Italy is experiencing a phenomenal surge in cruise tourism, with projections indicating that 2024 will be a record-setting year for passenger traffic. This surge in popularity is evident in the numbers, with over 5,000 cruise calls scheduled, marking the highest figure in the last decade.

The 5,000 calls will also bring a record number of cruise passengers to the Italian coastline, a country that has increasingly positioned itself as the leading cruise hub of Europe.

Italy features multiple major homeports, such as Trieste, Civitavecchia, Naples, and Genoa, and a large number of ports capable of welcoming cruise ships.

The latest edition of the Italian Cruise Watch, unveiled today in Taranto by Francesco di Cesare, head of an Italian tourism organization called Risposte Turismo, reveals promising statistics for the nation’s cruise industry. 

In 2024, Italian cruise ports anticipate setting a new record in the number of passengers handled, encompassing embarkations, disembarkations, and transits. This record-setting number will exceed 13 million cruise passengers, thanks to more than 5,000 cruise ship calls.

Francesco di Cesare, President of Risposte Turismo: “The surpassing of the 13 million mark, which we anticipate next year, shows that the strong growth in 2023 isn’t just a one-time event, but rather a solidification of this upward trend.”

However, bringing in this many cruise passengers and cruise ships brings with it a whole new set of challenges, acknowledges di Cesare.

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“This ushers in a new era for the cruise industry in Italy, where we’ll face new challenges: from actively working towards making cruise tourism more sustainable to maintaining a high level of focus on managing the influx of visitors, especially in those ports poised to set new records,” said di Cesare.

The projections come from forecasts of 35 ports, which account for 97% of national cruise traffic and 86% of ship calls. The numbers could climb even higher, given that the calculations include a margin for canceled calls and changing itineraries. 

Italy has progressively positioned itself as one of the major cruise hubs in Europe with several major homeports, popular ports of call, and the country plays a role in the construction of cruise ships from all major cruise lines with shipbuilders such as Fincantieri and T. Mariotti SPA.

When it comes to homeports, Civitavecchia stands out. In 2024, the gateway to Rome expects to handle over 3.1 million guests, showing a 4% increase from 2023. This number consists of guests visiting Civitavecchia for a port call, and a large number of guests that embark or disembark in Civitavecchia. 

It positions the port as one of the major global ports, just behind ports such as Nassau, Cozumel, Port Canaveral, Port Miami, and, in Europe, Barcelona. However, it could very well be that Civitavecchia will overtake the Spanish port in 2024, with new cruise ship limits implemented in October 2023 for Barcelona.

Most major ports in Italy are performing well. Naples takes second place with 1.61 million cruise passengers handled, another 4% increase over 2023. Third place Genoa expects to welcome some 1.38 million cruise passengers, down 8% over 2023. 

Another port that is seeing an increase over 2023 is Palermo, Sicily, which expects to welcome more than 1 million cruise passengers, a 7.5% increase.

Other ports that expect significant increases in cruise tourism include Bari, which will welcome 451,000 guests in 2024. Taranto follows suit, with an 18% increase from 2023, amounting to roughly 142,000 guests.

One noteworthy trend is the expansion of cruise terminals and docks. The cruise tourism report predicts the number of passenger terminals to increase to 56 passenger terminals in Italy capable of handling cruise ships of varying sizes. The ports that welcome the most cruise ships for port calls are Venice, Livorno, Cagliari, Catania, Genoa, Naples, Taranto, and Trieste.

Moreover, new terminals are on the horizon, such as Catania and Royal Caribbean International’s new cruise terminal in Ravenna, due to open its doors in early 2024.

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