October 2023 marked a significant milestone for Cyprus, particularly for the port city of Limassol, as it recorded the highest number of cruise ship arrivals in its history. This surge in cruise traffic represents an important moment for the region’s cruise industry, especially considering the ongoing geopolitical tensions in nearby Israel.

Since the conflict in Israel started, nearly all major cruise lines have been looking at nearby ports to replace port calls and homeports in Israel. Limassol has been one of the ports that has seen a significant uptick in cruise arrivals, while it also played a pivotal role in evacuating people from the conflict area. 

A notable increase in cruise ship visits to Limassol has been recorded in October 2023, as reported by the port management company, DP World Limassol. The arrival of 31 cruises and around 48,000 passengers to the island can be attributed, in part, to the conflict in Israel. Cruises to Israel have come to a near standstill following the outbreak of the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

As cruise companies seek safer and equally attractive alternatives, Cyprus, with its strategic location in the Eastern Mediterranean, has emerged as a preferred choice. This shift not only benefits the cruise lines but also provides a significant boost to Cyprus’s tourism sector.

Royal Caribbean International adjusted itineraries for Odyssey of the Seas, instead scheduling a visit to Limassol, in place of originally planned stops in Haifa and Ashdod, Israel.

Limassol Cruise Port (Photo Credit: Oxanaso)

MSC Musica disembarked Israeli passengers in Limassol, while Norwegian Cruise Line cancelled all operations in Israel for the remainder of 2023, with the Norwegian Gem proceeding to Limassol as part of its adjusted itinerary.

The influx of cruise passengers to Cyprus is not merely due to the geopolitical situation nearby. The island has a vast and storied history in shipping, and on top of that, it is a popular vacation spot in the Mediterranean.

The record number of cruise guest arrivals in October to Limassol has had a profound impact on the local economy, one that CEO of DP World Limassol Simon Pitout hopes will spur on more cruise traffic to Limassol.

Statistically, more than 6 in 10 people (63%) who have taken a cruise say that they have returned to a destination that they first visited via cruise ship for a longer stay, indicating a long-term benefit for Cyprus’s tourism industry.

“The cruise sector is undergoing a revival, and despite the geopolitical challenges in the region, we are excited for the next few years. We expect to have welcomed around 200 cruises by the end of this year, and we have already received around 200 bookings for next year. This reaffirms Limassol as a key port of call for cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Pitout said.

Visitors from diverse backgrounds, including the US, South America, Italy, Spain, Indonesia, Australia, Israel, and the UK, have visited the island in October, going on tours of Limassol’s wine villages, explorations of Paphos Castle, and visits to the Troodos Mountains, one of the few ski areas in the Mediterranean itself, which all have significantly contributed to the local economy.

The unprecedented number of cruise ship arrivals in Limassol this October signifies Cyprus’s emergence as a prominent and secure alternative for cruise lines amid regional instability. It also underscores the island’s appeal as a great destination for guests on these cruises.

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