Cruise tourism is at a record high with 27.2m passengers expected this year, up from 17.8m in 2009. Seeing the world by cruise ship allows travellers to sample many incredible destinations in one trip, with cruise lines, ships and itineraries to suit every taste.
But both long-time tourist favourites and newly fashionable spots can struggle to cope with thousands of passengers arriving on their shores. From a US party city to a once sleepy Montenegro town, here are the ports that are and aren’t struggling to cope with their cruise ship popularity.
1. Kotor, Montenegro
This ancient walled town risks becoming the next Dubrovnik, the Telegraph reported this week. Ana Nives Radovic, the director of the town’s tourism organisation, said that up to 10,000 cruise passengers can debark ships each day. Kotor’s population is just over 13,500.
While only two cruise ships can be in port at one time, Ms Nives Radovic said that as one ship departs another may later pull into its space a few hours later – so there might be four in port across the day. The town hosts around 420 to 430 ships a year, she added.
Ms Nives Radovic says while the number of ships is managable it would be better if arrivals were spread more evenly throughout the year, with more coming into port over winter. “You have a season where people are working so much then shops and restaurants are closed [in the off season].”
There are negative impacts to the cruise industry’s presence, Nives Radovic notes, but she also notes the benefits. “[The] industry helps Kotor to promote itself to people who wouldn’t come any other way.” Many tourists who first visit the medieval town on a cruise ship return for a longer visit.
2. Galapagos, Ecuador
Thousands of wildlife species, many of which can’t be seen anywhere else on earth, are the draw for visitors to the Galapagos Islands. To regulate the influx the Galapagos National Park has strict regulations. Each day, a maximum of 1,600 on boats and 160 on day cruises are allowed into the park. Foreign tourists must also contribute towards the park’s upkeep, with an entrance fee or of $100 (£78) per person ($50 for under 12s).
This tax goes towards the upkeep of the park (40 per cent), with the rest either invested in conserving the local flora and fauna or in the local community.
During a Galapagos voyage, cruise ships must stop at least one inhabited island so that their passengers might contribute towards the local economy. Metropolitan Touring hosts local school children. By sponsoring such trips the cruise industry helps foster the next generation’s appreciation for the islands’ wonders.
3. Miami, US
In 2016, 4,898,000 cruise passengers pulled into the glitzy city of night clubs and art deco hotels, according to a recent report from Cruise Industry News. Many of the major cruise lines have headquarters here, and it is a popular departure port for many Caribbean voyages.
Miami is an example of a city well equipped for a huge number of visitors with one of the most modern cruise ports in the world. It has four terminals, each designed for specific vessels, including one to fit the world’s largest cruise ships. For context, the giant among these is Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, which holds 5,518 passengers.
Transport links from the cruise terminals, including shuttle buses, helps facilitate passengers’ smooth transition into the city or onto Fort Lauderdale airport.
4. Svalbard, Norway
Larger cruise ships have been banned from entering the remote archipelago since January 2015 since a heavy fuel oil ban came into effect. The lines that run voyages to Svalbard are now all smaller, expedition ships and most are members of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO). Members donate and contribute to the study and conservation of the regions in which they operate.
The region’s polar bears are a major attraction, and cruise lines that visit must adhere to strict regulations in order to protect the local wildlife. Of course, this can go awry. A polar bear was recently shot dead when it attacked one of a cruise ship’s polar bear guards. As Telegraph writer Monty Halls explained, for this to have happened there must have been a dramatic failure in protocol and it will be investigated and, if necessary, prosecuted with the full weight of Norwegian law.
5. Barcelona, Spain
The Catalonian city’s wealth of architectural gems, including Gaudí creations, puts it near the top of many a traveller’s hit list. Cruise passengers are no exception, and in the year 2016 to 2017 it was the most-visited cruise port in Europe hosting 2,712,247 passengers through its six cruise terminals.
Barcelona’s overcrowding problem is not limited to cruise ships. In January 2017 the city’s officials approved measures to curb tourism, which limited the construction of hotels and stopped licenses being issued to new tourist accommodation rentals.
6. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Named as a victim of overtourism by Telegraph Travel, Dubrovnik has taken steps to quell the crowds. The city’s mayor Mato Franković brought in a stagger cruise arrivals in June 2017 so that fewer tourists would arrive at one time. The Cruise Lines International Association facilitated the coordination of cruise line schedules.
Frankovic hailed his plan as a resounding success at the 17th annual Responsible Business Summit Europe, held earlier this year.
7. Venice, Italy
Another city that is otherwise overcrowded by tourists is taking measures to stem the flow of cruise ships, and their passengers. Last year an Italian governmental committee decided that the largest cruise ships of 100,000 tonnes or more would no longer be allowed to dock in the lagoon in front of St Mark’s Square. Instead they would need to head to a terminal in the industrial port of Marghera on the mainland.
But the ban would not take effect for three or four years, so the city is still feeling the strain. Smaller ships, those of 55,000 tonnes or less, will be allowed to continue along the current route.
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