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Albania seen as a 'fantastic opportunity' in the Mediterranean

(Photo: MSC Cruises)
MSC Poesia visits Sarandë as part of an eastern Mediterranean itinerary
Albania has great potential as a new Mediterranean destination, cruise executives said at Seatrade Europe in Hamburg. In light of the political instability in northern Africa and security concerns about Turkey, lines are looking for alternative destinations.

CEO Gianni Onorato said MSC Cruises is calling at Sarandë in southern Albania with very positive passenger feedback.

Kyriakos Anastassiadis, CEO of Celestyal Cruises and chairman of CLIA Europe, called Albania a 'fantastic opportunity.' He told Seatrade Cruise News the country provides a welcome alternative to established destinations, particularly as passengers seek new, interesting and unspoiled places to discover.

Anastassiadis also identified Albania as an emerging source of passengers, stressing the very low market penetration so far but adding that the country provides much opportunity for development. Celestyal Cruises already carries Albanians among its passengers, albeit in small numbers.

Neil Palomba, president of Costa Crociere, said his company is considering Albania as a potential destination, and TUI Cruises CEO Wybcke Meier confirmed her itinerary planning team is currently looking at the country.

Richard Vogel, President & CEO of Grupo Pullmantur, called Albania's potential 'exciting.' Pullmantur is looking into the country's ports, and Vogel suggested Albania might take a similar development as Montenegro, which used to be a very exotic destination only few years ago but has become well established and popular since. Vogel doesn't anticipate adding Albania to Pullmantur's itineraries very soon, but said calls from around 2020 may be feasible.

So far, cruise visits are sporadic, although in addition to MSC, lines like Azamara Club Cruises, Fred. Olsen, Holland America, P&O Cruises and SeaDream Yacht Club have charted Albania.

Sarandë, located about 14 kilometers east of northern Corfu, is the main center of cruise activities. The city of about 20,000, including a large Greek population, is located near the remains of the ancient city of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

MSC Cruises, which calls Sarandë on an eastern Mediterranean itinerary with MSC Poesia, offers eight excursions, including 'Villages of the Albanian Rivera,' Butrint and Gjirokastra, as well as a Ksamil beach tour.