My item yesterday about fears of cruise ships overcrowding the Mediterranean struck a few chords around the world.
First to get in touch was a spokesperson for cruise.co.uk reminding me that the more ships there are sailing in Europe, the more chances there are for British passengers to grab a bargain. Which is true – provided the experience is not diminished by having to fight your way through the crowds to get to the sights or the shops.
Another contact alerted me to the fact that there were five ships visiting Roseau, capital of the charming Caribbean island of Dominica the other day. Between them, Ocean Village, Carnival Victory, Caribbean Princess, Oceania’s Regatta, and Wind Surf delivered more than 7,500 passengers to the unspoilt island – and they won’t all have been able to take a ride on the Rain Forest Tram (left), as I did in 2008.
Surprisingly, the major concern voiced by locals writing to Dominica News Online was disappointment that the visitors were being careful with their money rather than splashing out on souvenirs and trinkets from the traders who set up stalls near the pier. Although one contributor sensibly asked “How many cheap Chinese-made trinkets can one buy up and down the islands?”
The island of St Kitts has had a busy week as well, with a total of 12 ships delivering more than 23,000 passengers. On Wednesday alone there were four ships in port at Basseterre.
The visitors have included Ocean Village and Thomson Destiny from the UK.
But back to the Med. David Selby, managing director of Thomson Cruises, had some good points to make, while adding some justifiable plugs for his own ships and adding a well-aimed dig at his competitors. This is what he had to say:
“When Carnival made the decision to disband Ocean Village, it was only a matter of time before another line came in to fill the spaces left in the Med. The announcement that Royal Caribbean is to deploy 11 ships into European waters in 2011 therefore comes as no surprise; the Med is the fly-cruising summer hotspot, especially for the British market, and I’m sure the countries due to benefit from the additional ships will welcome this new wave of visitors with open arms!
“Thomson Cruises has spent almost 15 years sailing fly-cruise itineraries around Europe, in particular the Western Mediterranean. We know how well it works for our own customers – for example, this summer we have three ships sailing itineraries out of Palma, served by regional flights on our in-house airline, Thomson Airways, from 20 UK airports.
“However, the fact that not just one but seven cruise lines are coming into the waters could be cause for concern with regards to how the ports themselves are going to cope with the volume of people descending on them. There is also the question of how the ships themselves can cope.
“While Thomson Cruises’ mid-sized ships mean that, although we can’t eliminate queues completely, we are able to limit them as much as possible, the bigger cruise liners carrying over 3,000 passengers could experience large queues of passengers waiting to disembark. While I’m sure our colleagues in the industry will be looking at ways around this, it could nevertheless be a cause of concern for future passengers.
“As a footnote, Thomson Cruises have anticipated the increase in traffic in the Med this summer. That’s why we’ve introduced new itineraries in areas of Europe where queues are likely to be minimal, and will be basing Thomson Celebration in Marmaris in Turkey and visiting smaller ports such as Kotor in Montenegro and Koper in Slovenia.”
Thanks David, I look forward to discussing the subject further in Barcelona next month, when the line’s latest ship, Thomson Dream, enters service.
- Have you cruised in the Mediterranean, or are you planning to in the near future? Have you had to battle through crowds when cruising in the Caribbean or elsewhere? I’d love to hear from you. Send me your views by clicking on the “comments” link below.