EXOTIC shores will be just a drive away for people in Avonmouth as its dock prepares to become a holiday cruise port.

As of February next year Avonmouth will get a new lease of life as a top cruise ship port and departure point for Spain, Norway and Ireland.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages have earmarked the dock for a programme of cruises in 2013, which should not only facilitate travel to foreign lands for locals but give a much-needed boost to the region’s economy.

The revival of the once bustling and vibrant port is expected to attract thousands of holidaymakers from the South Gloucestershire area and beyond.

Cruise and Maritime Voyages commercial director Chris Coates said: "Our first eight departures of Ocean Countess in 2013 will be from Bristol Avonmouth. We have already established a following of regular passengers from the South West of England so we have every confidence that our decision to add the port to our portfolio will be welcomed.

"Our research, based on customer satisfaction questionnaires, shows that 95 per cent of our passengers rated the enjoyment of their CMV cruise experience as excellent or good. Our feedback also shows that a convenient departure port is a key factor hence our plans for Bristol."

Mr Coates added: "We will be exploring new horizons in addition to our perennial favourites and taking our passengers to many of the places not always accessible by the larger resort ships."

The company will operate one of its two vessels from the port - the 17,500-tonne Ocean Countess.

It will be the first cruise ship to sail from Avonmouth since 1992.

The catalogue of cruises will begin on February 15, with a 28-night journey to the West Indies. This will be followed by a 15-night cruise to Norway’s arctic region to witness the Northern Lights.

In March the company’s ship will set sail for Spain and Portugal on an eight-night cruise. There will be a choice of five journeys in April including a springtime gardens cruise to Dublin, Guernsey, the Isles of Scilly and Falmouth, a Celtic-themed journey to Scotland and Ireland, and a trip to the Norwegian fjords.

The debut season will end finally with a ten-night Treasures of the British Isles cruise. An information event will take place at Bristol Golf Club on September 4 (3pm). To book a place call 01454 634070 or email info@ctheworld.co.uk