Bay prepares to welcome first of three cruise ship visits
HERCULE Poirot will be welcoming cruise ship visitors as they descend on Torbay at the weekend.
MV Artania will be visiting the Bay on Sunday for the first of three visits during 2012 and 2013.
The cruise ship accommodates approximately 1,200 passengers, with a crew of 550. It comes after another visitor HMS Illustrious was in Tor Bay waters at the weekend.
Torbay's mayor Gordon Oliver, and council chairman Cllr Roger Stringer are among the welcoming committee.
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Passengers from the Artania will be shown the same English Riviera hospitality as recent cruise visitors.
They will be brought ashore, via small liberty boats, to Torquay harbourside.
Representatives from the English Riviera Tourism Company and the English Riviera Attractions Partnership will also be there to make sure passengers are welcomed and given information on a wide range of local attractions.
As the visit coincides with the Agatha Christie Festival, Monsieur Poirot will also be popping along to greet passengers as they arrive at Beacon Quay.
Mayor Gordon Oliver said: "We want passengers to stay inside the Bay to enjoy the many wonderful attractions we have.
"The obvious knock-on benefit to this is the boost to the local economy but it also shows we are a welcoming destination.
"By greeting passengers we are able to make their visit special, showcase the Bay's attractions and gather feedback about their visit.
"We hope to get back to the cruise ship business we had before, but we need to encourage alternative excursion options that help to keep more passengers in the Bay during their visit.
"Increased cruise ship visits to the Bay means continued investment for our maritime tourism. We have five visits confirmed for 2013 and are actively pursuing further vessels for future visits."
Carolyn Custerson, CEO at the ERTC, said: "Work has begun with a number of tour operators to provide further information on our local attractions.
"This will increase our inclusion in the operators' official cruise ship tour itineraries and raise our profile as a desirable UK destination in a rapidly expanding cruise market.
"Itineraries will be tailored based on passenger profiling of each ship to encourage the visitors to stay local.
"This includes tapping into the international interest in Agatha Christie, who was born in Torquay and other areas of interest and heritage."
Richard Cuming, chairman of English Riviera Attractions Partnership, said: "There will always be a tendency for some of the passengers to explore further afield.
"With so many great attractions inside the Bay we need to encourage the majority of passengers to stay locally."
Cllr Vic Ellery, chairman of the Harbour Committee, said: "In terms of the cruise ship sector, it is great to see the number of calls beginning to increase and this is good news for the harbour and the community we serve."
Originally christened The Royal Princess in 1984 by Princess Diana, it was re-named in 2011 when Artania Shipping acquired the vessel from P&O Cruises.
The vessel offers passengers a wide variety of facilities over eight passenger decks.
This includes restaurants, cafés, bars, internet cafes, outdoor swimming pools, show lounge, cinema and spa.