Discussions Begin on Daily Cruise Cap and Future at Greek Destination

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On July 4, officials from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and leaders from Santorini, Greece, agreed to enforce sustainable practices in cruise tourism to preserve the island’s distinctive character and improve the visitor experience.

The high-level meeting, which included CLIA’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Maria Deligianni, and Santorini’s Mayor, Nikolaos Zorzos, among other local officials, is in response to surging tourism numbers.

Santorini alone experienced a 17% rise in cruise tourism in 2023 compared to the previous year, amounting to 800 cruise ships calls.

CLIA Meeting Over Greece Cruise Limits
CLIA Meeting Over Greece Cruise Limits

Recognizing the strain on local infrastructure and the daily life of island residents, the Greek government wants to better manage the flow of tourists and proposed regulatory changes that include limiting the number of berths available to cruise ships and potentially implementing a bidding process for docking rights.

CLIA and Mayor Zorzos agreed to maintain the island’s daily cap on cruise visitors at 8,000, a policy first established in 2018, currently operating at 75% cruise line capacity.

Said Mayor Zorzos“We are pleased that the Municipality of Thira discussed and agreed with CLIA the solutions for the sustainable operation of cruising in Santorini, aiming to protect the uniqueness of the destination, as well as the passenger experience.”

Added Deligianni, “Santorini a beautiful location that is extremely popular, and we share the view on the importance of responsible tourism management for the island.” 

The recent discussions are part of a broader initiative detailed in CLIA’s Action Plan for Greece, which prioritizes local community benefits while aiming to meet the high expectations of tourists.

Further measures discussed include the implementation of a berth management system, ensuring a transparent and fair berthing policy with clear rules and criteria. This system is designed to distribute cruise ship arrivals more evenly throughout the day and week, thereby preventing congestion and enhancing the visitor experience.

Read Also: Venice Implements Tourist Fee, How It Will Impact Cruise Visitors

Additionally, the meeting touched on the development of port infrastructure and new berthing locations to facilitate better itinerary planning and open up new destinations within Greece. 

Local leaders and CLIA also discussed potential enhancements to the island’s interfaces, which could lead to improved operational efficiencies for cruise lines and a smoother experience for visitors.

Other European destinations have already implemented similar measures. For example, Venice, Italy, has introduced a tourist fee to manage the influx on busy days, while Majorca, Spain, is moving forward with proposals to limit the size and number of cruise ships docking in Palma. 

Barcelona, Spain, has also taken steps to reduce cruise ship traffic near the city center to mitigate pollution and overcrowding.

Record Cruise Traffic in Greece

In 2023, Greece saw a significant uptick in cruise tourism with the arrival of 5,230 cruise ships. These ships brought more than 7 million passengers to the Greek Isles, with the cruise season swelling between May and October.

Santorini alone has witnessed up to 10,000 passengers a day descending upon the island of 15,480 residents. It welcomes an average of three to four cruise ships each day. For Greece, the year over year ship arrivals growth was nearly 10% while the passenger jump was more than 50%.

Within the first week of July alone, the Aegean nation welcomed most major cruise lines, including AIDA Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Virgin Voyages, Silversea, and MSC Cruises.

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