Christian Santos wants to welcome the world to Gibraltar

The Minister for Tourism in Gibraltar, speaks with Alex Smith about how the territory is delivering an exceptional experience for guests, crew, and cruise lines

Christian Santos wants to welcome the world to Gibraltar


By Alex Smith |

The small peninsula of Gibraltar sits at the mouth of the Mediterranean and has been an important naval base and trade port for hundreds of years. The connection between ‘the Rock’ and the shipping industry remains strong to this day, particularly as it is now a popular cruise destination. Around 300,000 cruise passengers visited Gibraltar in 2023, almost eight times the number of inhabitants in the territory.  

Yet far from being overwhelmed, Gibraltarians welcome cruise guests with open arms, says Christian Santos, the Minister for Equality, Employment, Culture and Tourism in Gibraltar. 

“Cruising is integral to Gibraltar’s tourism industry,” says Santos. “There is such a mix of different cultures within Gibraltar, and we pride ourselves on making sure every guest feels like they’re at home. The community really celebrates its role in the cruising industry, and is very welcoming to everyone that visits, even if it’s just for a day. Tourism is a major part of our cultural identity.” 

Santos suggests that Gibraltar’s popularity as a destination can be partially attributed to its size, which allows visitors easy access to a variety of different experiences. Despite the territory’s compact size, it offers beaches, historical landmarks, and a Unesco World Heritage Site, Gorham’s Cave Complex.  

“The proximity of all the attractions to the port is an extremely valuable asset for a Mediterranean destination,” says Santos. “Everything is 10 minutes away at most, yet there’s no way that you can see all of Gibraltar in one day. There’s also tax-free shopping for both passengers and crew, as well as the nearly 300 days a year of warm sunshine to enjoy. We have a lot to offer!” 


“Tourism is becoming more experiential, and we need to make sure that Gibraltar is part of that,” says Christian Santos

Gibraltar announced in September 2023 that it plans to build a new 3,817-square-metre cruise terminal at its port to improve its offering for visiting cruise lines. This ambition has grown in the intervening months, with plans now encompassing changes to the entire port layout. 

“The redevelopment of the port is part of our manifesto commitments,” says Santos. “In addition to renewing the cruise terminal, we are remodelling the port itself. The industrial facilities will be situated on one side of the port, while the cruise facilities will be on the other, allowing guests to enjoy stepping onshore without being impacted by the busy work of the port. We are also aiming to be able to provide shore power facilities as soon as possible, with investigations currently underway to determine the feasibility of the project.” 

Improving the crew experience is also a key priority during the terminal redesign project. Santos is well positioned to understand the practical needs of crew members having previously worked as a crew member for Airtours Cruises and as an entertainer for Disney Cruise Line.  

“I know how much of an impact the simplest thing like a waiting lounge with wi-fi has on the crew, having wasted a lot of time searching for a place with internet while berthed in port myself,” Santos says. “We are redesigning the terminal with those kind of small, practical details in mind, making sure that we provide passengers, crew and the cruise lines with what they need during their visits.  

Gibraltar is also working to provide cruise lines with opportunities to improve their crew’s skills, including courses meeting Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (SCTW) requirements. 

“Working with the University of Gibraltar Maritime Academy, we offer UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency approved STCW Basic Safety and Refresher Training,” Santos explains. “Cruise companies are asking for bespoke compliance training in such disciplines as fire-fighting and other safety and emergency procedures. We have already hosted crews from P&O Cruises, Virgin Voyages, and Windstar Cruises.” 

The government’s plans for further improvement extend beyond the port, as it aims to introduce new experiences while renewing the territory’s most iconic sights.  

“We are investing in Gibraltar as a whole,” says Santos. “We are currently carrying out the beautification of Main Street and the surrounding areas, as well as adding new sites downtown, such as an information centre on our cultural identity.  

“Investments in Fortress Gibraltar, which starts at the Moorish Castle and brings visitors over to the Northern Defences, will allow visitors to head over to that side of the peninsula without going through the Upper Rock. We’re also adding selfie points to some of our beautiful sites to make them more appealing to younger generations. Tourism is becoming more experiential, and we need to make sure that Gibraltar is part of that.” 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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