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I’ve done a few posts in the past about the row going on between Liverpool and both the government and other ports, about using their new pier in the River Mersey for cruise turnarounds. The argument was due to the fact that although Liverpool had received significant cash assistance for the construction of the new poer, their were strings attached to the grants; specifically, that the pier could only be used for day calls by cruise ships and not for cruise turnarounds, i.e. for cruises starting and finishing in Liverpool. In spring 2012 cruise turnarounds did start from the new pier, and Liverpool city council (the recipient of the grants for the pier) agreed a grant repayment figure and schedule with the government. I believe that since then cruise turnarounds have continued during both of the last two summers.

Even then, however, it seemed unlikely that Liverpool was going to turn into a new cruising super-hub. There are many disadvantages to Liverpool as a port of embarkation, etc, as compared with Southampton, Dover or Harwich. For cruises heading south to the Mediterranean or east to the Baltic Liverpool is an extra day’s sailing away, which over a whole cruise means two days more time spent sailing and two days less at the destination area. Then there was the fact that Liverpool didn’t have any real terminal facilities, essential for cruise turnarounds: baggage handling, passenger check-in, and so on. A temporary pre-fabricated structure was built, but this had a maximum capacity of about 1500 passengers, so only smaller ships could be handled.

It was announced that Liverpool city council has solved the terminal provision and terminal size problem with one dramatic development. They are to buy the old Cunard building, right on Liverpool’s waterfront, and use the lower floors as a terminal. This gives them many times the space they currently have. On a historical note, this is a very apt use of this old building. It was originally constructed before the first world war to perform passenger handling for Cunard, many of whose liners sailed for the new world from Liverpool having embarked their passengers from the Cunard building. The new terminal might be in use as early as next year, or failing that early 2015. Here’s a link to an article in the Liverpool Daily Post of yesterday, announcing the development.

Of course, this still leaves Liverpool with some problems – it’s still in the wrong place, especially for cruises to the Mediterranean and the Baltic, and increasing the number of passengers that can be handled will increase the problems from other issues e.g car parking. But it’s an imaginative and exciting development, and I take my hat off to them for doing it.

3 Responses to “New Liverpool cruise terminal in a historic old building”

  1. Malcolm Oliver says:

    Hi Tom, for decades they used to say that New York was too far away from the Caribbean to be a cruise terminal, suggesting that Miami was a more logical geographic choice. Now many ship cruise form NY, some to the Caribbean.

  2. David Toft says:

    Tom, I am Liverpool born and know the Cunard building well. I would love to see a Cunard cruise start in Liverpool, but wonder if this sceme has been thought out fully.

    The Cunard building is not on the dockside and has limited space for the arrival of large numbers of passengers. There is certainly no facility for handling the passengers arriving by car or bus and I think it is likely that car and bus arrivals will be directed to an out of city car park and passengers bussed to the terminal.

    Of course they may try to accept these large numbers at the building, but would Cunard, or any other operator of big capacity ships want to take the risk?

    I hope I am wrong, but I can see the present euphoria dissolving in the next 18 months.

    Best regards to you,


    • Tom says:

      Many thanks for the comment, David.

      It’s been a long time since I was familiar with Liverpool. In the late 1970s I worked for the Manpower Services Commission, first at Leece Street Employment Office and then in an office in Graeme House, very close to the Pier Head (is Graeme House still there?). I was never that familiar with the ‘Three Graces’ part of the port, but I had a feeling that, although the buildings themselves were magnificent, space was constrained around them. They date from the pre-car era, after all – was there rail access along there instead, in the past? For all the fact that Southampton harbour is boring, it is very functional, whereas (as you suggest) there may be issues with the use of the Cunard Building for large numbers of passengers. The only way I can see it working is if cars are left and perhaps baggage handed over in another location, then passengers are conveyed by coach to the terminal. But that’s going to seem a bit fiddly.

      But maybe that’s being too negative about it. I don’t think Liverpool is aiming to replace Southampton, just be available as an alternative for those who prefer to depart from a more local port.

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