Ilfracombe gears up for cruise ship visit

Joseph Bulmer

Town is pulling out all the stops to greet the MS Rotterdam in style when she and her 1,300 passengers arrive next month.

A lifeboat greeting, welcome party, bands and real ale are just a few of the events planned to ensure transatlantic cruise passengers receive a splendid greeting when their ship arrives in Ilfracombe on Sunday, May 29.

Local authorities, businesses and the community have been working together to make sure the town and North Devon give the best impression to the 1,300 passengers and 600 crew aboard the luxury MS Rotterdam.

It is the first of two visits by Holland America Line ships following marketing efforts by Destination South West, local councils and organisations. On July 22 the smaller MS Prinsendam and 800 passengers is also scheduled.

The Rotterdam will be arriving at around 8am, with a welcoming party ready at the pier, joined by Town Crier Roy Goodwin, marching band Blazing Sounds plus Ilfracombe Majorettes and other local bands.

As the ship cruises toward the harbour it is hoped at least one of Ilfracombe’s RNLI lifeboats will be able to go out to greet it. An Ilfracombe Pilot Gig Club boat will be rowing nearby.

The passengers – many of whom are American - will be ferried ashore in groups of 80-100, some boarding excursions to attractions including Exmoor, Lynmouth and Clovelly, but many are expected to stay in Ilfracombe.

The vessel will depart around 4pm and the town is set to enjoy a party atmosphere, with a farmers market, stalls and games along the seafront, while shops will be opening specially for the occasion.

Transport has been laid on from the quay to the High Street, where High Street Traders have organised an information centre plus money exchange.

Ilfracombe In Bloom is putting out early floral displays and there will be special offers in some giving our overseas cousins the opportunity to try British ale!

Ilfracombe destination guides have even been sent to Dublin, where the Rotterdam will call in before North Devon.

“Ilfracombe will be buzzing on the day so it will also be a great place for local people to enjoy the bank holiday weekend,” said Harbourmaster Rob Lawson.

The last time a cruise ship came to Ilfracombe was in 2006, when the Hanseatic brought 200 German visitors.

Since then a cruise ship planning committee, part of the Ilfracombe Marketing Group, has formed, with parking, safety and entertainment organised to welcome passengers and crew.