POOLE has seen two cruise ships call at its port on the same day for the first time ever.

Harbour bosses, who have been keen to market the town as a cruise destination, opened a new berth earlier this year.

They say Poole will feature on more itineraries in 2019.

The first of the two ships was the Corinthian, belonging to Grand Circle Cruise Line, making the last of seven calls at Poole this year.

The Corinthian offers “private yacht-like” accommodation for 100 guests. She will return six times in 2019.

Second to arrive was Astoria, belonging to Cruise & Maritime Voyages, returning to port after a three-day round trip from Poole to Rouen, Honfleur and the River Seine.

At 160metres (525ft), Astoria is the largest cruise ship to have visited Poole’s new cruise berth, South Quay since it opened in May this year. She will visit Poole seven times in 2019.

Jim Stewart, chief executive of Poole Harbour Commissioners, said:“We’ve never had two cruise ships in at the same time but it was all plain sailing on the day.

“Cruise ship calls to Poole have doubled in 2018 and, we are anticipating, they will double again in 2019. Our new cruise berth, South Quay, enables us to take advantage of the ever popular and rapidly expanding cruise ship market. This will bring much valued revenue and opportunities to Poole’s economy and beyond.”

During her maiden voyage from Poole, the Astoria dropped anchor in Poole Bay for passengers to enjoy Bournemouth Air Festival. Before continuing to Honfleur and Rouen.

South Quay, Poole’s 200m by 40m, £10million deep water quay is said to be one of the largest port developments on the south coast in recent years. It can accommodate vessels up to 220m long.

Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Variety Cruises and Grand Circle Line will all continue to offer sailing routes from Poole in 2019.

Poole Harbour Commissioners say Saga Cruises and Ponant will also be adding Poole to its itineraries and discussions are well under way with other cruise companies whose names are set to be announced imminently.

A spokesman for Ponant said: “Ponant have chosen Poole due to the unspoilt location and the opportunity to call where the larger cruise ships are not. There’s a huge opportunity for the guests to discover the area and beautiful landscapes surrounding the port, Poole has a lot to offer.”

Since the completion of the new cruise facilities, the Port of Poole has become a member of Cruise Britain, a joint initiative between British cruise ports and service providers to raise the profile of Britain as a world-class cruise destination.

Later this month, port representatives will attend Seatrade Cruise Med, the cruise industry’s leading trade event for the Mediterranean region and its adjoining seas.

Mr Stewart said: “We’re working hard to ensure that Poole becomes a key port for cruise companies. With calls to Poole doubling for 2019, the South Quay development has enabled us to take advantage of the ever popular and rapidly expanding cruise market.”