ANOTHER record Greenock cruise call season is under way with 75 stop-offs and some 140,000 passengers expected in total.

Ocean Terminal boss Hugh Hardie and his team welcomed the first major visitor yesterday, the 16,000-tonne Astoria.

Operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages, it docked at around 8am with around 500 passengers on board.

It was the first of two scheduled stopovers for the ship, with much larger vessels on the horizon over the next five months, including two Cunarders.

There will also be several newcomers docking in Greenock.

Hugh Hardie, interim terminal manager, said: "We've had Hebridean Princess in a few times already but this is the start of the traditional cruise season through until the end of September. "We have a total of 75 stop-offs and over 141,000 passengers, which is a new record."

Some vessels will call more than once and there will be a mix of regulars and newcomers - with the likes of Cunard queens Victoria and Elizabeth coming back to the Clyde while vessels such as MSC Orchestra and Costa Mediterranea will berth in Greenock for the first time.

It is likely to be the last cruise call season for the current terminal after a £15m expansion and new-build terminal was rubber-stamped by Inverclyde Council planners last week.

The development is due to be ready in time for next year.

Terminal boss Hugh, who is originally from Port Glasgow, has worked at the Clydeport site for 27 years and is delighted with how far the dock has come over the years.

He said: "It's been steadily increasing and the future is looking very positive.

"I was here when the first cruise ship came in, Southern Cross, around 1994/95.

"It's amazing to see how it's evolved.

"This year, we'll see Costa Cruises coming in for the first time on April 28 with Costa Mediterranea.

"There's also a couple of Cunard calls and another highlight will be the return of Disney Magic on September 12.

"MSC Orchestra is another new one on her maiden call as well on May 20.

"We're all looking forward to the cruise season."

The first passengers disembarking yesterday were greeted with glorious spring sunshine.

They were given a warm welcome by the tireless team of volunteers from Inverclyde Tourist Group, who will be on hand throughout the year.

Betty Terris, who chairs the organisation, said: "This is day one of 75 and it's always a delight.

"We're really looking forward to the rest of the season and hoping for lots of good weather."

Next up for the terminal is Costa Mediterranea, which can carry around 2,500 passengers, on April 28.