Following a record-breaking year of cruise arrivals in 2023, the Port of Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, welcomed its first cruise ship of the new year on January 2, 2024. The Costa Cruises’ ship officially launched the port’s 2024 operations, which are expected to set new historical records in cruise arrivals.
Cruise Arrivals Topped 1.5 Million in 2023
Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa had the distinction of becoming the first cruise ship to call at the Port of Piraeus in 2024, when the 2,500-guest ship pulled into port during a 7-night sailing from Istanbul in Turkey to Trieste, Italy.
As the largest port in Greece and one of the largest in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Port of Piraeus typically receives hundreds of cruise ships per year, and 2023 was a record-breaker. Cruise arrivals topped 1.5 million versus 880,000 in 2022.
In 2023, 760 ship calls were recorded, with 525 of them by ships home-porting in Piraeus, a popular departure port for Eastern Mediterranean cruises to the Greek Isles and Istanbul, as well as Adriatic Sea voyages to Croatia and Venice, Italy. About 800,000 of the cruise arrivals in 2023 were sailing on homeported ships.
Looking ahead to 2024’s pre-booking schedule, the port will welcome hundreds more ship calls, about 1,042 in total, with roughly 800 of those calls made by home-ported ships.
A statement from port Chairman Yu Zenggang noted that “the dynamic path of the cruise industry is a vital component of port strategy since it constitutes a beneficial activity for many stakeholders.”
Some of the ships home-porting in Piraeus during winter 2024 are Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Infinity, Viking’s Viking Saturn, and Celestyal Cruises’ Celestyal Discovery. Costa Cruises is adding “Flight+Cruise” holiday packages aboard the 3,470-guest Costa Fortuna during the summer 2024 season, offering weeklong itineraries roundtrip from Piraeus to Istanbul, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes, Santorini, and other destinations.
Other ships scheduled to call in 2024 include AIDA Cruises’ AIDAblu, Silversea Cruises’ Silver Spirit, Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess, MSC Cruises’ MSC Sinfonia, Windstar Cruises’ Star Legend, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Viva, and Crystal’s Crystal Symphony.
The Port of Piraeus offers 11 cruise ship berths and can accommodate the industry’s mega-ships. Vessels up to 1,295 feet-long can dock, meaning that even the largest ship in the world, Royal Caribbean’s new-build Icon of the Seas, measuring 1,196-feet long, can dock. Icon of the Seas is entering service in late January 2024.
Port of Piraeus Plans For Shoreside Power
The port, a major player in the cruise industry’s Mediterranean region, has three passenger terminals and is roughly a half-hour drive from central Athens.
Port officials announced in December 2023 that they held a conference on ship electrification, a key step toward the transition to shoreside power infrastructure. The plan is part of the port’s efforts to adhere to the European Union’s “Fit for 55” plan, which calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.
The plan at the port is to install four shoreside power installations for cruise ships and several more for cargo shipping. Technical studies have been completed and construction of the facilities are under way.
Cruisers who embark their ship at the Port of Piraeus or who visit the port during a ship call can avail themselves of several nearby sightseeing options that highlight the landmarks of ancient Greece.
These include the Acropolis, where monuments date from 400 BC, such as the Parthenon and the Temple of Athena. Other popular sites are the Roman Forum and Syntagma Square, home of the Greek Parliament, and the Plaka, a commercial district with cafes, restaurants, and shops.