Cruise lines’ Dubrovnik deal seen as a way to combat overcrowding

Last year, Dubrovnik received 742,000 passengers on 538 ships.
FORT LAUDERDALE — Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said a new agreement in Dubrovnik, Croatia, illustrates how fears about crowding in favourite tourist areas can be managed by the cruise industry.

Speaking as part of a CEO panel at the Seatrade Cruise Global convention here, Donald took the occasion to disclose that major cruise lines have agreed to coordinate their schedules this summer in Dubrovnik.

That could mean some ships arrive later or depart earlier to keep their time in port from coinciding, or it could mean moving some ships to arrive during the week rather than on weekends.

The walled Old City of Dubrovnik was named a Unesco World Heritage site in 1979, but Donald said its mayor requested a meeting with cruise officials because it had been threatened with delisting by Unesco.

Donald and other cruise officials met several times with mayor Mato Frankovic, most recently in January when an agreement was apparently reached.

“In the end, our guests don’t want to go to a place that’s overcrowded,” Donald said. “If the sites that everybody wants to see are being abused, our guests won’t go. It’s in our self-interest, but it’s also in the interest of the places we go.”

Last year, Dubrovnik received 742,000 passengers on 538 ships. The city recorded about 3.4 million overnight stays, with many visitors drawn by Dubrovnik’s status as a filming location for the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

Donald said cruise lines need to “listen with empathy for the issue of what some would call over tourism, not necessarily driven by cruise companies but by the fact that we’re a very visible symbol for it; our ships are large, and so forth. We have to listen with empathy to the ports that are out there and make sure we work with them to get the proper infrastructure.”

Dubrovnik’s over tourism concerns are shared by several other destinations in the Mediterranean, including Barcelona, Venice and the Greek island of Santorini.

Travel journalist Peter Greenberg, who moderated the CEO panel, said the World Travel and Tourism Council in a recent study listed “destination degradation” as one of three critical issues facing the travel industry.

Others on the panel took issue with the label “over tourism.”

“I think it’s a misnomer,” said Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. chairman Richard Fain. “What we’re really talking about is sustainable tourism.”

Fain cited Royal Caribbean’s development of Falmouth in Jamaica to offer an alternative to Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, as another successful response to crowding concerns.

After Falmouth opened in 2011, the number of cruise visitors actually rose, but they were more spread out.

“There were more people but less density,” Fain said.

“The opportunity, really, is to work together in these communities,” Fain said. “We work with them, and we find solutions that are to both of our benefits. And those we work with are very happy. You see that over and over again. Those who just want to make headlines, that’s a different story.”

The Celebtity Reflection in Dubrovnik.
The Celebrity Reflection in Dubrovnik.

Greenberg said that two cities where over tourism has been a hot-potato issue — Venice and Barcelona — are in the backyard of MSC Cruises, which has its headquarters in Geneva and its operations in Naples, Italy.

MSC executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said some perspective was in order.

“When you’re talking about Venice’s 30 million visitors a year, the cruise industry is 1 million of that,” Vago said.

He added that unlike the general tourism population, which ebbs and flows individually, cruise tourists come in groups that can be managed.

“We can actually coordinate,” Vago said. “We can actually ensure that there will never be an overflow, and we can control embarkation and disembarkation.”

A 2015 Unesco report recommended that the number of cruise passengers at Dubrovnik should not exceed 8,000 a day, arguing that when more than 8,000 visitors are inside the walls of the old city “tourist blight” becomes inevitable.

Research from the Port of Dubrovnik found that in 2016, arrivals exceeded 8,000 on 18 out of 243 total cruise days and that arrivals exceeded 10,000 on four days that year.

MSC has been looking for new destinations in the Adriatic to supplement hot spots like Dubrovnik. Last year, for example, MSC began calling at the port of Sarande, in southern Albania.

“Nobody knew that in Sarande, there were 10 different Unesco sites,” MSC CEO Gianni Onorato said in a recent interview. “This is the opportunity the cruise industry can give because there are options. That’s the only way to solve this problem.”


Cruise ships to be banned from Venice


Summary – Celebrities including British stars Sir Michael Caine and Julie Christie had backed the campaign.

An international campaign to ban large cruise liners from Venice has been successful, with the Italian government confirming massive ships will be blocked from the city centre from 2015.

British celebrities such as Sir Michael Caine and Julie Christie had supported a petition lobbying for a change in the law, with cruise ships currently able to pass within sight of the iconic St Mark’s Square.

Despite the victory for the campaign, there is already opposition to the Italian government’s proposal to create an alternative route into Venice for cruise liners, reports the Telegraph.

Gianfranco Bettin, a councillor for the Greens Party, stated that councils will need to be involved before a decision can be made on the plans.

Transport minister Maurizio Lupi was among those to approve plans to block cruise liners from Venice, which is known as the Queen of the Adriatic and listed by Unesco as a World Heritage site.

He said: “It seems to me to be a balanced solution which takes account of our duty to remove the skyscrapers of the sea from the canals of Venice, while safeguarding a world heritage city that is the envy of the world and protecting the city’s economy which is so linked to cruise tourism.”

Venice plan would reroute cruise ships away from city center

Venice plan would reroute cruise ships away from city center

By Donna Tunney

Prompted by the increasingly vocal concerns of preservation groups and environmentalists, officials in Venice have put forward a plan to reroute cruise ships away from the city center by dredging a new channel from the Lagoon of Venice directly into the busy Marittima passenger terminal.

