Belfast's success at attracting cruise lines has suffered a setback with Fred Olsen Lines decision this week to withdraw Belfast from its list of departure ports.
In a response to a query from the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, a spokesperson for Fred Olsen confirmed that they would no longer offer "departure calls" from Belfast "with effect from the 2018/19 cruise season".
Commenting on the news, Belfast City Councillor Sonia Copeland told the Belfast Telegraph: "It is very disappointing to learn that Belfast will no longer be a departure point for Fred Olsen cruises.
"It is really sad for Belfast that they've had to make this decision, that they're not getting enough business to continue with this.
"It's reassuring, however, that the company will continue to bring cruise passengers here on day calls. Hopefully, they will pick up the departure option again at a later stage."
Fred Olsen has offered cruise itineraries departing from Belfast since 2013. However, according to a company spokesperson " a lack of customer demand" means that they "can no longer sustain a dedicated cruise departure programme from the port."
The move follows a review of how well each of Fred Olsen's ten current UK departure points are operating. From next year, that number will be halved.
Potential passengers are encouraged to consider alternative ports such as Liverpool, and the company "will look at partial turnarounds when the itineraries are being put together," the spokesperson continued.
The disappointing news comes as Belfast is enjoying its busiest cruise ship season ever. Three liners, including Fred Olsen's Boudicca, are callling to the city this week alone.
A spokesperson for Belfast Harbour, which works with Visit Belfast in the Cruise Belfast Partnership to bring the ships here, told the Belfast Telegraph: "We were delighted to have Fred Olsen starting cruises from Belfast and are, of course, disappointed, to learn that this will cease from next year.
"Nevertheless, we will be very happy to welcome the four Fred Olsen cruise liners that are due to call here this summer and ships visiting for day calls next year.
"We hope that the company will reverse its decision regarding departure calls in the future. Belfast continues to enjoy tremendous success in attracting cruise liners, with the number growing from just two ten years ago to nearly 90 this year."