Source: MedCruise (2020). Cruise Activities in MedCruise Ports: Statistics 2019. Teneriffe: MedCruise.
The Mediterranean is the world’s second-largest cruise shipping market, representing over 16% of the annual cruise capacity. It can be broken down into distinctive multi-port regions, the Western Med, the Eastern Med, and the Adriatic. The Western Med represents the main market, but congestion is encouraging the consideration of new itineraries in the Eastern Med and the Black Sea. The proximity of the Mediterranean to Europe provides the advantage of a large pool of customers with discretionary spending potential. It is a perennial cruise market with a summer peak season (several itineraries are not serviced in the winter).
The Mediterranean offers, at the same time, seaside resort destinations (e.g. Palma de Mallorca, Mykonos) as well as world-class cultural amenities as several cities are museums by themselves (e.g. Venice). The Eastern Med lacks airport capacity and connectivity with limited cruise terminals, except for the Greek Islands, which are predominantly serviced by Piraeus with smaller ships.
Typical seven-day itineraries are structured as small loops of four to five ports of call, each covering a specific sub-region, such as the Adriatic or the Spanish coast. Since the distances between ports of call are relatively short, this leaves additional time for shore excursions at each port of call, offering a wide array of cultural amenities. Fourteen-day itineraries are also being offered to cover large parts of the European side of the Mediterranean.
Many of the itineraries are focused on historical sites and exceptional scenery. Spain, Italy, and Greece are the most popular countries for cruise ports of call in Europe. Strong growth in Mediterranean cruises in recent years has made some ports crowded. This is particularly felt in top cruise tourist destinations such as Santorini in Greece, Venice in Italy, and Dubrovnik in Croatia. Hub ports such as Civitavecchia and Barcelona are challenged to cope with the strong growth.
Eight ports serve more than 1 million cruise passenger movements per year, with the biggest of all, Barcelona, serving more than 3 million passengers and two more (Civitavecchia (Rome) and Balearic islands) hosting over 2 million passengers. The cruise period is marked by substantial seasonality.