On Thursday 20 May, the UK cruise industry welcomed its first passengers after more than a year of an operational pause.
MSC Virtuosa’s UK maiden call to the Port of Southampton marked the return of cruising for the UK and a crucial part of this operation was handled by Solent Stevedores.
With MSC’s newest ship arriving ahead of passengers boarding, Team Solent’s role is initially securing her alongside safely on her arrival.
While the ship is preparing to welcome its first passengers, Team Solent methodically loads all the stores that the ship needs for its voyage. In a normal year we will handle 120,000 tonnes of stores for cruise ships calling to the Port of Southampton. This includes everything from food and drink for the passengers and crew, to flowers, costumes and scenery for the onboard theatre productions, and critical engine parts, toilet paper and cleaning products.
With ships generally stopping off at smaller ports and destinations during a cruise, everything the ship and passengers will need for the duration of its voyage has to be loaded in Southampton.
Once the passengers begin arriving at the port, our team are ready and waiting to help receive their luggage, pass it through security screening and then safely load it to the ship, so that by the time the passengers have boarded, their luggage is ready and waiting for them in their cabin. On a normal day, our team will handle around 12,000 items of luggage per ship. In 2019, this meant 2.8 million items of luggage were handled by our team.
It normally takes around 10 hours to fully unload and reload a cruise ship, and on a busy day, with multiple ships in Port, Solent Stevedores will have as many as 500 people working across the Port on cruise operations.
MSC Virtuosa’s UK maiden call to the Port of Southampton
"Welcoming ships and passengers back to the port after such a long break is exciting for our team. We cannot wait for the season to really get going again – albeit gradually – and to feel that buzz on the quayside once more."
Tom Dynes, Director - Solent Stevedores