There is absolutely no doubt that more travelers than ever before are opting for Europe cruise itineraries. In fact, in Northern Europe and the Baltics alone, cruise passenger figures have increased by a whopping 16% just in the last year, making Europe one of the top cruising destinations in the world.
There are over 1000 ports of call in more than 30 countries on the continent that are capable of catering to Europe cruise liners, but, with such increased demand, ports and cruise operators are starting to feel the strain. Indeed, on many cruises through the Norwegian Fjords, some cruise operators are now not guaranteeing to be able to dock due to heavy traffic and limited space, and are informing travelers that a tender may be required.
In order to cope with the expected rise in visitors and in cruise liners, a number of new European ports have been announced, Europe cruise liners are utilizing many less popular ports already in existence, and some established ports are being given multi million Euro makeovers to allow them to handle increased volume.
In 2012, the English port of Liverpool was given turnaround status by the Department of Transport, meaning that Europe cruise itineraries would be able to set sail and return to the popular destination which was previously only permitted to accept visiting cruise liners.
The previous year, the port of Coruña in Spain launched a new cruise terminal at its existing port due to heavy demand at the sunny beach resort. On its first day in service, two Europe cruise ships docked here, bringing more than 6000 additional visitors to the city.
Cruise operators are choosing to make use of many under-utilized ports in Europe; those that have the capacity to handle large ships and a large amount of foot traffic but are sometimes overlooked in favor of more well known destinations. The advantage of these lesser known ports is that there is little competition for space and they are within easy reach of many popular cities.
Many Europe cruise itineraries now include stops at Alanya, Turkey, rather than Bodrum just 600 km along the coastline, at Alcúdia, Spain, instead of Palma de Mallorca, less than 60 km away, and at Galway, Ireland, rather than 200 km away in Cork.
Looking ahead, Europe cruise passenger figures are expected to rise by a further 29% within the next 12 months; that’s about 1.5 million passengers. There are plans in place to expand options and make better use of existing ports to cope with this rapid increase in demand.
Greece’s largest cruise port, for example, is due to undergo a massive 220 million Euro expansion in 2013, allowing Piraeus to receive more ships, more visitors and bring much more tourism to the region at the time when the country’s economy is greatly suffering. The port, located just seven miles from Athens, is one of the busiest and most sought after in the Mediterranean.
If you’re thinking about cruising throughout Europe, perhaps consider an itinerary that takes you off the beaten track a little bit, or to exciting new and state of the art passenger terminals. Absolutely every port has something to offer travelers, and you’ll have an opportunity to see sights that you wouldn’t otherwise. How about the Cavern Club in Liverpool, the Damlataş Cave in Alanya or the preserved 14th Century Alcúdia town center? Lively culture, natural phenomenon and rich history; what more could you ask for?