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A Guide to Belfast for Cruisers

In 2018, Belfast will see the highest number of cruise ships dock between March and October, with 117 cruises during this period.  The new season will start on 19th March with Cruise and Maritime’s Astoria, followed by a number of other big-name cruise lines such as Princess, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Celebrity Cruises.

Belfast Harbour’s busy cruise schedule is thought to be in part due to the city being featured by Lonely Planet and National Geographic Traveller, promoting the capital as a ‘brand-new city’ that has transformed into a hip destination since the troubles in Northern Ireland ceased.

Things to do in Belfast

The good news for cruise passengers is that most ships will be ported for the majority of the day, which will offer plenty of time to explore the city.  There are a variety of things to do in Belfast, here are my top four recommendations:

Titanic Belfast, the world's largest Titanic exhibition.
Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest Titanic exhibition.

Titanic Belfast 

I’m not entirely sure whether it’s a good or bad idea to visit this Titanic museum whilst on a cruise but I did visit the Titanic Exhibition in Las Vegas on my way to board a cruise in San Franscisco and it didn’t bother me.  This is the world’s largest Titanic exhibition and celebrates the iconic ship at its birth place so is a must for cruisers with an appreciation of the classic ship design.  Tickets are reasonably priced with concessions for children and seniors.

The Giant's Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

The iconic Giant’s Causeway is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an awe-inspiring place to visit from Belfast.  It’s approximately 80 minutes from the cruise port by vehicle so it’s probably worth giving yourself plenty of time to get there and back; the cruise ships are sure to have organised excursions or you can organise it independently through a tour company such as Irishtourtickets.com, which offers an 8-hour excursion to the Giant’s Causeway and Belfast city tour from just £35 from Belfast Harbour.

Dark Hedges, one of the most photographed Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland
Dark Hedges, one of the most photographed Game of Thrones locations in Northern Ireland

Game of Thrones locations

One of the reasons that Belfast’s popularity has grown in recent years must surely be something to do with a little television programme called Game of Thrones.  Filmed in Belfast and a number of locations in surrounding areas, Game of Thrones has been a fantastic showcase for the picturesque landscape and rugged coast.  As you can imagine there is now the opportunity to take Game of Thrones tours for fans eager to visit some of the filming locations.  I would recommend checking out the link above to get you started.

gin

See Belfast through gin-tinted glasses

Belfast’s revitalisation has brought with it a rise in gin bars, which have taken residence in some of the city’s empty buildings.  Why not take a gin tasting tour and sample some of the popular tipple?  Belfast’s own gin distillery, Jawbone Gin is fueling the gin revival.  Cruise passengers who are visiting Belfast with Silversea and Variety Cruises on 8th March 2018 could also visit the Belfast Gin Festival.  Cheers!

Happy cruising!

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9 thoughts on “A Guide to Belfast for Cruisers

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  1. Wow I love the Dark Hedges picture, I had no idea that location was in Northern Ireland! I hadn’t heard that the city had re-branded itself and is now becoming a tourist and cruise hot spot. Sounds like I need to get there quickly before it becomes too crowded with people! 🙂

  2. Whether I really want to see a Titanic exhibition when I come to Belfast on a cruise ship, I doubt very much. I think the journey would not be so relaxed afterwards. But I think the city has a lot to offer and I would definitely find an alternative.

  3. I’ve spent a lot of time in Ireland but haven’t made it up to Northern Ireland yet. This is a great way to see Belfast! (but yes, seeing the Titanic museum while on a cruise makes me nervous…:)

  4. A Titanic museum exhibition whilst on a cruise? That’s a sure way to get passengers not sleeping well and hanging out by the lifeboats the rest of the cruise. 😉 Maybe if everyone follows up a museum visit with a gin tour, things will work out.

    1. Perhaps, although I visited a Titanic exhibition in Vegas on my way to San Francisco for a Hawaiian cruise and I slept like a baby!

  5. I’ve always been fascinated about the Titanic so visiting the museum exhibition is definitely on my list of things to do if I ever go to Belfast. I really want to check out Dark Hedges…it looks like a great place to get interesting pictures.

  6. These all seem like top ideas even without arriving by cruise ship! I’m not sure how I would do with a “cold” Northern European cruise, so I’d have to hop on one of the boats in the summer. Do you know which other ports would be common stops on a cruise that includes Belfast in the itinerary?

    1. Yes these cruises are generally in the spring/summer season. Belfast is a popular port on British Isles cruises, which also includes Edinburgh, Dublin and the Channel Islands.

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