All but the biggest cruise ships now afloat would be able to dock in Dún Laoghaire Harbour, a scenic port about eight miles south of Dublin, if a controversial plan to build a cruise berth and terminal goes forward. Supporters say many more cruise ships would call at the Irish port and eventually generate some $30 million a year in revenue from passengers who disembark and spend money in the picturesque, walkable town of Dún Laoghaire.
A new dock would accommodate ships up to roughly 1,115 feet long, and it would mean that cruisers wouldn’t have to tender ashore in small boats. With that dock length, ships such as Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, plus most of Royal Caribbean International’s ships and many others, could choose Dún Laoghaire over Dublin. Passengers could take public transit into central Dublin in about 20 minutes.
But the plan, which is estimated to cost at least $20 million and boost cruise passenger arrivals to upward of 500,000 a year, has its critics. Just eight ships have visited Dún Laoghaire so far this year, according to a spokeswoman for the harbor company, and some area residents aren’t so sure they want to alter the existing seascape to allow for an influx of big ships. The cruise berth would cut the harbour in two, they say, have negative impacts on sailing competitions in the harbor, has potential environmental effects and would ruin the harbor’s Victorian-era atmosphere. It was built in the early 19th century. Some also doubt the rosy economic picture the harbor company is painting.
But the harbor has lost key business in recent years, when Stena Line Ferries reduced its presence in the port to seasonal and then earlier this year pulled out altogether in favor of Dublin. Some local officials back the project. “We have already seen the positive effects that the arrival of cruise liners has brought to Dún Laoghaire with an increase in footfall and spending. In order to bring about a larger economic bonus to Dún Laoghaire the proposal for a new cruise berth, to accommodate large cruise liners, has to be given serious consideration,” Barry Saul, chairman of the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, said recently in the Irish Times.
The proposed berth and terminal is years away from becoming reality – if it gains the support it needs from local planning and other authorities. But proponents point out that cruise ship docking options are very limited along Ireland’s east coast. Right now, only Cobh, in County Cork, is the sole option outside of Dublin.
Dún Laoghaire isn’t the only coastal destination in Ireland that’s eyeing future cruise business. Galway, located on the Emerald Isle’s west coast, has been working on a $70 million redevelopment of its port, including the creation of bigger berth spaces, and is courting several major cruise lines to include the destination in their itineraries.