Guernsey record number cruise ship passengers

(3:00 p.m. BST) -- The number of cruise ship passengers visiting Guernsey hit a record high this year of almost 130,000 -- surpassing last year's number of almost 123,000.

The number will rise even higher as there are still six cruise calls left to count -- including large ships Queen Mary 2 and Britannia -- before the season ends on Sunday.

The Channel Island achieved a fifth year of increased passenger numbers despite fewer ship calls to the capital St. Peter Port -- 100 vs. 109 in 2015.

Guernsey also welcomed Disney Cruise Line to the island for the first time this year, and is set to welcome a new ship next year -- Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas.

Next year could mark a sixth year of growth, with a potential passenger capacity of 160,000 passengers.   

Although this is 12,000 fewer potential passenger visits than this year, VisitGuernsey expects the number to rise before the season restarts in March.

A spokesperson said: "This [number] is only at this stage so we still expect an increase and further numbers to add to this and would expect that 2017 will end up with higher numbers than 2016."

Guernsey has made a raft of improvements and additions for cruise ship passengers this year, including a newly-opened restaurant, a tourist train, a brand new pontoon and taking on staff for crowd and traffic control.

A new gift shop and cafe in Pier 17, where passengers disembark from the tenders, and allows people to have a drink or something to eat while they wait for tenders.

Le Petit Train leaves from where passengers disembark, and offers a 35-minute return trip around the town, taking in key landmarks.

The new pontoon allows for three tenders at once, or two in the case of large ships such as P&O Cruises' Britannia, which makes regular calls at the island.

Wendy Pedder of VisitGuernsey said reports that the island was considering developing a cruise terminal were not accurate.

VisitGuernsey has also taken over from the police in employing 37 Meet & Greeters to help direct cruise ship passengers and traffic -- and is looking to recruit more in 2017.

Next year, the island is planning to install a temporary tarpaulin cover to keep passengers dry while they queue to return to their ships.

Last year, Guernsey introduced free Wi-Fi on the pier for passengers, and an arrivals tent.

The island also works very closely with local boat operators who ferry passenger back and forth from the ship to the shore when the cruise ship cannot supply tenders, as in the case of Disney.

To cater with the huge number of arrivals to such a tiny town, Visit Guernsey regularly closes Albert Pier to traffic, allowing space for tour buses and queues of passengers waiting to get back onboard.

--By Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor