DP World Limassol ready to welcome cruise lines back, as Cyprus makes a dynamic return to become Eastern Mediterranean’s top cruise hub
By Nawaf Abdulla
More than one year since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out causing significant challenges for the travel industry, the tourism outlook is finally looking brighter. Τhe recent string of announcements by major international cruise lines regarding their plans to set sail for Cyprus this summer has boosted the confidence of tourism stakeholders ahead of the summer holiday season.
Royal Caribbean, Celestyal, Seabourn, Azamara and Celebrity are all making a dynamic return to Cyprus between April to early July 2021, with cruises going strong until October 2021 and with July poised to be the busiest month. As anticipated, they will all be sailing to Limassol where DP World Limassol’s state-of-the-art Passenger Terminal will be ready to welcome and accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world. Cruise passengers will have the opportunity to take part in local excursions, including to rural villages and heritage sites, thereby rejuvenating the local economy and tourism sector.
Homeporting can boost the tourism sector
While all announcements are equally important, there is one that stands out. Royal Caribbean’s decision to make Limassol its homeport for the first time ever is an incredibly important feat for our island and a great indicator that Cyprus is considered a top cruising destination for 2021. Royal Caribbean will be carrying cruise itineraries to the Greek isles this summer – calling at Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes and Piraeus – with Jewel of the Seas, a remarkable vessel able to carry more than two thousand passengers.
It is expected that Royal Caribbean’s decision to station the Jewel of the Seas in Limassol, will bring multiple economic benefits. This is partly because foreign travellers who want to go on the specific cruise will first have to fly into Cyprus and stay here for a few days bringing in additional revenue for the country. This synergy demonstrates the added value of homeporting for the Limassol port, as it can be incredibly beneficial for the local economy, creating the potential for pre- and post-cruise extension visits.
Ever since taking over as operator of the cruise terminal, DP World Limassol had recognised Cyprus’ potential and the multiple benefits that a thriving cruise industry would bring to the local society. To this end the company focused its efforts on transforming the Limassol port into a port of choice for cruise lines and visitors, striving to turn it into a fully serviced home port for cruise ships by offering a world-class experience. Besides, as Minister of Transport Yiannis Karousos pointed out at the official presentation of the health protocol, which was held at the Limassol Port, “every crisis creates opportunities and this is the chance for us to further develop the cruise sector and prove to these companies that we do have a tourism product and we can offer the services needed to attract as many cruises and passengers as possible, thereby boosting our economy”.
Re-establishing Limassol as a cruise hub
The recent announcements signify that Cyprus is back on the cruise map and demonstrate how the health protocols implemented in our country are perceived on a global level. Cyprus’ effective crew change system, which has been praised by the international shipping community, as well as a high quality of service and state-of-the-art infrastructure have all contributed to this success.
Moreover, Cyprus’ stakeholders, including DP World Limassol, are hard at work to promote the safe conduct of cruise tourism and successfully seize the opportunity of the widespread reshuffling happening in the cruising industry because of the pandemic, with a view to establishing the Limassol port as a major cruise hub in the Eastern Mediterranean.
To this end, the Ministries of Transport and Health and the Deputy Ministries of Tourism and Shipping are preparing to publish the relevant cruise health protocol, which was drafted in cooperation with the country’s tourism stakeholders, in time for the dynamic restart of the cruise sector. As operator of the Limassol port, DP World Limassol is an integral partner of the state in this effort and is prepared to safely welcome cruise passengers in adherence to the relevant protocols and guidelines.
It should be noted that cruise lines have been implementing strict policies as to who can come on board as well as more relaxed cancellation and postponement policies, resulting in cruise lovers being more eager than ever to embark on a cruise this summer. Moreover, since vaccinations in Europe are on the rise, quite a few cruise lines are now only accepting vaccinated adults on board, while others are also accepting a negative PCR test with the aim of creating a Covid-free ‘bubble’ on board. These precautions protect passengers and boost the confidence of the cruising public, but also governments, who may be worried that disembarking cruise passengers could exacerbate the epidemiological situation in their countries.
As such, cruise tourism could play a crucial role in the recovery of the tourism sector and the gradual restart of the economy, following the pandemic. As per the summer schedule the Limassol port will be welcoming a large number of passengers this year, while more announcements from cruise operators are coming soon, according to the Deputy Minister of Tourism.
Over the past few years DP World Limassol’s efforts had been instrumental in promoting the cruise sector, leading to a 40 per cent increase in cruise arrivals in 2019 compared to 2018. Cyprus was enjoying an impressive cruise revival before the pandemic changed all expectations for the 2020 tourist season. We are especially proud to be operating such an important port for the country, and we are confident that with targeted and collective efforts, we will be able to establish the Limassol port as a top cruise hub in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Nawaf Abdulla is the CEO of DP World Limassol