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La Spezia expands cruise berthing, access to area highlights

La Spezia expands cruise berthing, access to area highlights
The latest cruise sector entry among Italy's Ligurian ports, La Spezia is fueling rapid growth in infrastructure and services while also providing access to both the Gulf of Poets and Cinque Terre.

La Spezia began to operate with a dedicated pier and a passenger terminal in April 2013. To rapidly increase cruise facilities, the port authority signed an agreement with the Italian Navy to use a nearby naval base pier and develop the logistical connection with the new terminal. The first ship to use the new facility arrived the following month. Moreover, a commercial floating pier has been used to facilitate cruise calls.  

In 2013, La Spezia handled 214,000 passengers. This year, the port expects to around 493,000 passengers on 185 ship calls, a 130% increase compared to the previous year. The 2015 projection is 805,000 passengers and 215 calls, according to La Spezia Port Authority president Lorenzo Forcieri.

The port authority holds the majority in the ‘Discover La Spezia’ cruise terminal promotion and management consortium that includes local tourism and commerce entities and La Spezia Cruise Facility company.

The number of homeporting ships will rise. Today Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises have one ship each, while in 2015, MSC will field two.

Costa, Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, Disney, Ibero Cruceros, Pullmantur and Regent Seven Seas ships are currently calling. Next year the port will add vessels from TUI Cruises, Cunard Line, P&O Cruises and Oceania Cruises.

As one of the frontrunners in discovering La Spezia, Royal Caribbean will deploy Allure of the Seas for a full season. According to the line, passengers give high marks to La Spezia for its welcome and the diversified offerings of the area, Forcieri said.

Long-term, the port authority is working on a train to take cruise visitors to Cinque Terre National Park, passing though La Spezia central station.  

Recently La Spezia Port Authority and Cinque Terre National Park signed a protocol to cultivate joint activities in sustainable tourism and open new tourism information centers timed to the ships' schedules. Moreover, joint activities will be studies for the worldwide Expo2015 exhibition. La Spezia offers the Gulf of Poets jewels of Portovenere and Lerici, as well as the Lunigiana territory with other ancient sites and national parks, together with Pisa and Florence.  

Today La Spezia port can accommodate up to two ships simultaneously, depending on the availability of the naval base facility, but soon the capacity will reach three ships since a tender for a floating pier is being launched. In the meantime, the dedicated Garibaldi cruise pier’s facilities are being enhanced. Improvements are to be completed by year's end, while 2015 will see the lengthening of Garibaldi pier from 625 meters to 750 meters, allowing two ships to dock simultaneously. The next step involves another pier to accept a third ship. This work will take place in 2016 and 2017, Forcieri said.   

In the longer term, new facilities will be introduced. The new cruise pier and terminal projects under study by the La Spezia Port Authority will allow simultaneous berthing for three large vessels, permitting traffic of up to 900,000 passengers a year, as part of growing plan to host up four ships.