THOUSANDS of cruise ship passengers were given a warm Inverclyde welcome as they disembarked the biggest cruise ship ever to visit the area.

Giant MSC Meraviglia made her maiden stop in Greenock yesterday with more than 5,000 guests and some 1,500 crew on board.

As they stepped ashore they were welcomed by Ocean Terminal mascot Hamish, local piper John Macleod and members of the Inverclyde Tourist Group, including volunteer Bill Paul, while sampling complimentary whisky.

Mr Paul, who lives in the town, said: "It gives me a kick to shake their hands and welcome them to Greenock.

"I'm glad to see ships of this calibre coming in.

"It's unbelievable for Inverclyde."

Meraviglia is the largest passenger vessel to dock in Greenock and fifth largest cruise ship in the world.

She arrived from Orkney and sailed up the Clyde at around 7am, departing for Dublin last night.

Andrew Hemphill, a director of Ocean Terminal operators Peel Ports, said: "While about half of the passengers go on day trips to other Scottish destinations, many of them and members of the 1,500 crew visit and spend in Greenock, adding to the local economy."

More than 120,000 tourists are due in town during the 2018 cruise call season, contributing an estimated £10m to the area.

Commemorative plaques were exchanged between Ocean Terminal manager, Craig Collins, and the ship's captain to mark her maiden Greenock visit.