It has been 14 months since the Covid pandemic hit the world and the global cruise industry. But in May 2021 Portland Port became the first port of call as cruising restarts, with the arrival of the new MSC Virtuosa.

Ian McQuade, General Manager Commercial said: “This is a very exciting day not just for Portland Port but for the whole industry. We are delighted and honoured that MSC have chosen to include Portland Port in their inaugural itineraries for this beautiful new vessel”.

Several cruise lines made use of anchorages along the south coast to wait for the opportunity to welcome guests back on board. During this time, the sight of up to ten cruise ships anchoring in Weymouth Bay became a tourist attraction and Portland Port offered its services and berths in support.

The pandemic has seen the UK go through three lockdowns with huge changes to lifestyles and businesses. However, from Monday 17 May UK Government guidelines changed to allow greater movement and freedom which MSC embraced on 20 May by becoming the first cruise line to set sail with passengers from Southampton.

This milestone is also the inaugural cruise for MSC’s Virtuosa. Virtuosa is MSC’s newest ship, with her name paying homage to the skill and expertise of the MSC Cruises architects and shipyard partners who designed and built her.

This new cruise ship is one of the two largest in MSC Cruises’ fleet, along with her sister ship MSC Grandiosa. The ship boasts an impressive array of features for its guests, as well as being one of the most environmentally friendly ships at sea.

MSC Virtuosa departed Southampton on 20 May and spent a day at sea, with her passengers enjoying the amazing facilities on board. She docked at Portland Port at 0830 on 22 May and was welcomed into Portland Harbour with a water canon display from the port’s newest tug, named in memory of its most influential director, Rupert Best.

This inaugural visit from the Virtuosa marks the first of many scheduled throughout the season, combined with several other cruise lines that have chosen Portland Port as a destination for their domestic cruise itineraries.

The cruise lines have made huge efforts to provide the safest possible environment, using the latest technology, the most up-to-date testing and a whole host of new safety policies and procedures.

Under the latest UK Government guidance, any passengers wishing to see the Jurassic Coast and Dorset’s beautiful countryside can go on ship organised tours which will maintain the cruise ship’s ‘bubble’ at all times.

Mr McQuade commented: “The port has worked closely with MSC and our local port health department for many weeks to plan for the re-start of commercial cruise operations. A lot of work from all sectors of the cruise industry and Government has gone in to making this possible and we are proud to be part of an industry which has shown such solidarity in these unprecedented times.”

Main photo by Steve Belasco