An average of five cruise ships a year visit Cowes at present anchoring just outside the harbour limits. Their passengers are then transferred by tender to Trinity Landing on Cowes Parade where coaches meet them to take them on excursions to places like Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle.
These smaller cruise ships which carry around 500 passengers, obviously are a welcome boost to the local economy and as such, plans are being considered to increase the number from 5 a year to about 20 by 2016.
Island Explorer was contracted to provide tour guides for one such ship visiting last Friday (7th June); The Deutschland (pictured) to take a contingent of German, Spanish and Japanese passengers on their advertised excursions to Osborne and Carisbrooke and then on a mini-scenic tour of the Island.
Obviously we too would like to see an increase in visiting cruise ships but there needs to be some serious forward planning in our opinion to make it work.
Part of the plans being considered is the construction of an outer harbour and breakwater to provide sufficient shelter so the ship's tenders can still operate in bad weather. This project will cost around £9m apparently.
This is all very well but we identified another problem while coordinating the coaches for the excursions. To accommodate all the passengers on a ship like The Deutschland which has a capacity of 520, we would require about 8 coaches. Currently there are only 2 coach bays on the Parade by Trinity Landing and then at Ward Avenue coach park (which we used as a holding area), there is only about 6 parking bays. Sadly we found this to be inadequate particularly on the Parade when we required to have 3 coaches there at the same time meaning one had to load in the middle of the road.
So if Cowes is to be used regularly as a cruise ship port, then some consideration should be given to improve the facilities for the additional coaches that will be needed to accommodate the passengers in our opinion.
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