Cruise representatives expect a full return of the industry to pre-pandemic levels as they estimate that cruise ship arrivals for this year will increase by 15% and ship occupancy will start from 85% and reach 100%.
At the same time, the season is expanding, while new destinations are being sought, such as the smaller and less well-known Greek islands, however, the rudimentary infrastructure remains a thorn.
The industry is strengthening throughout the Southeast Mediterranean and I believe that in 2023 it will surpass the levels of 2019, Mr. Spyros Albertis, Vice President of Port Operations, Route Planning & Fuel Management, of Crystal Cruises, a cruise company that has made since this year its home port is Piraeus with one of its ships and from 2025 it is planning something similar for Thessaloniki.
Cruise ships have raised occupancy rates for this year to at least 80%-85%, while arrivals have also increased by 10-15% compared to last year, continues Mr. Albertis, who participated in the annual meeting of the MedCruise Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports, held last week in Corfu.
Ms. Theodora Riga, General Commercial Manager and Strategic Communication Manager of Thessaloniki Port Authority-OLTH S.A. and Member of the Board of Directors of MedCruise aws on the same wavelength. As she noted to ot.gr, the data available so far on the performance of the cruise in 2023 internationally and in destinations in South-Eastern Europe show a continuous increase in the sector and in particular in Greece show occupancy rates that will reach 100% with increased approaches by approximately 15% .
This significant increase should wake us up and improve the infrastructure and services to serve the ships, passengers and crews with the aim of the new recommendation of visiting the destinations, he adds.
Mr. Albertis also focused on infrastructure, pointing out, among other things, that companies are trying to open new destinations unique to luxury cruise companies. Also, the big hotel chains are entering the cruise area, taking advantage of their clientele. However, finding a new destination is a difficult task. In order for the effort to be successful, the necessary infrastructure must be secured, which often does not exist in the destination, Mr. Albertis emphasized.
We must all work together as a team, the ports, the local community, the shipping agents and the cruise companies to try to open new destinations, thus mitigating over-tourism in the existing destinations. However, Mr. Albertis added that the cruise is unfairly blamed for the overtourism phenomenon. Any problems that some destinations face are not only due to the cruise line but also to the day ships and also to the airlines. But the cruise sector remains an easy target for negative comments, he says.
Regarding his company’s plans, Mr. Albertis points out that from this year one of Crystal’s two ships, the Crystal Symphony, starts cruises from the port of Piraeus, while he will try to open new destinations with history such as Thessaloniki.
The port of Thessaloniki has dynamically entered the cruise map as it is in a strategic geographical position as one of the few ports in the world where the starting point of the cruise is in the heart of the city and Thessaloniki is very close to very important sights and monuments of the B Greece (Ancient Pella, Vergina, Mount Athos, Amphipolis, etc.), said Ms. Riga addong that the development of the cruise in Thessaloniki “opened” an additional gate for incoming tourism from the neighboring Balkan countries.
The port of Thessaloniki has the honor of being a vital part of this development. The destination is experiencing spectacular growth in the cruise sector with around 70 arrivals already scheduled by 2023, with 22 different cruise ships, as leading cruise lines have included Thessaloniki in their itineraries, he concludes.