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East Med resurging, North Africa could be next, lines tell MedCruise assembly

Article-East Med resurging, North Africa could be next, lines tell MedCruise assembly

MedCruise 55th GA
A full house for the MedCruise 55th general assembly in Antibes
The Mediterranean is very important to MSC Cruises with 11 of its 16 ships deployed in region this summer and the company is feeling very optimistic about it, according to Bud Darr, EVP maritime policy and government affairs for the line.

It is an attractive source market for MSC, he said. ‘There are some challenges, although geopolitical instability seems to be easing up and the East Med holds great promise and we want to go back to these destinations,’ Darr added.

Edie Rodriguez, Americas brand chair and corporate special advisor, Ponant, said her company is ‘committed to the Med’.

Ponant is returning to Turkey and the Black Sea and is expecting to call at least one time in all 72 Medcruise member ports. The line will have nine ships in the fleet by November 2021 and then a further three coming.

Le Ponant to become charter-only yacht

Rodriguez also revealed that the brand’s Le Ponant three-masted sailing vessel will be refitted in May 2020 and transformed into a charter-only yacht with 16 suites. It will launch at the Cannes Film Festival.

Michel Nestour, VP global port and destination development EuroMed, Carnival Corp. & plc, said ‘a great majority’ of the company's 104 ships sail in the Mediterranean, including the first LNG-powered cruise ship vessel, AIDAnova.

Richard Vogel, president and CEO, Pullmantur Cruises, quipped, ‘We have a consistent investment in the Med by always being in the Med.’

Overtourism 'homemade'

Moderator Virginia López, CEO, Cruises News Media Group noted the cruise industry has been under scrutiny recently due to overtourism, but cruising represents only 2% of tourism. So why is it in the spotlight?

Darr referenced the recent memorandum of understanding that Cruise Lines International Association signed with Dubrovnik and the new berthing policy ‘which helps disperse guests better', but he reminded, 'there is not a one size fits all policy solution for all ports.'

Vogel said overtourism issues are ‘homemade’ — ports are accepting more and more ships, adding: 'Dialogue with the destination is needed and consultation with local people is key.’

Rodriguez said ‘Press don’t help, one incident does not a bad industry maketh.’

She urged the industry to expand the seasons, look at year-round cruising and get the local citizens on board by involving them with activities in port.

Opportunities in East Med and North Africa

Opportunities in the cruise industry were the focus of a later session moderated by Figen Ayen, director for professional development, MedCruise.

Neil Duncan, head of trading & planning, Marella Cruises, stated that whilst the Greek islands and Adriatic itineraries are the most popular in the Mediterranean, ‘East Med, Turkey and Africa all provide opportunities.' He urged the ports and destinations to 'continue to educate cruise lines about their culture and heritage and demonstrate their strong proposition.’

In previous years Marella homeported in Marmaris, Turkey, and Duncan thinks confidence is coming back. ‘Istanbul is on 2020 itineraries – interest is definitely there from passengers,’ he noted.

Vassilios Gazikas, marine operations director, Celestyal Cruises, sees potential in North Africa ‘if the area stabilises further’, whilst Federico Bartoli, itinerary planning director, Costa Cruises, and Silja Eisbein, itinerary manager, TUI Cruises, both felt confidence in slowly returning to visit Tunisia, Israel, Egypt and Algeria.

Enviromental issues

One of the plenary sessions focused on environmental issues heard from director of the Port of Cannes, Eric Barrat, who presented the charter drawn up by Cannes City Hall and the Nice Côte d’Azur CCI to reduce the environmental impact of visiting cruise ships.

'MedCruise Association fully supports any environmental initiative and green action promoted by any of the ports in the region and encourages all its members to work together for a greener industry and a sustainable growth,' said Airam Diaz Pastor, president, MedCruise.