Belfast Becoming Titanic Cruise Port

September 21, 2012
(2:45 p.m. EDT) -- Nearly 80,000 passengers and crew onboard 44 ships have visited Belfast in Northern Ireland this year, a record for the port, which re-opened in 1996.

The Belfast Harbour authority released its annual report, which cited the opening of Titanic Belfast as a key the port's growth. Titanic Belfast, Belfast's claim to the lucrative trade in Titanic memorabilia is a museum highlighting the city's role in the 20th Century's best-known ship disaster. The modern and monumental building designed by architect Eric Kuhne officially opened to the public on March 31. Describing itself as “The World's Largest Titanic Visitor Experience,” Titanic Belfast is built to resemble the hull of four ships from the ground, while from the air, the building forms a white star — a nod to the White Star Line, which operated Titanic.

At least two cruise lines marked the 100th anniversary of Titanic's sinking with memorial cruises in 2012. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines, whose parent company Harland and Wolff built the Titanic in Belfast, followed the ship's original itinerary to the coordinates where it sank on April 15, 1912, as part of a transatlantic cruise to New York on Balmoral. Azamara Journey met up with Balmoral at the site on a similar memorial cruise.

Since it re-opened in 1996, more than half a million passengers and crew have visited Belfast. The port is slated to welcome a further 11 cruise ships in 2013, for a total of 55.

--by Jamey Bergman, U.K. Web Production Editor