The ups and downs of the geopolitical landscape – Cruise Europe

Cruise Europe (Logo)Russian’s invasion of Ukraine saw a huge decrease in calls to ports in the eastern and northern Baltic. Host city Stockholm, for example, has seen calls drop from about 275 pre-pandemic to 125 this year.

Some two years on, hard work and collaboration are seeing some signs of recovery. And it may well be that its reputation as a ‘safe’ destination is returning as geopolitical events take hold in Israel and Gaza.

Sandra Weir, director government relations and public affairs at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, commented: “Cruise is very resilient, even through recessions, geopolitical and Covid, we just keep growing.” The company is looking at an 18% increase in passengers and 12% rise in calls across its three brands in the Baltic next year compared to this. The Atlantic is up also: “We are adding in ports rather than have a sea day. We have more turns in Lisbon,” she added.

When it comes to itinerary planning, it may have surprised many in the audience to hear that panellists are planning anywhere from two to 10 years ahead. A standout comment was from Weir who told members that she feels itinerary planning will “change drastically as we roll out meeting ESG goals”. This will mean departments in corporations having to work more closely together, for example on what fuels are needed, where to get them, onshore power supply availability etc, which will all be taken into account when selecting ports.

The subject of future fuels, and particularly methane, arose with TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 7 being one of the first to be methane-ready, but with other new buildings being ‘prepared’. In terms of supply, Cruise Gate Hamburg is one port that has done the first assessment into providing methane.

Onshore power supply (OPS) continues to be a hot topic, whether it is the ports or the cruiselines which are installing/upgrading. Crystal Morgan, senior director deployment & itinerary planning Seabourn, advised that Seabourn Symphony is being upgraded with OPS connections next year. The company is also looking at methanol for any new buildings and trying different technologies to reduce fuel consumption.

When it comes to lobbying governments on subjects such as taxation and regulation, Nikos Mertzanidis, vp ports & destinations & taxation at CLIA, explained how the association can be a conduit for even the smaller ports/brands, explaining: “The higher you go in government, the less they want to see individual companies, they just want one voice from the industry”.

With more ports choosing to limit the numbers of calls/passengers calling, Spiros Almpertis, vp port operations, itinerary planning & fuel management at Crystal Cruises, said: “We definitely need new destinations. So many ships [calling], slowly will destroy destinations, if there are too many [at one time].”

(The ups and downs of the geopolitical landscape – Cruise Europe)