A new cruise terminal is in the offing for Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory situated at the southern tip of Spain. The new facility will replace an existing terminal in an effort to make the destination more competitive and attract more cruise ships.
Upgrades to Surrounding Areas Are Envisioned
Government officials outlined an overview of a planned new cruise terminal for Gibraltar, a destination located where the Alboran Sea meets the North Atlantic, roughly 700 miles southwest of Barcelona.
Although Gibraltar is not in the Mediterranean, it is close enough to be included on some Western Mediterranean cruises, and is sometimes a port call for transatlantic cruises, among others. Its current cruise terminal was built in 1997.
Envisioned at about 40,000 square feet, the new terminal will be two stories high, with space allotted for cruise passenger services, retail shops, and events and conferences.
While the government announced its plans on September 8, 2023, it noted that a final decision on construction will be made with the cruise industry and other stakeholders. The construction timeline, investment costs, and funding sources were not disclosed.
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“The present terminal is looking tired and this magnificent facility will be something Gibraltar will be proud of. It has been a long process and a lot of time and effort has gone into this project. Gibraltar has the potential to become the most important cruise destination in the Western Mediterranean,” said Vijay Daryanani, Gibraltar Minister for Tourism.
“The competition is immense and we have to improve and strive to be the best. This new facility will provide a luxurious passenger experience, in a world class environment, including improvements in the surrounding area,” added Daryanani.
The tourism minister plans to appoint a representative from within the Gibraltar Tourist Board to oversee the project on a full-time basis. The redevelopment of the terminal area is meant to show the destination’s commitment to the cruise industry and to boost local businesses.
The Existing Port Accommodates Two Mega-Ships
The Gibraltar cruise port attracts ships of various sizes, since its existing infrastructure accommodates up to four mid-sized ships or two mega-ships simultaneously on a quay with a total length of roughly 3,000 feet, or 940 meters.
A review of the port’s cruise ship calls shows that 116 ships will visit year-to-date through September, with another 30 more calls scheduled from October through December, for a total of about 146. However, government statistics put the total annual number higher, at 175.
This puts the port’s cruise volume on par with smaller cruise destinations such as Zeebrugge, (Bruges) Belgium, which typically welcomes about 150 ship calls. For comparison, Lisbon expects 325 cruise ship calls in 2023.
Among the ships slated to call at Gibraltar through September are smaller vessels such as Windstar Cruises’ Star Legend, Seabourn’s Seabourn Pursuit and Seabourn Sojourn, Azamara’s Azamara Journey, and Silversea Cruises’ newest ship, Silver Nova, which debuted just three weeks ago.
Larger ships scheduled to call this month include Norwegian Cruise Line’s 2,400-guest Norwegian Gem, Costa Cruises’ 3,800-guest Costa Fascinosa, and Princess Cruises’ 4,600-guest Sky Princess.
A Multi-Pronged Approach to Cruise Growth
The tourism minister’s plans to rebuild Gibraltar’s cruise terminal appears to be one aspect of the destination’s strategy to boost its cruise ship visits.
Last fall, Minister Daryanani welcomed several key industry players to Gibraltar on a familiarization trip, including executives from Saga Cruises, Fred Olson, Mystic Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, and Azamara.
The group met with the minister and toured the destination, including the popular tourist site Rock of Gibraltar, a 1,400-foot limestone ridge often associated with strength and strategic military importance.
Along with the famous rock, shore excursions to the destination’s attractions typically feature Saint Michael’s Cave, the Great Siege Tunnels, and an 8th-century Moorish Castle. The government’s estimate for the total number of cruise guest arrivals in 2023 is about 213,000.