Upgrading the current multimodal deep-water facilities and exploring a second-berth option are part of the Port of Cork's plan to make it the number-one destination for cruise liners in Ireland.
Since the early '90s, the Port of Cork's cruise business has seen significant growth year on year. In 2013, the port experienced its busiest year on record, with 62 cruise ships calling at Cork, home to Ireland's only dedicated cruise berth.
Cork can handle some of the largest cruise liners afloat today, and this in turn brings high volumes of passengers and crew to the region.
In 2013, a total of 123,000 cruise passengers and crew stepped ashore in the Port of Cork, bringing a very welcome boost to the local economy.
The port is located within easy steaming time of other Irish and British ports - situated on the western coast of mainland Europe - and is strategically positioned on the main repositioning sea routes into the continent.
Speaking about the port's location, captain Michael McCarthy, the Port of Cork's commercial manager, says: "Cork is equally well placed for Northern European cruises, including the Norwegian fjords and Iceland.
"It is also ideally situated for positioning cruises to and from the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, and is on the Great Circle route to the US and Canada. Most importantly, there are no tidal constraints or ships' draught issues in a sheltered deep-water port such as Cork. It's a genuine 24/7 destination."
With ample water depth in Cobh, the Port of Cork is currently planning the upgrade of its current dedicated cruise berth to be able to accommodate the bollard requirements of the Quantum class of cruise liners due in Europe in 2015.
Currently, cruise ships of up to 350m in length can berth at Cobh, the Port of Cork's dedicated cruise berth. Other berths available within the harbour are Ringaskiddy deep-water berth (480m in length and 12.5m draft) and Cork City (152m); however, both of these, while suitable, are commercial berths.
McCarthy is confident that the proposal to handle the Quantum class can be achieved and says the port has carried out a number of ship-simulation processes to see how Quantum ships can best be accommodated.
The next step after upgrading the current cruise berth is for the Port of Cork to consider a second-berth option in Cobh. This would allow the port to facilitate and manage two cruise liners at a time at dedicated cruise berths, which would mean more calls for Cork and increased passenger numbers.
A feasibility study will be carried out over the coming season to determine a location for a second berth and the options available.
Of course, upgrading the current facilities and exploring a second-berth option means the Cork region will need to offer more shore excursions to cater for the increased passenger numbers. Cork is a gateway for the south of Ireland, and the Port of Cork can be used as a convenient base for passengers touring Kerry, Waterford, Clare and Tipperary.
Cork offers a very high take-up of shore excursions to the cruise lines, particularly as the lines attract repeat guests looking for alternatives.
McCarthy says: "We regularly meet with the cruise lines on a one-to-one basis to show them the huge diversity of shore excursions that we can offer. We are experiencing more overnight and inter-porting calls from Cork, and we have the facilities to offer more opportunities to many of the big players, including Royal Caribbean and the Carnival Group. We are also working with the travel and hotels federation to develop pre and post-cruise packages to Ireland.
"We are very excited about the future increased cruise business to Cork, and we will continue to work with the cruise companies, ships' agents, tour operators, local tourism groups and Fáilte Ireland to ensure Cork can deliver what is required to make it the number-one port of call in Ireland for cruise liners," he adds.
The Port of Cork is a member of Cruise Europe and Atlantic Alliance. Cork benefits hugely from these associations through the knowledge and information shared by interacting with other ports. McCarthy, who is also the current chairman of Cruise Europe, expects Cork to be a member of both for a long time.