it opens.
He added: “That’s a positive start to have businesses willing to come into something that is untested and not built yet.
“When our team and the harbour’s team are out talking to cruise companies, they’re getting very positive responses from operators in the UK and Europe.
“They can see the benefits of bringing a cruise ship into Aberdeen for logistical reasons, tides and things like that, but from a visitor point of view they know that there is a very strong Scottish visitor offer in the city and beyond.”
Azamara Quest, run by Azamara Cruises, is scheduled to dock at the harbour on August 18 2020 as part of its 11-night “Scotland Intensive Voyage”.
The ship will also dock at Edinburgh and Invergordon before going up to Shetland and Orkney and down the west coast of Scotland, before finally disembarking in Dublin.