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Cyprus cruise industry ready to set sail again

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By Nawaf Abdulla

More than a 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 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 participate in local excursions, including rural villages and heritage sites, thereby rejuvenating the local economy and tourism sector.

Cruise homeporting

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 is an incredibly important feat for our island. It is 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 estimated 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 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 homeport for cruise ships by offering a world-class experience.

Besides, as the Minister of Transport, Yiannis Karousos, pointed out at the official presentation of the health protocol, which was held at Limassol Port, “every crisis creates opportunities, and this is the chance for us to develop the cruise sector further 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”.

Time to re-establish Limassol

The recent announcements signify that Cyprus is back on the cruise map while demonstrating how the health protocols implemented in our country are perceived on a global level.

Cyprus’ effective crew change system, which the international shipping community has praised, high quality of service and state-of-the-art infrastructure, has 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, to establish 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 for the dynamic restart of the cruise sector.

As the operator of 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.

Virus-free “bubbles” on board

It should be noted that cruise lines have been implementing strict policies as to who can come on board and 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. Others are also accepting a negative PCR test to create a COVID-free “bubble” on board.

These precautions protect passengers and boost the cruising public’s confidence and 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.

According to the summer schedule, Limassol port will be welcoming many 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% 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.

We are confident that we will establish Limassol port as a top cruise hub in the Eastern Mediterranean with targeted and collective efforts.

Nawaf Abdulla is CEO, DP World Limassol