THE port of Kirkwall in Orkney has been named the top cruise destination for Western Europe and the UK in a new survey.

The accolade comes after 138 cruise ships called in to Orkney last year, and there is already an increase planned with 169 vessel calls booked for 2019, expected to bring about 160,000 visitors to the islands.

Cruise Critic, the world’s largest online cruise resource, gave the latest award, based exclusively on consumer ratings and reviews posted to the Cruise Critic website. The site has more than 50 million opinions, reviews and photos covering 700 cruise ships and over 500 ports worldwide.

The port of Kirkwall is run by Orkney Islands Council, the harbour authority for Orkney’s 29 piers and harbours.

Councillor Graham Sinclair, who chairs the Council’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, said: “We’re absolutely delighted about the award which is based on first-hand feedback from cruise passengers themselves. This result reflects a phenomenal effort by our marine services team to ensure smooth port operations and a slick meet and greet service for passengers.

“But it also is testament to the local community – to the pride we have in our county, and the warm Orkney welcome that awaits our visitors at every turn.”

Earlier this year, passengers from Viking Ocean Cruises voted Orkney as their top Northern European cruise destination out of 46 competing ports.

Brian Archibald, Orkney Islands Council harbour master and head of marine services, engineering and transport said: “Most of the growth is in the small-to-medium-sized vessels and we are spreading the visits to other ports with about 22 calls to Stromness this year, including the anchorage at Cairston Roads. For 2020, bookings are already at the 2019 levels – Orkney has the largest number of cruise ship calls of all sizes.”