SOUTHAMPTON'S new £55m cruise facility will welcome its first passengers today ahead of its official opening later this year.

Horizon Cruise Terminal is fitted with more than 2,000 roof-mounted solar panels, which means that on a day-to-day basis it will generate more power than it uses.

The huge £55m complex will also boast shore-to-ship power connectivity, allowing ships berthed alongside to switch their engines off.

Horizon is the fifth cruise terminal to be built at the port of Southampton.

Its opening is a further boost for the city's cruise industry as it continues to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Alastair Welch, director of ABP Southampton, said: “We’re incredibly proud to be building the infrastructure for the future of cruise with a commitment to sustainable operations.

"We marked the UK restart of cruise with MSC Virtuosa leaving the port with the first passengers on May 20 and we’re excited to announce this next significant milestone for the future of cruise in Southampton.

“This next-generation-ready terminal strengthens Southampton’s position as Europe’s leading cruise turn-around port and is a huge vote of confidence in the future of cruise.”

Antonio Paradiso is managing director of MSC Cruises UK & Ireland.

He said: "Today marks another important moment for MSC Cruises in the UK as MSC Virtuosa becomes the first cruise ship to call at the Horizon terminal, further enhancing the cruise experience for our guests.

"We have a long-term commercial partnership with ABP Southampton with a commitment that will see us bring even more guests to the port in the coming years.

"Southampton will play a key part in our itineraries for international cruises.”

Howard Sherman, executive vice president of destination services and onboard revenue at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, added: "We congratulate Southampton on the opening of the terminal.

"This project marks the continuation of a long-standing partnership between Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and the Port of Southampton.

"We look forward to the debut of Seven Seas Splendor, the first ship in our

fleet scheduled to visit the new terminal this autumn.”

The construction of the terminal was backed by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership and the government’s Getting Building Programme.

It was named Horizon following a competition backed by the Daily Echo.

The contest was launched in partnership with the Echo and its sister titles, The Bournemouth Echo and The Dorset Echo, to find a name befitting its significance to the city and the future of cruise.

The winner was Anna Chojnacka Liberska, 52, of Chandler's Ford, who won a seven-night cruise.