How cruising is making progress in the Mediterranean

As the region's cruise season continues to grow, CFR shares how MedCruise members are preparing

How cruising is making progress in the Mediterranean
The Old Fortress was built in the Venetian era and is just one of many historical buildings cruise guests can visit while exploring Corfu

By Jon Ingleton |

Hosted in Corfu at the end of May 2023, the 62nd MedCruise General Assembly highlighted the Mediterranean region’s collective strength of purpose and achievement.  

The conference agenda tackled heavyweight issues head on, addressing topics such as the new European Union border management system with purpose and clarity. Accessibility challenges in ports was given a similarly rigorous review, with many delegates acknowledging the need to do more. 

“MedCruise has always been a trendsetter for the cruise industry,” said Figen Ayan in her welcome address, referencing the key pillars of the association’s success as: “respect, harmony, strength and community.”  

Ayan is an inspiring and empathetic leader who has steered the association through a difficult time. These skills will be pivotal while its grapples with other topics discussed in Corfu, including island port infrastructure challenges, particularly in contemplating shore power; the demand for port and regulatory differentiation between small and large ships; and the constant barrage from noisy, and often ill-informed industry, critics. 

Infrastructure improvement works continue at pace across the region as ports and destinations seek to win cruise calls and improve services. 

In Barcelona, Spain, for example, progress continues to agree a concession to build a new terminal on a 54,000-square-metre plot on Adossat wharf. Royal Caribbean Group and a joint venture between Norwegian Cruise Line, Viking Cruises and Virgin Voyages are the two known bidders for the 450-metre wharf line. 

Elsewhere in Spain, Tenerife is pursuing an extended season beyond the traditional busy period from September to April, while also increasing efforts to attract more luxury business throughout the year. This includes ongoing work to continuously strengthen the shore excursion product with both sustainable tours and exclusive luxury options. 

Ports de Balears has installed a children’s playground on the quay in the port of Maó in Menorca. Designed for both local residents and cruise visitors, the fenced facility has a maritime theme with a Santa Maria ship as the star attraction. 

Valenciaport has issued a tender for the construction of two electrical substations that will enable the Spanish port to provide shore power to visiting cruise ships. The project is expected to take 24 months to complete.  

Meanwhile in France, the Marseille Provence Cruise Club and the port authority is continuing to implement a roadmap for the decarbonisation of maritime transport, primarily through shore power (accessible to cruise ships from 2025) and the availability of LNG. A recent air quality study noted a 35 per cent reduction in emissions of sulphur particulates since fuel regulations were enforced in 2020. 

In Italy, Taranto Cruise Port is continuing infrastructure in pursuit of its Port 6.0 vision, which is focused on innovation, sustainability, intermodality and logistics enhancements. Central to the vision is the newly completed multipurpose service centre building on the San Cataldo Pier which is reintegrating the city with the port. 

Port of Thessaloniki in Greece has renovated and repurposed an existing property on Pier 2 to increase its capacity. In June, it welcomed two ships in two different terminals for the first time as both Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 and Celestyal Cruises’ Celestyal Crystal visited the city. “The second passenger terminal is one more strategically important investment in the port’s infrastructure, which upgrades our position in the international port industry and creates new development prospects for Thessaloniki and the wider region,” says Thanos Liagkos, the port’s executive chairman and managing director. 

In October 2023, the MedCruise General Assembly will head to Burgas, Bulgaria, on the western coast of the Black Sea. The 63rd edition of this biannual meeting will offer delegates the prospect of exploring land first inhabited by the Thracians in the Bronze Age during another rich week of learning and networking. 

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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