Click on image for a larger view.Such a move would mean that cruise passengers no longer would sail into or out of the San Marco Basin and the scenic Giudecca Canal, within shouting distance of venerable landmarks such as the Piazza San Marco and St. Mark’s Basilica. (Click on the image to view a map of the proposed move.)

An agreement was reached in December between the Venice Port Authority and the city of Venice to study the creation of the channel, which could be completed within 18 months. The proposal gained a new urgency following the Costa Concordia accident on Jan. 13.

Venice is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and the group called on the Italian government to “act quickly to develop alternative plans for maritime traffic” around Venice.

In a letter to the Italian environment minister, Unesco assistant director-general for culture Francesco Bandarin wrote, “The tragic accident [involving the Concordia] reinforces long-standing concerns over the risk that large cruise liners pose to sites inscribed on [our] World Heritage list, particularly the Venetian Lagoon and the Basin of San Marco.”

Given the fragile structure of the medieval city, Unesco warned, the ships “cause waves that erode the foundations of buildings.”

Other groups would like to see a more radical resolution than the proposal for a new channel. Among them is a London-based group called Venice in Peril.

“The problem is that the ships keep getting bigger and bigger,” said Nicky Baly, the group’s director. “The deep dredging [required] to accommodate the draft of these ships is causing irreparable damage.”

According to Baly, the dredging is “breaking up the structure of the lagoon, and the sea level is rising. A city built in the Middle Ages is not designed to cope with the size of these ships, and they are threatening the fabric of the city, the most beautiful city in the world. The Concordia disaster is a tragedy, but it’s good that now everybody is talking about Venice. That’s very, very good.”

Crystal Serenity in VeniceThe 3,200-passenger Costa Concordia remains half-submerged off the coast of Italy’s Giglio island after hitting a rocky reef shortly after departing Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. Sixteen people died, and 16 are missing and presumed dead.

The accident happened in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, and salvage crews are trying to recover some 500,000 gallons of fuel from inside the crippled vessel.

An official with the Venice Port Authority, while agreeing that cruise ships ought to be routed away from the city center, was eager to point out the differences in geography and navigational procedures that he said precluded a similar accident from happening in Venice.

“The safety of vessel traffic is guaranteed,” said Stefano Nava, a president assistant with the port authority. “Before even entering the lagoon, all ships must wait for two Venetian [harbor] pilots. They assist and support the commander during the navigation, and only after the pilots board the ship does it move from the sea into the Venice Lagoon.”

After a ship enters the lagoon, two tugs, one at the bow and one at the stern, “take charge” and guide the vessel until it is moored.

And, Nava said, the bed of the lagoon is mud, “so there’s no possibility of damage to a hull.”

Nava added: “The cruise ship sector is the last evidence of the special link between Venice and its historical maritime heritage. It is evident that today it seems necessary to mitigate or eliminate any [potential] problems.”

Cruise companies did not respond to queries requesting their views on the proposed route change.

Cruise ships currently enter the Lagoon of Venice from the northeast and travel west through the San Marco Basin and the Giudecca Canal to the sprawling Marittima cruise port, in the far southwest corner of the city.

Under the channel proposal, cruise ships would enter the lagoon from the south and follow the route that cargo ships use to reach the mainland port of Marghera.

Instead of turning left into the cargo port, cruise ships would utilize the new channel and turn right into Marittima, bypassing the San Marco Basin and the Giudecca Canal.

Marittima can accommodate up to seven ships, with a maximum ship length of 1,115 feet, Nava said. Two other cruise ship docks are located just inside the Giudecca Canal.

The Basilio and the Marta berthing stations have total lengths of 1,123 feet and 1,526 feet, respectively, added Nava, who said multiple smaller ships typically use them.

It isn’t clear whether the Basilio and Marta docks would remain in use if a new channel opens.

Nava said the creation of the new channel would cost at least $40 million, depending on the scope of required environmental safeguards that could accompany the project.

The Venice Port Authority also is exploring a longer-term — and more extreme — option for safeguarding the city from cruise traffic.

According to Nava, an offshore port could be built at Santa Maria del Mare, located on a narrow island southeast of Venice and outside the lagoon. But it would be operationally problematic for cruise lines, he noted, since passengers would have to be transported from the disembarkation site to ferries that would bring them into the city center.

Nava said the idea has little to no hope of becoming reality.

“At the moment, there’s no support,” he said, adding that the construction of a new port would require approvals from a slew of Italian agencies and ministry offices. No cost estimates are bouncing around, either.

But a cruise port well away from the city is exactly what Venice in Peril would like to see, even as it acknowledges the obstacles.

“It won’t happen,” Baly said. “It would cost billions.”

Baly’s group doesn’t support a new channel, either, since it requires deep dredging of the lagoon.

“This shouldn’t be just a financial decision,” she said. “The best thing would be to move the ships out. It’s really all a question of how Venice is going to manage its tourism. It already has 18 million visitors a year.”

More than 20 major cruise lines visit the city each year. In 2011, cruise ships brought 1.7 million cruise passengers into Venice.

This year, close to 200 cruises are scheduled to begin in Venice, according to departure schedules listed on, the online cruise database operated by Landry & Kling, a Miami-based cruise meetings and incentives firm.

Hundreds more will call at the port for a day and in some cases an overnight.