CRUISE SHIPPING. The Port of Klaipėda as Part of Cruise Liner Routes

 

Austėja Radvilaitė

The first choice of cruise liner companies planning their routes usually lies with capital cities. However, the recently finished cruise season in Klaipėda was particularly successful – the port has recorded a record-breaking number of cruise tourists and the next year is promising a real breakthrough in the segment.

The first choice of cruise liner companies planning their routes usually lies with capital cities. However, the recently finished cruise season in Klaipėda was particularly successful – the port has recorded a record-breaking number of cruise tourists and the next year is promising a real breakthrough in the segment.

This year the port of Klaipėda was visited by 63 ships with 74 716 tourists.

The number of tourists exceeded the numbers last year by 14 per cent.

“The cruise season gets better every year. Last year we were visited by 53, this year – 63 ships and the flow of cruise tourists is increasing every year. According to the data in October, the number of ships already registered for a visit next year is 64, but the registration will be open for almost half a year. This makes us very happy and also shows that the effort in developing the infrastructure, made by tourism business, the city and the Seaport Authority, brings great results.” said Arvydas Vaitkus, Director General of Klaipėda State Seaport Authority.

Next year the city will be visited by ships of two well-known companies – Cunard Line and Azamara Cruises – for the first time. The Lithuanian port will also be visited by five new ships.

In September 2018 Klaipėda will host an important sea tourism event – a conference of the Cruise Europe association.

“We are greatly honoured to be able to host this huge international event in Klaipėda. It’s an excellent opportunity for the city and the entire region to show, what makes us interesting and unique.” said Arvydas Vaitkus.

Plans for a new berth

According to cruise business, the port of Klaipėda is in the honourable second list of the Baltic Sea Region. The first one – the so called X Large – consists of Copenhagen (Denmark), Saint Petersburg (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia), Helsinki (Finland) and Stockholm (Sweden). The second – Large – list features Rostock (Germany), Kiel (Germany), Oslo (Norway), Kristiansand (Norway), Riga (Latvia) and Klaipėda (Lithuania). There are Medium and Small lists of the Baltic ports as well.

Each cruise tourist increases the revenue of cruise business and they all differ at every port.

According to A. Vaitkus, although the revenue of cruise shipping, received by Klaipėda State Seaport Authority makes an insignificant share – a mere 1.7 % – of the total port revenue, the Seaport Authority aims to keep developing this segment.

“The direct benefit for the Seaport Authority is not great, but, being a socially-responsible company, we support this activity nevertheless. It’s important to create an opportunity for business, especially the small business in our city, to work and earn their living.” said A. Vaitkus.

The port of Klaipėda is also planning a new cruise berth. With increasing volumes of cruise tourism, the berths during the Sea Festivals and other celebrations are becoming rather tight. Last year the ships were allowed to moor at Klaipėda Central Terminal, but it is currently taken up by sea ferries.

“While preparing the port’s general plan, we’re planning the development of cruise shipping as well. The new berth may be located in Memel City area on the right side of Danė river. The approximately 400 m-long berth could accept the largest cruise ships.” explained A. Vaitkus.

Visible potential

The Baltic Cruise Line Inspection Tour, which took place last June, highlighted Klaipėda and Western Lithuania as a region with great tourist potential. A survey, conducted by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, one of the largest cruise companies in the world, shows rather favourable ratings for Klaipėda, featuring 8 points out of 10.

“If they didn’t sell tours, ships wouldn’t go there. About 80–90 % of tourists from smaller ships and about 50 % from the large ones visiting Klaipėda purchase tours. Smaller ships usually bring senior people, large ones – families and youth.” noticed Romena Savickienė, Head of Klaipėda Tourism and Culture Information Centre.

Klaipėda introduces the old town with craft yards, the Lithuanian Sea Museum and Dolphinarium, as well as other museums and places to visit. One of the highlights of the region is the Curonian Spit – a unique corner of nature and authentic culture with white sand dunes that are highest in Europe. Palanga is introduced as a resort with the Amber Museum, the Manor Park and the bridge into the sea. Tourists are also intrigued by the Soviet nuclear missile base near Plateliai, which used to target the largest European cities. Excursions from cruise liners sometimes reach as far as the Hill of Crosses or Ventė Cape. 

Next year Klaipėda will introduce the renewed and reopened Sea Museum. The Castle department of the History Museum of Lithuania Minor will feature an interactive World War II exhibition. In 2018 the Seaport Authority will also offer the cruise tourists a free electronic guide. The mobile app in three languages will be developed according to the EU’s Green Cruise Port project and introduce tourists to the city’s objects.

Increasing ships

The numbers of cruise ships in the world, including the Baltics, keep increasing. The port of Klaipėda has noticed these tendencies as well. Only 4 out of 37 liners visiting Klaipėda in 2011 were longer than 200 m, while in 2012 it was 8 out of 43. However, in 2017 it was already 23 out of 63 and the number of 200 m and longer ships that have already registered for 2018 is 33 out of 64.

Thus, the citizens will be seeing more and more of the majestic large cruise ships in Klaipėda. Each of them can carry 3–4 thousand marine tourists.

According to Cruisebaltic.com, in 2017 the number of tourists in the Baltic region rocketed to as much as 13 %. The term of the Baltic region refers to 10 countries, including southern Norway, and 29 ports.

The total number of tourists that travelled on cruise ships in the Baltic Sea was 4.9 million. They were serviced by 37 cruise lines, featuring 80 ships. This year’s season, which is already over in Klaipėda, but continues elsewhere, featured about 330 cruise trips. 

 

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The magazine JŪRA has been published since 1935.
International business magazine JŪRA MOPE SEA has been
published since 1999.

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