The Aran Islands got closer today as the fastest and most eco-friendly passenger cruise ship to operate on the western seaboard sailed into Doolin for the first time following a €3m investment.
The Doolin2Aran operated ‘Star of Doolin’ completed the 650 nautical mile journey from La Rochelle in France and sailed into Doolin Pier in splendid morning sunshine to cheers from tourists and locals and - naturally for the North Clare village recognised as the home of traditional Irish music - strains of box, fiddle, banjo and pipes.
Following regulatory sign-off by Department of Transport officials, the boat was operating to the three Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher by mid-afternoon.
The ship, will be the fastest and largest to operate to the islands from Doolin, halving journey times and doubling capacity of the company’s existing boats. It has also been designed with the environment in mind, with additional features to lower emissions and state of the art waste water treatment on board.
The investment by Doolin2Aran, which is owned and operated by one of Ireland’s best-known sea families, the Garrihys from Doolin, is the biggest ever made in a single vessel on the west coast of Ireland. The one-off designed, 200 seat cruise ship is also tailored for international tourists, with multi-lingual voice commentary to ensure visitors get the absolute experience and knowledge of the world-famous heritage sites.
"It’s a great day for Doolin, for West Clare and for the Aran Islands," said PJ Garrihy. "It was a lovely trip back. It’s such a comfortable ship and will be a great service to West Clare and the islands. We couldn’t wait to get her back and were blown away by the crowds on the pier for us so early today."
Said PJ’s brother Eugene, "This is the end of an 18 month journey for us. We took the decision back in late 2016. It was a big move because we’re a small family business and it’s a very big investment for us but now that the ship is back, we’re delighted. It will be a huge boost to tourism in the West of Ireland but particularly here in Doolin and the Aran Islands.
"It ticks all the boxes. While it can take more passengers and operate at twice the speed, it has also been designed with the environment as a core consideration. We’re operating here out of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark and it was a priority for us to get emissions as low as possible and we’ve done that."