Receive free Cruises and sailing updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Cruises and sailing news every morning.
Harbours full of cruise ships are agitating for a sea change. This week, locals in the small Cornish port town of Fowey criticised its decision to host a ship big enough to increase the area’s population by half. Barcelona, Amsterdam, Juneau in Alaska and Venice have all floated the idea of limiting the number of ships able to dock. The popularity of cruise holidays suggests their efforts will be unsuccessful.
Some residents regard cruise ships as eyesores. They are not permitted in the waterway between Venice’s Giudecca Island and St Mark’s Square for this reason. They belch out naphtha fumes, leading to accusations that they contribute to air pollution. Passengers disembarking will buy coffees and souvenirs but do not contribute large sums to the local economy either. Evening meals, for instance, will be taken on board.
But reports of cruise ships’ environmental impact can be overstated. Venice’s high level of tourism cannot be attributed to cruises. The local population has fallen by two-thirds over the last 50 years, to some 50,000 people. More than twice that number visit the city every day during peak season. Cruise ships are responsible for bringing in just 8 per cent of the tourist load. Many more arrive via the mainland.
Moreover, cruise ships are making an effort to clean up their act. Around 60 per cent of the vessels scheduled to debut between 2023 and 2028 will be powered by cleaner liquefied natural gas. Most of those built today have the capacity to take electricity from onshore instead of running their engines in port. Port authorities are also rewiring their jetties to ensure they can supply sufficient power when it is needed.
Despite the backlash from some port cities, this is a market with plenty of room to grow. Abiding by tighter environmental standards costs money but cruise ship operator margins are supported by the trend towards ever larger vessels. The Spirit of Adventure that docked in Fowey, run by Saga Cruises, is the largest to stop there, with space for more than 1,000 people.
Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas is the biggest yet, with more than 9,000 people aboard. With some co-ordination, cities should be able to prevent overcrowding, given schedules are set more than a year in advance. The cruise trend will not be blown off course.