MSC OrchestraIt may be hard for some to believe that almost thirty-three years ago, on September 24th 1977, the ‘Love Boat’ TV series first debuted on our TV screens! Corny it may have been but it spurred growth in the Cruise Industry to the point that even in these times of crisis, CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association predict that 14.3 million people shall take a cruise during 2010.

Last year, Spain benefited from 52.2 million visitors, from which 11.6% or just over six million came by cruise ship. Barcelona is by far the most popular Spanish Port, ranked the busiest in Europe and the fifth busiest in the World, mainly thanks to her Geographic location, hotels and airport. Such has been the success of Barcelona, which 25 years ago logistically struggled when more than two ‘small’ cruise ships came to town, that she now can hold the largest ships in the world and boasts seven terminals.

Barcelona greeted over two million cruise ship guests in 2009, is looking to improve upon that number in 2010 and with it, boosting the City’s economy considerably. While cruise industry professionals were holding their annual show, SeaTrade in Miami Beach last month, Alicante was delighted to welcome their largest cruise ship to date, the MSC Fantasía, which at 333 metres in length, carrying around 4,000 passengers and over 1,000 crew, helped boost the economy of the tourist industry in a major way. With MSC now ranking as the forth biggest cruise line in the world, Alicante is doing what it can to ensure that her ships and passengers are well catered for, especially as MSC has committed to using Alicante as a home port for a number of cruises this Autumn.

Cartagena has also experienced major growth over the last few years and will have a visit from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, Royal Caribbean and others during 2010 while Alicante shall receive ships from Seabourn, Princess, Holland America, Oceania, Silversea, Celebrity, Cunard, Royal Caribbean along with MSC. Torrevieja has also started to take notice of the importance of the cruise industry and are keeping one eye on their new Harbour project while some investors have their eyes on the attraction of building a new harbour area that might birth both a Cruise Hotel and Cruise Ships.

In 2003, Alicante invested around two million euros in upgrading the harbour facilities and welcomed the ‘Jules Verne’ shortly afterwards, who had intended to make Alicante their base, However, they did not meet up to their expectations and pulled out of the area. The MSC Orchestra will now be home porting from the city this autumn with a series of 9 day cruises from Alicante, visiting Barcelona, Genoa, Malaga, Cadiz, Lisbon and Gibraltar and may be the start of greater things for the cruise and tourist sector on the Costa Blanca.

Along with revenue from Port and Birthing fees, local commerce can also benefit from sales of fresh food products, water, taxis and buses, hotel accommodation, restaurants, bars, cafes, shore excursions and shopping ashore. There are no established figures for revenue spent during a cruise ship visit but industry estimates that each visitor spends in the region of €70-€100, which is worth about a quarter of a million during the call of a medium sized cruise ship in any local port. Cruising is the fastest growing segment of the tourist industry and one that many are now looking to exploit to the full. Cue for Torrevieja to look at what’s on offer while Alicante, Cartagena and Valencia look towards Miami, Fort Lauderdale, St. Thomas and San Juan to see what they can do to entice more cruise lines to dock at their cities and spend, spend, spend.