Cruises are riding the crest of a wave in Spain. The strategic location of the ports of Valencia and Alicante has led to spectacular growth in this sector in the Region of Valencia, where according to Port Authority figures.Higher standards of living and an interesting new formula that combines traditional tourist visits with luxury sailing are the decisive factors in the current cruise boom. The success of the two Valencian ports can be attributed to how well the port facilities have actually become to feel part of the city, offering visitors a further major tourist attraction. The Mediterranean climate is another factor which has helped turn Valencia and Alicante into top destinations for seabound holidays. Valencian and Alicant are actively developing cruise tourism and both ports are well integrated into cities with first-rate tourist attractions. Valencia is already the home port for two cruises and Alicante was a port of call for 59 last year. The port of Castellón is in the process of developing a tourist policy aimed at attracting cruise liners. Although other Europeans take more cruise holidays, Spaniards are now beginning to show more interest.
Valencia is totally committed to developing cruise tourism and its potential can be seen by the fact that two of the most important companies – Costa Cruceros and Iberojet – have chosen Valencia as their home port in the Mediterranean. The Costa Cruceros vessel, the Costa Classica, sets sail from the port of Valencia every Thursday and visits Marseilles, Savona, Naples, Messina, Tunisia, Palma de Mallorca and returns to Valencia seven days later. The Iberojet vessel, the Grand Voyager, casts off every Monday for Monaco, visiting Rome, Messina, Dubrovnik, Malta and Tunisia before returning to Valencia a week later.
The Costa Classica is one of the jewels in the company crown, with luxurious salons decorated by top European craftsmen using fine wood and Carrera marble. Everything about the vessel speaks of art – even the cabins designed to ensure the best possible holidays. The Grand Voyager is a real floating hotel, where good food, entertainment and leisure areas have been designed to ensure total enjoyment of the pleasure cruise.
Forecasts for this year predict that 200 cruises will stop at Valencia this year. This is 39 more than last year, when 68 vessels called at the port. Over 200,000 cruise passengers are expected, compared with almost 60,000 in 2003. June saw the arrival of most vessels, with Valencia welcoming 15 cruise vessels in this month alone. In Valencia, cruise passengers are given information about the many cultural and leisure activities the city has to offer as soon as they set foot on the dock.
Alicante is a Mediterranean city that looks seawards through its port and the famous Explanada promenade. The port of Alicante is a modern area where leisure, culture, business, water sports and tourism coexist in harmony. This is the attractive setting for Alicante’s tourist cruise activities. The Port Authority aims to make the city even more accessible from the port, as its president, Mario Flores, is determined to make the port an integral part of the city.
One major difference with other ports of call on the Mediterranean is that Alicante offers passengers the chance to visit tourist sites on foot without having to turn to any other form of transport. These sites include Santa Barbara Castle, with its pre-15th century walls and castle quarters dating back to the reign of Phillip II, all accessed by lifts that rise through the rock opposite Postiguet beach. Other sights that should not be missed include the Gothic church of Santa Maria – built in the 12th century on the site of an Arab mosque, and the Town Hall – an extraordinary example of Spanish Baroque civil architecture flanked by the 18th century twin towers over 33 metres high. The province also boasts several other architectural treasures that are close enough to the capital to be included in day trips. These include Guadalest Castle, the Route of the Castles, Terra Mitica theme park and the beaches of Benidorm.
According to Mario Flores, the Port of Alicante already has everything needed to satisfy the needs of cruise liner traffic, “such as the availability of a berthing line, its nearness to the city and other sites of tourist interest in the province”. In 2003, the port of Alicante welcomed 44,563 passengers in 59 visits from cruise liners. These figures show a significant interannual increase – over 71% and 44% respectively.
Flores points out that an enormous effort has been made to promote the importance of Alicante as a base for cruise liners by informing the cruise companies of its facilities. Major investment has also been made, providing the port with all the infrastructure required to guarantee that it can satisfy the needs of vessels already visiting the city as one of the ports of call on their itineraries and those thinking of setting up base here for one of their routes.
Castellón has already mapped out the steps it is to take to start welcoming cruise ships. Through the updating of the Muelle de Costa dock and the consolidating of many leisure activities such as golf, a response has also been provided to the tourist demand created by this project, which, according to Jesús Postigo of the Castellón Port Authority, “should be well under way before the end of the decade”. By providing the port of Castellón with greater draught – up to 16 metres at present – and other tourist facilities, it will be able to compete with other cruise ship ports with similar features.