The days when cruising meant a seven-day voyage in the Caribbean are well and truly behind us, with destinations worldwide becoming more and more popular. One destination that has seen a steady increase in cruise arrivals, including even a naming ceremony for a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, is Iceland. 

The impact that the growing number of visitors is having is becoming increasingly noticeable according to the municipal council of Isafjordur, Iceland, and has announced a limit on the number of passengers that can visit per day. The limit is not imposed because the ships are not welcome, but simply because the local infrastructure is not built for the increasing number of visitors.

Isafjordur, Iceland, might not be on the list of obvious choices to cruise to when booking a voyage. However, the town still expects to welcome up to 255,000 cruise ship passengers. While the town welcomes these guests, there will be some limitations. 

According to the new cruise ship policy that has been implemented by the municipality of Isafjordur, the maximum number of cruise passengers allowed to visit each day will be capped at 5,000. The town will also ban the tradition of blowing the horn when arriving or leaving the port in the Westfjords region of northwest Iceland.

Isafjordur, Iceland (Photo Credit: Julia Bjornsdottir / Shutterstock)

According to a spokesperson for the town council, the new policy will safeguard the long-term relationship between locals and the cruise industry. 

While many cities and ports have implemented a cap on the number of cruise arrivals, this has typically been done to limit cruise ships because of local discontent with the number of cruise ships arriving, environmental concerns, and the overflow of passengers. Ísafjördur is preemptively solving the issue, allowing the town time to invest in growth. 

Gylfi Ólafsson, the chairman of the municipal council of Ísafjördur, said to RUV: “The most significant change in this policy is that we set a limit on the number of passengers we can accommodate each day.”

“If the tourism industry continues to enhance its infrastructure by purchasing more buses, improving services, and doing better for the people, ensuring there are restrooms and that services are open and available, then we can accommodate more guests with ease.”

Isafjordur, Iceland (Photo Credit: ThamKC / Shutterstock)

Isafjordur is the third largest cruise ship port in Iceland, closely trailing behind Akureyri and Reykjavík in terms of size and capacity. The cruise season in Iceland runs from the end of winter in April, until the start of winter in September. The first cruise ship of the summer arrived in Isafjordur earlier this month. 

195 cruise ships are expected to visit Isafjordur this year with a maximum of 255,000 passengers, according to the port authorities, known best for its enchanting fjords and rich Viking history. Included in the cruise ships that will visit this year are both smaller expedition cruise ships, and large passenger ships. 

Norwegian Prima, which was christened in Reykjavik, Iceland, will be the most frequent visitor to Isafjordur with 14 calls this summer. Other cruise ships that will be making frequent calls are Norwegian Star, which will make 10 calls; Viking Mars, which will make nine calls; and Windstar Cruises’ Star Pride, which will make nine calls.

The strategy employed by Isafjordur’s local council demonstrates effective management of increasing cruise passenger numbers in a sustainable manner, a model that many other ports overwhelmed by mass cruise tourism now wish they had adopted earlier.

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