Fewer and smaller cruise ships being deployed in the Mediterranean this year by major cruise lines will hurt ports throughout the region, according to a recent projection of 2017 cruise passenger totals.
Fears of terrorism in parts of the Mediterranean basin have sent the region’s share of global capacity to a 10-year low, according to the report by Risposte Turismo, a cruise research firm based in Venice.
Only 15.5% of cruise ship capacity will sail in the Med this year, down from 18.3% last year and 16.4% in 2007.
Francesco di Cesare, president of Risposte Turismo, said the decline is the result of a mix of factors, among them the “no-go zones for cruise ships,” which currently include destinations such as Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt.
“In 2017 we shouldn’t register any growth in major Med ports,” di Cesare said. “But some marquee ports such as Barcelona will remain stable in comparison to 2016.”
A spokeswoman for the Port of Barcelona confirmed that it is expecting more than 800 cruise ship calls this year, up from 758 in 2016, which can be attributed in part to Barcelona’s strength as a turnaround port.
About 58% of the 2.6 million visitors to Barcelona last year were boarding or disembarking a cruise, said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be quoted by name.
By contrast, the major ports in Italy are expecting declines. According to Risposte Turismo, the number of passengers handled by Italian ports will drop 7.1% this year, to 10.3 million, while the number of ship calls will be down 9.6%, to about 4,500.
Risposte Turismo expects Civitavecchia, the port for Rome and the second-largest cruise port in the Med after Barcelona, to see 5.9% fewer passengers this year, and Venice, the fourth-largest Med port, to see an 11.4% drop.
Naples, the sixth-largest port, is expected to see a 23.4% drop in passenger numbers, while among the top Italian ports only La Spezia, the gateway to the Cinque Terre region, will eke out a 0.2% increase, the study found.
Di Cesare expects Marseille, France, the fifth-largest Med port, to experience a 6% drop in passengers this year.
Venice is a major turnaround port for cruise ships on eastern Mediterranean itineraries, which have been affected by cruise lines dropping Turkish ports due to an ongoing threat of terrorism.
Venice is also impacted by limits on the size of cruise ships that can reach the city through the Giudecca Canal.
Greek tourism minister Elena Kountoura said the number of cruise calls to Greek ports is expected to be down this year, but the number of passengers is expected to rise because of larger ships being deployed. Often, lines that have canceled calls to Turkey have substituted stops at Greek ports.
Di Cesare said Tunisian ports were dropped after two 2015 terror attacks and although the ports began getting calls again in late 2016, lingering uneasiness continues to affect itinerary planning.
Weak results in the Med influenced Celebrity Cruises to bringthe Celebrity Equinox back to the Caribbean this summer, while Norwegian Cruise Line, diversifying its capacity out of the Caribbean, moved the Norwegian Getaway this summer to Baltic itineraries rather than Mediterranean ones.
Di Cesare said that regions other than the Med are perceived by cruise lines this year to have a higher return on investment and more demand from passengers. That said, the Med will continue to be the world’s second most popular cruising region, behind the 35.6% of capacity devoted to the Caribbean but ahead of the 11.5% of ships doing itineraries in Europe outside the Med.
The drop in Med traffic comes after several strong years.
Italian ports had 11.1 million passenger movements in both 2015 and 2016, close to the record of 11.5 million set in 2011, Risposte Turismo figures showed.
The spokeswoman from the Port of Barcelona said growth there had been “spectacular” for about a decade but has leveled off in the past few years to a more sustainable percentage, though it is still an increase.
Next year, the Med’s share of passengers stands to increase if there are no more terrorism incidents to reduce demand. For example, Royal Caribbean International said it will have eight ships in Europe for 2018, up from seven this year, including its 5,400-passenger Symphony of the Seas, which will do seven-day trips from Barcelona that include stops in Palma de Mallorca, Marseilles, La Spezia (Florence/Pisa), Civitavecchia and Naples.
Whilst you can always shop on board Norwegian Cruise Line Ships, the Mediterranean offers a vast array of gifts for yourself, or friends and family back home. Besides standard soccer shirts and Eiffel Tower key rings, there are much better choices that will invoke memories of your travels for months to come. Here are my picks for the best souvenirs to pick up on a Mediterranean cruise!
When I think of France, it conjures up delectables like indulgent chocolate, hot chocolate, and those oh-so-colorful (and gluten free!) macarons. Which are quickly followed by thoughts of sumptuous coffee and tea, or a glass of really good red wine. Any of these would make for wonderful gifts from France! But so would a perfumed candle or skin care products from a traditional pharmacy. Small coffee table art books and French fashion magazines, along with stationery items including notebooks and calendars, all make for meaningful gifts. There are also plenty of Parisian-inspired artwork and illustrations to choose from, including sets of frameable postcards, plus you may find the perfect antique at a flea market. If you decide to break the bank, shop for a designer Hermès scarf.
The Greek Isles always make me think of enjoyment – celebrating life through good food, music and quality family time. Souvenirs to pick up on a Greek cruise include their famous local honey, olive oil, and fresh herbs, spices and teas. You can accompany these gifts with a bottle of wine, anise-flavored Raki or traditional Ouzo. Music fans may enjoy a bouzouki (Greek guitar), while others may love a handmade backgammon set. Natural cosmetics and skin care are big sellers, and the same applies to handcrafted leather sandals, as well as popular evil eye talisman jewelry.
In my opinion, a trip to Italy is all about food and wine. Some of the best souvenirs to buy here include locally pressed olive oil, handmade dried pastas, balsamic vinegar, and wines or Linomcello, a popular lemon-flavored liqueur. Hand-decorated Amalfi coast ceramics could also satisfy culinary lovers. If you have an avid holiday fan in your family, consider Nativity figurines, while kids may enjoy hand-carved wooden marionettes. If Italian fashion is more your thing, take a look at colorful Murano glass jewelry, silk scarves and ties, as well as leather goods including belts and luxury, buttery soft gloves.
Since Portugal is the worlds’ largest producer of cork, it’s no wonder some of the most popular items to pick up here include lightweight cork souvenirs like wine stoppers, jewelry, wallets and more. Olive oil and traditional port wine are always good choices, as are specialty liquors like Ginjinha (sour cherry liqueur) and Medronho fruit brandy. If you’re visiting the Canary Islands, be sure to grab a bottle of Mojo sauce, that’s widely used for dipping and marinating. Other great buys in Portugal include leather shoes and boots, along with glazed ceramic accent tiles (individual and mural sets).
Besides rich coffees and herbal teas, the Spanish love their sherry and Cava, a sparking white or rosé wine. A traditional guitar may strike a cord with your music loving friend, while Majorca pearls or gold and silver jewelry may be a better choice for the bling lovers. Castanets are fun souvenirs, as are colorful Flamenco fans and dresses for girls, or perhaps a Flamenco figurine would do the trick.