A gigantic luxury liner carrying more than 5000 people became a temporary landmark on the city skyline when it anchored in deep water off Newhaven.
Regular 20-minute tenders from the £473 million ship to the harbour saw hundreds of passengers disembark to explore the Capital’s sites on Wednesday.
The P&O Britannia was in Edinburgh for a day trip on her maiden voyage around the British Isles, described as a “lap of honour”.
Weighing at 141,000 tons – 25,000 more than any other vessel in the fleet – it is the largest cruise ship in Britain.
Britannia’s arrival was made possible after hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment by Forth Ports to dredge and deepen the seabed.
“Having an anchorage point this close to Edinburgh helps us to attract the big liners and this is a fantastic
opportunity for us,” said Robert Mason, head of cruise at Forth Ports Ltd.
As the market for luxury cruises grows, Forth Ports have had eight bookings, two for 2016 and six for 2017, with the visits expected to bring in “millions of pounds” for the city’s tourist economy.
Essentially a floating holiday resort complete with swimming pools, shops, bars and restaurants, Britannia has 17 decks to explore. Visitors said they could easily forget they were at sea until they looked out the portholes, and several passengers told the News that it was easy to get lost in her vast lounges and corridors.
Fortunately around 1,500 staff are on hand in case any of her 3657 passengers lose their bearings.
A passenger enjoying an artisan gin bar said: “This is the best cruise I have been on. There is no area that isn’t a ‘wow’.” Cooking lessons with celebrity chefs including James Martin and Mary Berry are also available.
During the visit, Deputy Lord Provost Steve Cardownie presented Captain Paul Brown with the Edinburgh crest and a bottle of single malt whisky.
In return, Cllr Cardownie received the ship’s crest, which will be put on display in the City Chambers.
Capt Brown said the biggest challenge with a ship of this size was the weather. He added: “It takes three miles for the ship to stop on its own and 0.4 of a mile to stop in an emergency but I have found myself having to do that.”
The visit was billed as Britannia meets Britannia, with the cruise liner berthed close to the home of the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Britannia will sail from Newhaven to Invergordon and then on to Kirkwall before heading back to Southampton via ports including Liverpool and Dublin.