The Skywalk’s glass bottom provides uninterrupted views across the Mediterranean
Located at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar – also known as the Rock – provides an interesting and important destination for cruise lines sailing the region
. “Gibraltar offers a blend of Moorish, British and Mediterranean influences in its history, architecture and people – a unique and fascinating culture,” says Vijay Daryanani, Minister for business, tourism and the port at the government of Gibraltar. “With over 300 days of sunshine annually, cruise passengers are also guaranteed a mild climate and Mediterranean sunshine.”
For cruise operators too, the Rock has become an ideal stop-off point for fuel bunkering and a large array of maritime services, including crew changes, as the international airport is only six minutes away from the port and offers worldwide connections via London, UK.
Gibraltar’s location between Europe and Africa also makes it a prime spot for creating itineraries that transcend continents. “We traditionally cater for Western Mediterranean itineraries, but we also act as a last stop-off point for repositioning cruises to and from the USA, Caribbean and South America, as well as North Atlantic cruises,” explains Daryanani. “Being only 24 kilometres from the north coast of Morocco, we are an ideal port to link up with African destinations across the Western Mediterranean, offering cruise passengers an eclectic mix of cultures, customs and experiences in a single cruise.”
These all add to the cruise offering for guests, with a variety of shore excursions and tourist attractions covering natural and military history, VAT-free shopping and a Unesco World Heritage Site at the Gorham’s Cave complex, where Neanderthals are known to have lived.
“The most popular activity for the cruise passenger is the ‘Rock Tour’, giving guests a full flavour of the history and life on the Rock over the years to present day,” says Daryanani. “The Upper Rock Nature Reserve, home to the world-famous and free-roaming Barbary macaque, also hosts a large number of other popular tourist attractions such as St Michael’s Cave, The Great Siege Tunnels, Moorish Castle and the Windsor Bridge and Skywalk, the latter a glass-bottomed viewing platform with impressive views of both the east and west sides of the Rock.
“We have history, nature, water-based activities and entertainment to keep cruise passengers busy and full of the spirit of Gibraltar.”
Gibraltar’s military history is another key factor that differentiates it from other Mediterranean destinations. “With a past of Moorish occupation and World War II participation, there are hundreds of years of experiences open to the cruise passenger.”
Its innate Britishness, though, as well as its people, is what Daryanani believes truly sets it apart. “English is the official language and Sterling the currency,” he says. “Visitors will feel a British familiarity when visiting but will also experience our Mediterranean influences over the years which have given us our unique identity.”
The varied opportunities and experiences of Gibraltar have made it a highly sought-after port of call among cruise lines. As of February 2022, the Rock has 176 calls scheduled for the year, which is significant given its small size. “Our seasonality is also becoming less of a factor, with multiple calls scheduled for traditionally quiet months like November and December,” says Daryanani. “Gibraltar has been included in the itinerary of major cruise companies such as P&O Cruises, Tui Cruises, Cunard, Oceania Cruises and Azamara, to name a few. Thanks to our facilities we can cater for even the largest cruise ships in operation, such as Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class vessels.
“We are working hard to position Gibraltar as the port of choice in the Mediterranean and I look forward to showcase our combination for cruising very soon.”