One of the first cruise ships of the year to arrive in Wales has sailed into Pembrokeshire today, Thursday, April 6.

The 7,344 tonne Hurtigruten Spitzbergen is the first of 36 cruise ships sailing into Fishguard this year.

Although they disembarked in the drizzle, the Fishguard welcome was sunny as always.

The 88 passengers onboard were greeted by the award-winning Fishguard Friendly Faces who have handed out welcome bags and Welsh cakes with their usual warmth. Fishguard mayor, Cllr Sharon McCarney was also on hand to welcome the first visitors of the season.

Western Telegraph: Fishguard Mayor Sharon McCarney welcomes the Hurtigruten Spitzbergen into Fishguard. Fishguard Mayor Sharon McCarney welcomes the Hurtigruten Spitzbergen into Fishguard. (Image: Fishguard Bay Welcome)

Some of the guests have enjoyed trips to Pembroke Castle and St Davids this morning before going up in to Fishguard town on the Richard Brothers shuttle bus.

The Hurtigruten Spitzbergen was one of the first cruise ships to call into Wales this year. With the Viking Venus arriving at Holyhead at around the same time.

This marks a bumper year for the cruise industry in Wales, with 91 ships expected to call at Welsh ports.

The cruise calls will include more than 80,000 passengers and 39,000 crew, equating to a potential passenger day spend income of £8.3 million for the Welsh economy.

Last year, Fishguard welcomed 23 cruise ships carrying 8,500 passengers, while amongst the cruise vessels visiting the Milford Haven Waterway was the Bahamas-registered Silver Wind on a round-UK cruise.

Western Telegraph: The award-winning Fishguard Friendly Faces bring a sunny welcome despite the drizzle.The award-winning Fishguard Friendly Faces bring a sunny welcome despite the drizzle. (Image: Fishguard Bay Welcome)

For the first time this year, Holyhead will welcome the prestigious MS Queen Victoria in June - which is the 3,000-passenger ship’s first call at the port since the new ownership by Stena Line of the deep water berth in Holyhead.

The Welsh Government/Cruise Wales has been working with partners to develop and promote new onshore tour itineraries for passengers, showcasing more of Wales’ attractions to cruise lines and ground handlers.

Welsh Government investment in infrastructure has also helped to attract more cruise lines to call in Wales.

This includes the award of £147,000 through the Tourism Investment Support Scheme in 2017 for the construction of a dedicated cruise passenger tendering pontoon and associated landing facilities at Fishguard Harbour, which has attracted larger cruise ships into the port.

Ian Davies, head of UK Port Authorities at Stena Line, said: “It’s so positive to see a return and growth of cruise ships and guests to the ports at Holyhead and Fishguard, bringing growing numbers of visitors to see north and west Wales."

Deputy minister for arts and sport, Dawn Bowden, who has responsibility for tourism within the Welsh Government added: “It’s excellent news that we’re seeing such significant growth in the number of cruise calls to Wales this year.

“Wales is such a stunning place to visit, with a huge choice of experiences on offer that suit a variety of tastes and interests. We’ve been working closely with businesses in the tourism sector to ensure visitors see the very best we have to offer.

“Of course, the past few years have been challenging, but to see the highest number of calls to date is fantastic bounce-back and a testimony to the hard work of the Cruise Wales partnership. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming visitors from across the world to Wales in the year ahead.”