Riding the Wave: How Global Cruise Trends are Shaping the Future of Cyprus

cruises from cyprus


It’s been an eventful few weeks for the Cyprus cruise industry, which continues to make big waves (wink wink). At the end of October, Greece-based cruise line Celestyal Cruises, formerly known as Louis Cruise Lines, flaunted the latest addition to its fleet—The Celestyal Journey—at Limassol port. A week later, the Deputy Ministry of Tourism invited key stakeholders in the travel industry to its conference titled Navigate through the Cruise Industry, also in Limassol, where key players gave an update on the latest cruise trends and what role Cyprus could play as it endeavours to capture more of this target market.

In this blog post, we talk in depth about the economics of cruising, the latest global trends, what opportunities this could present for the Cypriot market and its stakeholders, as well as the challenges that lie ahead.

Cyprus cruise conference
Navigate throug the Cruise Industry Conference

Global Cruising Trends

Kicking off the conference was Lazaros Charalambous, the Commercial and Business Development Manager for DP World, Limassol. Mr Charalambous began with an eye-opening overview: cruises, which currently account for 1.8% of worldwide tourism, generated some $18 billion in revenue globally in 2022, and this number is expected to reach some $25.1 billion by end of 2023 and some $30 billion by 2024. No wonder then that the first slide presented by Andy Harmer, Managing Director at CLIA, said that there has never been a better time to sell a cruise.

From a workforce perspective, the industry currently supports 1 million jobs worldwide—hardly surprising when you consider the fact that the Celestyal Journey alone has an expanding team of 150 shoreside employees as well as 1,200 onboard crew.

It’s also not surprising therefore that the new Limassol terminal, which has a footprint of more than 7,000 square metres, has seen an exponential growth in passenger flow over recent years. In 2017, the terminal saw some 74,000 passengers pass through its gates, but it is now estimated that approximately 300,000 passengers will have passed through in 2023 alone—a growth of more than 300%—despite the fact that the global industry has only grown 6% since pre-Covid.

What makes this number all the more mind boggling is that in terms of port departures, there are only two cruises from Limassol—the Celestyal Journey and the MSC Musica—despite the fact that there are more than 13 ships across the world that currently include Limassol as part of their itinerary. It wasn’t therefore lost on anyone at the conference that this currently presents a missed opportunity, as Limassol port has the capacity to accommodate the world’s biggest cruise liners (albeit not all at the same time!), despite the fact only a few currently use it. As a result, those Cypriots who want greater choice when it comes to cruising may have to look abroad, which is an added cost and hassle. As for Limassol port, however, great strides have been made by streamlining the embarking process to an average passenger processing time—that includes check-in and security checks—of just 9 minutes. It’s also improved its duty free area, has added e-charger facilities and also provisions for internal shuttle buses for passengers with reduced mobility.

limassol cruise terminal
Limassol Cruise Terminal

Cruises from Limassol and Beyond: The challenges ahead

In the context of the latest events taking place in Israel/Gaza, there are no prizes for guessing that the greatest challenge that lies ahead for the industry is geopolitical, with some travellers already postponing/cancelling their cruises in the eastern Mediterranean.

Beyond the geopolitical, there also remain other challenges, such as potential overcrowding. Despite the fact the port is deep enough to accommodate some of the world’s biggest cruise liners, steps still need to be made until it is able to handle multiple cruise liners at the same time. Having said this, at the height of summer season, the terminal had a day where it handled close to 9,000 passengers in 24 hours.

Furthermore, connectivity improvements still need to be made if Cyprus is to become a major port of departure/embarkation, while steps towards sustainability—such as introducing electric buses for passengers—can improve the overall image of the island. This last point is quite pertinent and was very much pressed by the speakers on the audience, as it is estimated that some 60% of cruise passengers will revisit one of their ports of destination in future as part of a land-based trip. It’s therefore up to the various stakeholders in Cyprus—the government authorities, port authorities, travel agents and cruise ships—to coordinate and work together to help Cyprus stand out from the competition and continue to meet industry standards, otherwise Cyprus could drop off the face of the cruise industry all together. Such a scenario would be incredibly ironic considering that two new ports in Larnaca and Ayia Napa are currently under construction. For example, by 2029, the cruise industry anticipates that 75% of all cruise ships will be ready to accept electrical power when docking at the port—if, of course, the port is able to supply such power.

And as if cruise liner expectations were not already high enough, Captain Paris Demetriou, The Larnaca Port General Manager, was quick to stress that passengers today have high expectations when it comes to their experience. This is why the future Larnaca port, which will undergo its first phase of construction in April 2024, will strive to become a global leader when it comes to the passenger arrival experience. From new hotels to state-of-the-art port facilities, the new Larnaca port is expected to have it all.

Local Trends and becoming a port of departure

The end of the conference culminated in a Q&A session, where one of the audience members asked the panel what they saw as the major challenges with regards to Cyprus becoming a major port of departure so as to enable Cypriots to have more choice when it came to cruising and would not have to fly abroad. It was suggested that there were two obstacles: that Cyprus currently lacks a cruising culture, and that therefore there is not enough demand. However, Zacharias Ioannides, a veteran of the travel industry, retorted in defence of the audience member that local demand isn’t needed to make Cyprus a major port of departure. Instead, international demand could simply be re-directed to Cyprus, and he suggested that there should be greater collaboration between all stakeholders to facilitate cheaper airline fares for internationals who wish to cruise from Cyprus. Following the Q&A session, several travel agents privately admitted that they disagreed with the panel’s take: we do have a cruising culture in Cyprus and there is demand, but the current consumer experience does not facilitate converting the demand for cruises from Limassol into sales as well as it possibly could.

Q&A cruise session
Cruise panel


It was quite clear to anyone at the conference that the island is navigating through uncharted waters with a vigour that could make even the most seasoned sailor proud. With new cruises from Limassol in 2024 on the horizon, terminals growing faster than a teenager’s appetite, and a potential sea of passengers ready to jump aboard, Cyprus is poised to become a major player in the global cruise scene.

But let’s not forget: this journey isn’t all smooth sailing. The geopolitical tides are choppy, and the need for a cruising culture more vibrant than a parrot on a pirate’s shoulder is evident. Yet, with a sprinkle of humour, a dash of collaboration, and a whole lot of Cypriot charm, there’s no doubt that Cyprus has the potential to steer its way to cruise industry stardom.

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