Love thy neighbour: MedCruise underlines the value of community

Association’s membership met in Bulgaria in a show of support for its Black Sea port partners

Love thy neighbour: MedCruise underlines the value of community


CFIP executive editor Jon Ingleton (centre) with Emilio Freeman of Sea Dream Yacht Club (left) and Michele Bosco of Princess Cruises (right)

By Jon Ingleton |

The 63rd MedCruise General Assembly in Burgas underlined the deep sense of community and empathy among the membership and the wider cruise community, particularly for the member nations and their near neighbours currently struggling through, or impacted by, conflicts and natural disasters.

It was entirely appropriate that this General Assembly convened in Bulgaria, a country whose ports have lost their cruise business due to a series of unfortunate events. We reminded ourselves of the resilience and fortitude demonstrated by those affected as delegates observed a minute’s silence.

‘Navigating choppy waters’ was a sombre but meaningful session as the assembled panellists shared their thoughts on how to overcome the geo-political risks that are impacting cruise regions and ports. The cruise line representatives on the panel emphasised the importance of flexibility. “We have to be very flexible with all of the situations around the world,” said Frederique Patry, senior manager of itinerary planning at Silversea Cruises. Emilio Freeman, vice president of itineraries and destinations at SeaDream Yacht Club, really needed a bigger audience for his wise counsel, “There’s always a solution for a difficult situation if you dig deep enough.”

The headline conference session title reiterated the most human of responses to adversity, ‘Love thy neighbour.’ In this interpretation of the phrase, cruise line speakers were asked to comment on the importance of port-city relations through greater local community engagement. Natalie Allaby, director of cruise excellence at Port Saint John, joined remotely to present her best-practice case study that has earned her port high praise both locally and across the industry.

Case studies were well utilised in Burgas. Lorenzo Vera, commercial unit manager at Motrilport, and Susana Soria, manager of the Port of Castellon, communicated the crew-friendly approach to cruise ship visits at the Port of Castellon. Meanwhile Carolina Navarro, director of Fundación Valenciaport, orchestrated an informative discussion about The Ealing Project, which is accelerating the deployment of onshore power solutions in European ports.

The final case study slot was given to Even Husby, head of environment at the Port of Bergen. Husby presented his port’s best-practice approach to onshore power during a dedicated session on the topic that also shared analysis carried out by MedCruise.

‘Developing a must-see destination’ is a common goal for ports, cities and tourist boards across the industry. On this occasion, MedCruise turned to Ryan Baird, project manager for destination communication at Holland America Line, and Debbie Holbrook, director of deployment and itinerary planning at Princess Cruises, for their advice. Baird’s recommendations included: find your unique proposition, be accessible, ensure safety and security, develop polished tourism marketing tools and appeal to all five senses. “Be open, learn from success stories, seek improvement and use data to drive it,” added Holbrook.

The ‘Port investment and development’ session provided three particularly noteworthy takeaways. While Andrea Ferla, manager of destination experiences at Silversea, suggested that “The port is the first impression that the guest has on arriving at a destination. Investment is necessary to welcome guests properly.” Hugues Lamy, director of port operations at Swan Hellenic, said that “We don’t need any investment from the port other than to maintain the quality of the destination itself.” Meanwhile, Ugo Savino, director of deployment and itinerary planning at Carnival Cruise Line, advised that “before investing millions in a new terminal or pier, [ports should] speak to cruise companies and get their expert advice.”

“I love finding that thing that makes you say ‘wow,’ and I dig deep to find that thing,” said Baird in his presentation, and it’s good advice in both our work and our play. The 63rd General Assembly in Burgas gave us many opportunities to make that exclamation! 

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

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