New London had a big, white cruise ship docked at City Pier Monday – the first passenger cruise ship to use the port of New London since 2014, according to the Connecticut Port Authority.
The M/S Hebridean Sky is a foreign flag ship touring the East Coast.
“We haven’t had one at City Pier since (at least) 9/11 when nature of the world changed and security changed,” said New London Mayor Michael Passero. The State Pier, also in New London, hosts foreign flag cargo ships frequently.
But when the Hebridean Sky wanted to dock at City Pier, Passero said he, the Coast Guard, Homeland Security, the state Port Authority and Port security jumped into action. A process that could take three months took three weeks.
“It shows that we’re on the map. That people want to come here and that we have something very special to offer to the tourism industry,” Passero said.
Hebridean Sky Chief Officer George Hendry said the cruise operations company, Noble Caledonia, out of London, was looking for a new destination a little out of the ordinary.
“The amount of people who visited and thanked us for coming made it all worthwhile. It’s been a very warm and welcoming place,” Hendry said.
The Hebridean Sky and its sister ships travel anywhere from Antartica up to the far Artic, according to Hendry.
Monday the 110 passengers had the chance to hop aboard the Essex Steam Train and Riverboat and tour the Connecticut River, seeing landmarks like Gillette Castle and the Goodspeed Opera House.
“We’ve never been in the state before at all so it’s a new experience for us. We didn’t know what to expect – but we’ve had a really lovely morning,” said passenger Joyce Gape, of Welshpool, Wales.
“It’s perhaps a bit more of the real U.S. outside the cities,” passenger Tony Sherrard said. He lives in Buckinghamshire, England.
New London businesses, like Muddy Waters Café, gave crew members that local taste Monday, too.
“I hope to get a few people to converse with me this afternoon. I always like to talk to people from out of the area to see what they think about New London,” Owner Barry Neistat said.
The Hebridean Sky will leave New London around midnight and travel up the East Coast. Hendry said the final destination of the 12-day tour will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia.