The seven-day period ending July 6 was the busiest on record, with seven vessels, carrying more than 8,000 passengers, arriving at the port. Four of the ships were making their maiden calls to Stornoway.

Almost 100 vessel calls are expected at the port during the 2023 cruise season, which started in April and is due to finish at the end of September.

Cruise ship visits and passenger numbers are expected to increase next year following the opening of Stornoway Port’s £59million Deep Water Terminal.

Stornoway Port Chief Executive, Alex MacLeod, said: “The record number of ships that arrived last week again shows the growing popularity of the Outer Hebrides among cruise operators and their customers.

“It’s fantastic to see so many people from around the world arriving here to experience the unique hospitality and culture of the islands. And it is bringing a very welcome boost to many businesses in the islands.

“This level of activity gives everyone here a taste of things to come as we look ahead to more and larger ships coming to Stornoway following the opening of the Deep Water Terminal.”

The new Deep Water Terminal, which is nearing completion, will have a minimum 10 metre alongside depth and be able to accommodate vessels up to 360m in length.

Mr MacLeod continued: “The new development will create opportunities which are becoming evident even now.

“Those involved with cruise ship visits, such as tour guides, meet-and-greet services and port security, will all need additional capacity in 2024.”

Among the cruise ships to call last week was the season’s largest visitor so far this season, the MSC Poesia, operated by MSC Cruises. The 92,627 gross tonne 294 metre vessel, which can accommodate up to 2,500 passengers, anchored off Stornoway on its maiden call last Wednesday (July 5). The port is expecting an even larger MSC vessel later this season, the 139,072grt MSC Preziosa.

Stornoway’s 2023 cruise season is due to draw to a close on Thursday September 28, with a call by Hebridean Island Cruises’ Hebridean Princess, which can carry up to 48 people and has been a regular visitor to the Outer Hebrides over more than two decades. The ship, which operates out of Oban, was also the final caller of the 2022 season.