Majorca Advances Plans to Further Limit Cruise Ship Entries

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Authorities in Majorca are moving forward with proposals to renew restrictions that prevent large cruise ships from docking in Palma, the capital of the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands.

According to the island’s local news channel, a proposal has been submitted by the Committee on Tourism, Trade, Employment, Culture and Sport to manage the impact of mass tourism on the island.

The plan, awaiting final approval from the Balearic Islands Port Authority (APB) and Palma City Council, calls for the renewal of a 2022 agreement reached between the city and the International Cruise Line Association (CLIA) that caps the daily arrival of cruise ships to three, with only one allowed to carry over 5,000 passengers.

Palma de Majorca
Palma de Majorca (Photo Credit: Peter Turansky)

That ban, established in May 2022, limited the number of visiting vessels in an attempt to preserve the island’s environment and maintain the quality of life for its residents.

Local business leaders and tourism advocates in Majorca have voiced concerns over the ban, citing the economic repercussions of limited cruise traffic. They argue that cruise tourists contribute significantly to the economy through their spending. A report from Majorca Daily Bulletin highlighted an 18% drop in cruise passengers following the 2022 ban.

Surging Cruise Traffic Despite Traffic Regulatory Measures

Despite the limitations enforced on Majorca, its ports welcomed 2,324,157 cruise passengers between January and October 2023, which was over 45% more than recorded in the same time frame in 2022. 

Majorca’s peak season is from May to October, although 2024 began with a call from MSC Cruises’ 2,550-passenger MSC Poesia, arriving on January 8.

This month alone, the port will receive 82 calls as it welcomes nearly every major cruise line, including Costa Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Oceania Cruises, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Cunard, Crystal Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Celebrity Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, P&O Cruises, and Silversea. 

Multiple ships docked in Palma de Majorca
Multiple ships docked in Palma de Majorca (Photo Credit: MEDIAIMAG)

Palma de Majorca is the third most popular port in Spain and the world’s third most polluted by cruise ships, according to a Transport & Environment report.

Spanish ports, in general, are seeing a surge in cruise passenger traffic, with 2023 numbers more than 12% greater than pre-pandemic numbers. The number of cruise ships passing through Spanish ports last year also increased nearly 6% over pre-pandemic figures.

The ports of the Balearic Islands, consisting of Majorca, Ibiza, Formentera, and Menorca, are second in popularity to Barcelona, which received over 3 million cruise passengers in 2023. 

In turn, the Catalonian capital imposed its own limits last October  in an effort to control tourism. The partial ban limits the number of simultaneous cruise ship arrivals to seven and prohibits cruise ships from docking at Barcelona Nord’s northern terminal, instead sending ships to the south side of the city to dock at Moll d’Adossat.

Despite these measures, the broader Spanish context complicates the enforcement of such bans. Recently, the Spanish government indicated that while it acknowledges the local impacts of cruise tourism, it lacks the legal authority to enforce outright bans on cruise ship entries.

The stance was revealed amid discussions in Madrid, where national policymakers debated the implications of imposing stricter regulations on the cruise industry.

Read Also: Cruise Ship Bans Face Scrutiny As Spain Rejects Restrictions

Spain is not the only country attempting to limit cruise ships and scores of passengers. Most notably, Venice, Italy, banned large cruise ships from its historic center in 2021 to preserve the Venice Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Similarly, Amsterdam banned cruise ships from entering its city center. Others have restricted cruise arrivals and passenger counts, such as the two per day cap in Bruges, Belgium, and Dubrovnik, Croatia’s 5,000 passengers per day constraint.

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