“It’s important for us to lure back cruising; to go back to the golden days!” says Theoharis
Nowhere is the cruise sector’s recovery more evident than in Greece. The number of scheduled cruises launching from Greek ports this year is “record-breaking” says Greece’s Minister for Tourism, Harry Theoharis.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), 20 cruise lines are scheduled to sail in Greek waters this summer. An estimated 40 ships will sail, calling at 45 ports. In addition, 15 of the cruise lines will homeport in Greece, further driving tourism revenue.
Norwegian Cruise Lines (pictured), Silversea and Celebrity Cruises are among the cruise lines sailing in Greece this summer, launching exciting new ships and services with heightened safety protocols in place that have seen sailings sell out.
“It’s a success story that’s a testament to our willingness to support industry,” says Harry Theoharis. “Last year, when ships were not welcome anywhere else, they were welcome in Greece. They could refuel, they could restock. They could service the needs of the crews. We helped them as much as we could, given the difficult circumstances.
“This year, we helped them as well, ensuring that they have what they need in order to be able to operate, and as a result, we have a record number of home-porting in Greece. So, this is not just about cruising in general; this is also the flourishing of the home-porting part of cruising, which is, of course, much more important for a destination, because it also assumes a couple of days’ hotel stay in Athens, Crete, Corfu and Rhodes, where cruising itineraries normally start .”
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Looking to the future, Theoharis predicts a shift in cruise trends, not only in the style of ships preferred but also in the destinations selected.
“We believe that in the next few years there’s going to be a big appetite for smaller, more high-end cruises to more diverse destinations,” says Theoharis. “A lot of the cruising crowd – the customers – are repeaters. They like [cruising] as a programme and they come again and again. They’ve been to Mykonos; they’ve been to Santorini – and now they need something different. And if there is one place in the world that can offer something different, it’s Greece’s archipelago. We have 227 inhabited islands, so you can imagine the kind of diversity that the Greek islands can offer to the cruising tourists.”