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The Port of Tyne has welcomed its first cruise ship of the year, MSC Magnifica, the largest and longest cruise vessel ever to visit the Tyne.

The ship bringing more than 3,500 passengers and crew berthed at the Port's International Passenger Terminal in North Shields for the first time this morning, as part of a round Britain cruise.

With a Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) of over 95,000 tonnes, she is 10% bigger than the current record holder for passenger shipping, previously held by Holland America's Eurodam, which visited in 2008.

Measuring 298.3 metres in length, MSC Magnifica is 30cm longer than the QE2 which also visited in 2008. The cruise ship is the largest and longest vessel to navigate the Tyne without the use of tugs. The MSC Magnifica is also the largest and longest "trading" vessel ever to enter the Tyne. Only the Bonga, a giant floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel and the Esso Northumbria, an oil tanker which was built and launched on the Tyne in 1969, both non trading vessels, were larger.

Port of Tyne's Chief Executive Andrew Moffat said: "We are really delighted to welcome the first cruise ship of the year to the Tyne. The fact she is one of the biggest cruise ships in the world highlights the Port of Tyne's growing popularity as a destination for cruises. The record number of cruise ships in the Tyne last year - 36 - brought 62,000 visitors who make a significant contribution to the region's economy."

"With one in eight holidays in the world now taken on cruises we are aiming to increase our market share and promoting the region as a major cruise destination with the support of the visitor attractions and partner organisations like Newcastle Gateshead Initiative."
Over 62k cruise passengers and 536k ferry passengers were welcomed at the Port in 2012. The combined economic impact of the Port's cruise and ferry operations is estimated to be worth almost £50m to the regional economy supporting in excess of 1,700 tourism related jobs.

NGI and North Tyneside Council provide a welcome and tourist information for passenger disembarking on the Northumbrian Quay.

MSC Magnifica is scheduled to spend most of the day at the berth, leaving at approximation 15.45pm.

The majority of her 2350 passengers are Dutch and German but there are also people from Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Korea, Israel, Brazil, Canada, Lebanon and America on board.

Twenty-seven coaches have already been booked for excursions to Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden, Beamish Museum, the North Pennines, Durham Cathedral, Hadrian's Wall and Howick Hall Gardens. There will also be a shuttle service from the International Passenger Terminal direct into Newcastle city centre for passengers looking for a taste of the city.

Owned by MSC Cruises, Magnifica has been in operation since 2010 and offers passengers all of the amenities you would expect from a state-of-the-art cruise ship. These include a 1200-seat theatre, five restaurants, a cinema, casino and disco. She will depart the Tyne for Harwich at 15.45pm on Thursday April 25.

In 2013 the Port of Tyne will welcome 32 cruise ships and marketing to the industry worldwide has brought a further 32 booked for 2014.

The International Passenger Terminal welcomed a record number of passengers in total in 2012 - 598,000 - on cruises and on the daily ferry route to Ijmuiden, Amsterdam.

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