How to Sell Irish Heritage Cruises

The mile-long Quays are a sight to behold for cruise ship passengers entering Waterford.
The mile-long Quays are a sight to behold for cruise ship passengers
entering Waterford.

More than 4.5 million Irish immigrants arrived in America between 1820 and 1930. During the 1840s, one half of all immigrants hailed from the Emerald Isle. Today, 10.5 percent of the U.S. population or 33.3 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey. Another three million Americans separately identified themselves as Scotch-Irish with their heritage tied to Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.

As the end of the year looms, with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, agents might consider including an Irish heritage pitch in a newsletter or a client promotion. Cruises featuring port calls in Dublin, Cork and Waterford in the Irish Republic, and Belfast and Portrush in Northern Ireland may deeply appeal to Americans seeking a “taste” of their ancestral homeland.

What’s the marketing potential? At least 32 U.S. states have Irish heritage populations in double digits, percentage-wise. Topping the list are Massachusetts at 21 percent, New Hampshire with nearly 21 percent and Vermont and Maine, both with 18 percent. Yet, the reach is far broader — from nearly 17 percent of the population in Pennsylvania to 14 percent in Montana, 13 percent in Missouri, nearly 12 percent in Colorado and Oklahoma and nearly 11 percent in both Wisconsin and Washington, not to mention many other states with sizable populations with Irish ancestry.

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Exploring Dublin: Dublin, the Republic of Ireland’s enchanting capital city, brims with cozy pubs, bookstores, museums, restaurants and galleries. Top draws? Clients can tour and taste at the Guinness Storehouse or gaze at Trinity College’s colorfully ornate Book of Kells. City tours include such sites as Ha’Penny Bridge, Christ Church Cathedral, the Molly Malone statue, Jonathan Swift monument, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Temple Bar, the Botanical Gardens and a Viking city wall section at Wood Quay.

In 2016, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic will make a maiden call at Dublin on May 26 during a transatlantic repositioning voyage. On June 5, it will also sail a 12-night “British Isles” cruise from Dover, England, to multiple European ports, including Dublin. On August 16, Cunard Line’s Queen Elizabeth sails a 14-night “Iceland and the Fjords” cruise with a Dublin port call, and on September 14, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Star sails roundtrip from Copenhagen for a two-week voyage with one day in Dublin. Cruise and Maritime VoyagesMarco Polo sails roundtrip from Liverpool, England, on a 12-night “Iceland and Northern Lights” cruise departing October 3; the itinerary features a Dublin port call.

While visiting Titanic Belfast, guests can stroll the deck of the Nomadic, the Titanic’s “little sister.”
While visiting Titanic Belfast, guests can stroll the deck of the Nomadic, the Titanic’s “little sister.”

More Irish Destinations: Celebrity Cruises’ “Iceland and Ireland” cruise operated by Celebrity Eclipse sails May 10 roundtrip from Southampton with calls at Belfast and Cobh (Cork); the latter gives cruisers a chance to kiss the famous Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle; other Celebrity ships also call next summer at Cork and Waterford. Similarly, Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas also calls at Cork (Cobh) during its April 29 repositioning voyage from Fort Lauderdale, FL, to Copenhagen, Denmark. Next summer, MSC Cruises offers several MSC Splendida cruises from Hamburg, Germany, that call at Dublin and Cork.

For Waterford Crystal fans, Swan Hellenic CruisesMinerva sails roundtrip from Portsmouth, U.K., on July 10 for a voyage that calls at Waterford. The week-long “Gaelic Explorers” itinerary operated by Windstar CruisesStar Legend departs August 23 from Edinburgh, Scotland, with calls in Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Portrush (the gateway to Giant’s Causeway) in Northern Ireland before ending in Dublin.

Other lines offer an even more robust Irish port line-up. On July 29, Princess CruisesPacific Princess sails 14 days roundtrip from Dover (London), England with Irish calls at Waterford, Galway and Londonderry in Northern Ireland and Dublin (overnight call). Caribbean Princess also sails voyages next summer with Irish port calls. Silversea CruisesSilver Wind calls at Cork (Ringaskiddy), Belfast and Dublin during its Reykjavik, Iceland, to Southampton, U.K., sailing on August 17.

For golf enthusiasts, Azamara Club Cruises sails July 11 on an 11-night “Irish Sea and British Open” itinerary that features embarkation and an overnight in Dublin, plus Waterford and Belfast port calls. Azamara has partnered with PerryGolf so clients can play a collection of the game’s most respected courses in Ireland and the U.K. Plus, cruisers can attend Sunday’s final round of the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon.

Oceania Cruises’ 24-night “Celtic Charms” cruise on Nautica sails from Southampton, U.K., to Copenhagen, Denmark, with calls at Dublin, Belfast and Londonderry. Holland America Line’s 14-day “Irish and Scottish Explorer” voyage on Prinsendam sails July 6 roundtrip from Amsterdam. It calls at Killybegs, the port for Donegal; spends an overnight (two days) in Dublin; and calls at Belfast in Northern Ireland and multiple Scottish ports.

Crystal Symphony operates Crystal Cruises’ 14-day “Grand Britannia” sailing, departing July 23 from London/Tilbury, U.K., with Waterford and Belfast calls and a Dublin overnight stay. Also on July 23, Seabourn Cruise Line’s Seabourn Quest sails a 28-day “Norwegian Fjord and British Isles” cruise with Cork and Dublin calls and an overnight in Belfast. 

While visiting Titanic Belfast, guests can stroll the deck of the Nomadic, the Titanic’s “little sister.”A Day in Belfast: Wildly popular with cruisers is the Titanic Belfast attraction, honoring RMS Titanic, which sank on her 1912 maiden voyage; the ship was built in Belfast. Cruisers may also view the SS Nomadic, the last remaining White Star Line vessel, at nearby Hamilton Dock. Other top sites include Belfast City Hall, the Grand Opera House, Albert Memorial Clock and St. Anne’s Cathedral. Outside Belfast, the Stormont Parliament Buildings house the Northern Ireland Assembly.

If clients desire to delve into their Northern Ireland heritage, they can visit Ulster Museum or research family roots at the public records office. The “Game of Thrones” TV series is filmed at Belfast Studios, so movie-themed tours are another option. From Belfast, cruisers also might head to the Antrim Coast and Giant’s Causeway.

Embarkation or Debarkation: Some cruises embark or debark guests at Dublin or Belfast. Guests wishing a more far-flung European cruise and also time in Ireland can take a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay or book a tour as another vacation element. Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 15-night “Dublin to Reykjavik” voyage on Seven Seas Voyager sails June 26, 2016, from Dublin with a port call at Belfast. Ponant’s “From United Kingdom to Connemara” itinerary departs May 1 from London on L’Austral with port calls at Galway, Killybegs and Belfast; it ends in Dublin on May 9. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines operates roundtrip itineraries (no Irish port calls) from Belfast to Scandinavia, Spain/France or Portugal/Canary Islands.

Know Before They Go: If clients wish to research their Irish “roots” before cruising, here’s an excellent list of genealogy resources as compiled by The Irish Times.

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