Industry executives at the MedCruise conference in Cartagena.At the 34th annual Med Cruise assembly in Cartagena, Spain many topics and issues were discussed among the association of Mediterranean ports and the cruise lines.

As cruise capacity in the Med increases, ports are racing to catch up and accommodate bigger ships and more passengers. Local governments are racing to add more berths, dredge and accommodate additional airlift.

Barcelona adds another major terminal at their airport, set to open shortly, increasing capacity by 16%, while the port is busy adding another transit berth and is planning another state-of-the-art turnaround facility for 2011.

Med Cruise officials talked extensively about creating a bench mark for their member ports in the future, creating a standard for the cruise lines to expect at ports in the med.

Other industry leaders pointed out that government regulations, even amount the EU members, hampered smooth operations in the med.

The lines were also adamant that the “first come first serve” policy of many ports in terms of berthing options had to stop

Costa and MSC voiced displeasure at the Med ports, where they have most of their capacity in the summer months. Both lines showed the assembly pictures of “wrong-doings”, dockings at cargo piers, improper mooring and gangway collapses. Other lines represented commented that this was not just a problem in the Med but a problem everywhere.

Privately, many industry insiders believe cold ironing to be simply a very expensive political move to keep local communities happy.

While the cruise season has expanded into some winter months in the Med, most cruise lines represented at the conference were content with keeping their ships in the Med seasonally. One executive commented, “the towns are closed in the winter.” Flying passengers into Europe is very costly and the yield in the Caribbean in the winter is much better.

NCL keeps the Jade in the med year round until 2011.

Edouard Petitson, Port Captain at NCL, commented, “Our sales and marketing people were happy to see the numbers after the winter. Obviously we had some aggressive pricing and passengers weren’t willing to spend as much on board but we averaged about 2,200-2,300 passengers per cruise over the winter which is very promising.”

For expanded coverage, please see the next issues of the Cruise Industry News Newsletter and Quarterly Magazine.