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Greece leading the revival of East Mediterranean cruising

More than half of the 60 cruise ships planned to be sailing in Europe in August will be deployed in Greek waters, according to Ioannis Plakiotakis, minister of maritime affairs and insular policy, whose speech marked the official opening of the Posidonia Sea Tourism Digital Forum.

’Forty cruise ships are expected to operate in Greek waters and 45 ports have their own contingency plans developed in a way to facilitate cruise ships without affecting the experience of passengers, crews or the local communities,’ he said.

Pierfrancesco Vago, CLIA Global chairman and executive chairman, MSC Cruises, lauded Greece for its efforts in his keynote address.

TUI choosing Greece

TUI Cruises restarted operations in May from Crete and plans to offer Greece cruises from Heraklion with two different itineraries. ‘If more travel restrictions are lifted, we will return to other itineraries. But for now, between May to October, Greece is the only destination we are offering,’ said Wybcke Meier, CEO, TUI Cruises.

Green certificate

MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato predicted more Europeans will turn to cruising the region this summer as they are cut off from intercontinental destinations due to airlift restrictions and travel protocols. He said: ‘The digital green certificate [EU-wide COVID travel pass] will allow more Europeans to focus on Europe, and Greece will be one of the main destinations for them.’

Costa Group extending Greek presence

Michael Thamm, group CEO, Costa Group and Carnival Asia, agreed: ‘Greece is a pillar for Germans, Italians and French due to its beauty and the natural desire to see the country, and cruising is the best way to do that. We want to extend our presence in Greece beyond the season even to December. Both our brands have resumed operations in Greece and there will be more ships coming to Greece.’

Celestyal concerns

But popularity may present some challenges, according to Chris Theofilides CEO, Celestyal Cruises, a company which uses Greece as its homeporting base and knows the market better than any other operator.

‘High concentration of ships at any particular point in time may be a challenge especially in Greek ports due to infrastructure issues. We need to avoid any high volume of guests at any given point. It’s not only the responsible thing to do but it is also the right thing to do, both from a guest experience point of view as well as for the local communities.’

Meier shares the concerns: ‘Overtourism may be over in a post-pandemic world, but we should make sure we don’t have too many ships at the same time in the same ports. Islands need to have a plan on the number of ships they can accept at the same time. And port operators need to have the infrastructure to accept bigger ships.’


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