In spite of all the repositionings caused by the Gulf War, there will still be 24 cruise ships in the Mediterranean this coming season, offering a total passenger capacity of 248,000, down 21 percent from last year.
Most of the Mediterranean capacity in 1991, however, will be geared towards the European market, with Epirotiki's six-ship fleet representing 54 percent of the market capacity.
Other cruise operators in the Mediterranean mainly targeting the European market include Chandris, Costa Cruise Lines and Sun Line.
Among the American-based cruise lines are Cunard Line, which has reduced its capacity from 22,000 passengers in 1990 to 16,000 in 1991; Club Med offering 8,000 berths and Royal Cruise Lines with 4,000 berths.
The question remains whether American based lines will be hesitant to return to the Mediterranean in 1992.
There are a number of events taking place in the Mediterranean in 1992 and 1993 which may serve as an impetus for American-based lines to return, however. In addition to the Olympic Games next summer in Barcelona, 1992 also starts the 500th anniversary celebrations of Christopher Columbus' voyage to America. In 1992, the Mediterranean Games will be held in Languedoc-Roussillon. The outcome of such plans unfortunately will in part be dictated by whether acts of terrorism once again erupt.
This year, it is expected that European bookings will be more buoyant than American. "The British have a shorter memory than the Americans and the media does not have as strong an influence here as in the United States; said Bob Duffett, Chief Executive of Passenger Shipping Association Retail Agent Scheme (PSARA).
With 300,000 berths available last year - including the introduction of vessels such as the Crown Princess and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's entry into Europe for the first time - 1990 saw close to a five percent increase in capacity available. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), there was a 36 percent increase in the number of Americans who cruised in the Mediterranean last year.
This season, the Western Mediterranean ports will see more cruise business than the Eastern Mediterranean as a number of vessels were repositioned away from Piraeus/Istanbul to Venice/Genoa/Nice/Barcelona. However, as Alf Pollak, Chairman of SeePassage Komitee Deutschland (SPKD) points out, "it must be considered wishful thinking to believe that such massive concentration of ships in a rather restricted region will produce the same success as the former spread and diversity."
Last year, the Port of Piraeus completed the first phase of renovations on a passenger terminal. The passenger waiting area has been tripled in size and other passenger conveniences have been added.
In an effort to become a homeport, the Port of Valletta on Malta, is also upgrading its facilities. Two new berths are planned for completion by mid 1992, so that four ships can be docked simultaneously; the berths will measure 754 and 361 feet. A 8,856-square-foot passenger terminal is also planned, featuring duty-free shopping. Malta's strong air connections and its strategic location between the Western and Eastern Mediterranean are some of its features being marketed to cruise lines.
One of the most costly and complex undertakings in the Mediterranean is the Port of Venice's reorganization of the port area and subsequent new passenger terminal and berths. This project is estimated to cost $500 million, with 25 percent of that amount going exclusively to the passenger terminal. The passenger terminal and additional berths will be built on the site of present commercial cargo berths in the historic center of Venice.
The present cargo traffic at the site will be re directed to the Port of Marghera on the mainland. At the new facility, 17 ships will be able to dock simultaneously, with approximately seven or eight berths adjoining the terminal.
Venice's recent cruise history indicates that this continues to be a popular, growing homeport. In 1990, passengers counts were up nine percent, with 435,000 passengers compared to 397,000 in 1989.
According to Duffett, the repositioning of vessels away from the Mediterranean this year will have a "detrimental affect on growth". New vessels originally planned to operate in the Mediterranean this year, such as the Crystal Harmony and Crown Princess, would have stimulated growth, Duffett contended. The question remains whether American-based lines will be hesitant to return to the Mediterranean in 1992.