The serene Cornish town of Fowey became a hotbed of public debate on September 1 when the Spirit of Adventure, operated by British cruise line Saga Cruises, dropped anchor in its harbor. The arrival of the cruise ship and its 999 guests temporarily inflated the town’s population by almost half, eliciting mixed reactions from the locals.

With the cruise industry seeing spectacular growth in the last year and the various large cruise corporations sending ever-larger ships to the UK, opposition to cruise ships visiting UK ports is also growing. 

The arrival of a large cruise ship in the quaint little town of Fowey in Cornwall, England, turned sour when locals voiced their disapproval of the 58,199 gross tons Spirit of Adventure blocking their views of the harbor. 

Tourism is an essential source of income for the town, contributing £14m yearly to the local economy. The tourism industry, including cruise ships, also accounts for more than half of the jobs in the town. 

Saga Cruises’ Spirit of Adventure in Fowey

Residents questioned the economic benefits on social media that were cited by the Harbourmaster, pointing out that the near all-inclusive nature of the cruise would likely limit onshore spending by guests.

Other concerns ranged from the ship obstructing scenic views to casting a shadow over the local parish church and environmental issues, such as air pollution. A video posted by the harbor authority shows the arrival of Spirit of Adventure under a cloud of exhaust gasses.

Still, Harbourmaster Paul Thomas expressed enthusiasm about the ship’s arrival, saying it was a ‘Big deal.’

In a post on Facebook, the harbor authority said: “Today we welcomed the largest vessel ever to drop anchor in Fowey Harbour. The SAGA Spirit of Adventure has enjoyed a fabulous day in the picturesque Cornish harbour. Fowey Harbour are looking forward to welcoming more calls from larger vessels in the future.”

Another person who was happy to welcome the Spirit of Adventure to Fowey was the town crier: At 236m, the Spirit of Adventure is the longest cruise ship to ever dock in the river. It’s also the first one I’ve had the privilege to welcome! Come down and have a look! She’s a beast!”

Something that likely added some fuel to the fire was the recent appointment of Kate O’Hara to the Fowey Harbour team. O’Hara, a former Commercial Director at the Port of Tyne and a two-time Chair of Cruise Britain, is perceived by some as an embodiment of the very cruise industry the town is questioning.

Kate O’Hara remains excited about her new role, saying,I am delighted to assist the team in Fowey in reaching new customers and growing the business, enabling more passengers to enjoy the amazing experiences this area of Cornwall offers.”

Over the last two years, the cruise industry’s growth has elicited mixed reactions from people in the United Kingdom. While some applaud the growing cruise industry and see it as having a beneficial economic impact, others see the large cruise ships as a hindrance that brings along environmental and other concerns in smaller communities.

The tension is particularly palpable in towns like Fowey, where the arrival of large vessels can dramatically alter the local landscape and way of life, even if only temporarily.

Photo Credit: MartinLueke / Shutterstock.com

However, for now, there is little cause for concern for the residents of Fowey. Only two cruise ships are scheduled to make a call in the next two years. Spirit of Adventure has another call scheduled for June 2024, and the German cruise ship MS Europa has a call scheduled for July 2025. 

As for Spirit of Adventure, the ship is scheduled to sail two more cruises around the British Isles before heading to Norway for one voyage. The northern voyages are followed by a winter season sailing from Portsmouth to Spain, Portugal, and the Canary Islands, and even venturing as far south as Gambia, Senegal, and Cape Verde in Africa. 

Spirit of Adventure is a cruise ship operated by Saga Cruises. Saga is a UK-based company focusing primarily on guests aged 50 and above. The cruise line offers a more traditional cruising experience, often with British touches like afternoon tea and West End-style entertainment. Besides Spirit of Adventure, the cruise line also operates its sister ship, the 58,119 gross tons Spirit of Discovery.

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