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Valencia welcomes cruise ships once again

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On the 27th of June and the 11th of July, the ship Mein Schiff 2 of the TUI Cruises company will call at the Port of València. It is a cruise ship with a peninsular itinerary

The Port Authority of Valencia expects to receive international cruise ships from July onwards, when the shipping companies will reorganise their routes after the lifting of the ban on the cruise industry

Tourists disembarking in Valencia will go on “bubble” excursions and will not be able to visit on their own. The shipping companies have established exhaustive protocols such as COVID-19 tests before embarkation or health checks during transit operations such as the one that will take place in València

Valenciaport, the cruise community, Generalitat Valenciana and València Turisme have worked on a diversified offer, guided experiences and “bubble” visits to guarantee the safety of citizens and cruise tourists

The city of Valencia has lost 70 million euros due to cruise ship activity during the period when cruise ship arrivals were restricted by COVID-19

On 27 June, the vessel Mein Schiff 2 of the TUI Cruises company will call at the Port of Valencia. It will be the first cruise ship to dock at the Valencian port since the central government decreed the State of Alarm and banned this activity 15 months ago. It is a cruise ship with a peninsular itinerary (cabotage cruise) and will dock at Cruise Pier 1 on 27 June and will make a second call on 11 July.

This has been announced by the head of cruises of the Port Authority of Valencia (PAV), Francesca Antonelli, who has highlighted “the excitement for a fact that the sector was waiting for very urgently”. Specifically, the Mein Shciff 2 is a cruise ship that operates a route around Spain and will dock in Valencia from Alicante and then go on to Barcelona. “It is important to stress that this first ship to visit us is a peninsular itinerary, not an international cruise. Right now the shipping companies have to redo their routes, reposition their ships, hire the crew and, of course, put the cabins up for sale. This will take a few weeks and we expect the first international cruise ships to arrive in the Port of Valencia in July”, Antonelli assured.

The BOE (Official State Bulletin) published this Saturday the Resolution of the Directorate General of the Merchant Navy by which, as of 7 June, the ban on the arrival of international cruise ships in Spanish ports is lifted. The docking of cruise ships in Valencia will be carried out in accordance with a series of health safety measures, following the guidelines agreed between the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda and the Ministry of Health. “The cruise ships arriving in Spain used to travel the route to France and Italy. Now, after lifting the ban in all these countries, the green light has been given to resume the activity. The shipping companies are already working on repositioning their ships to once again provide service to the international cruise ships that sail this route”, stressed Francesca Antonelli.

Maximum safety for visitors and citizens

During her speech, the head of cruises explained that the TUI shipping company complies with the safety and prevention measures set out in the “Protocol for the control and prevention of COVID-19 for cruises on passenger ships docking at ports in the Valencian Community” established by the Regional Ministry of Health. In addition, the operator has also established specific measures to manage COVID-19 and Contingency Plans where they inform port facilities and destinations of the procedures and preventive actions.

“The protocols are comprehensive. They include pre-boarding antigen and PCR tests for all passengers and crew, flow separation protocols, social distancing, health checks in transit operations such as those that will be carried out in València and, what is very important for citizens, they will visit the city on bubble excursions, not allowing free visits by passengers,” said Francesca Antonelli, who highlighted the responsibility and awareness of the shipping companies. In fact, the Mein Schiff 2, 316 metres long and built in 2019, is a state-of-the-art, fully sustainable vessel, which will carry a maximum of 655 crew members and 60% of its passenger capacity, specifically 1,879. It also has isolation and sanitary reinforcement areas to deal with any incident.

The PAV cruise director explained that “during these months all the companies involved (Port Authority, shipping agents, terminal, tour operators,…), the Regional Ministry of Health, Tourism of the Generalitat and València Turisme have worked intensely to guarantee the safety of cruise passengers, port workers and the destination of Valencia at all times”. We are talking about safe tourism,” he continued, “with strict safety protocols and new routes that diversify the range of excursions offered by the ships docked in València, prepared for the new normality”.

Thus, in addition to the demanding protocols established by the shipping companies to increase the safety of the destination, passengers and crew, the PAV and the cruise community have developed a varied tourist offer in the city and its surroundings with “bubble” excursions. There will be exclusively guided visits, with no possibility for passengers to go down to the destination on their own, more destinations of interest, small groups and more outdoor experiences. In addition to visiting the city with panoramic excursions by bus, or outdoor routes through the Albufera or L’Horta, there will also be offers in destinations such as Requena, Sagunto or Vall d’Uixó, among others.

Long awaited news

The opening of the cruise sector was long awaited news for the whole sector involved in this activity: companies involved, commerce, hotels, tourist guides, transport, cultural services and food, among others.  The fact is that the 15 months of inactivity of cruise tourism in Valencia has meant that the city and its surroundings have lost some 70 million euros (initial disbursement plus turnover in the economic sectors of the city), according to a study carried out by the Valenciaport Foundation in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

The city of València is a medium-sized and sustainable cruise destination, with annual growth of 2%, some 400,000 visitors and 200 stopovers/year. Thus, the PAV’s forecast for a normal year before COVID-19 was around 450,000 tourists for this year. “Forecasts that we do not know now because the shipping companies have to re-organise their itineraries and stopovers. What we do know is that the cruise world is very keen to return to normality”, Francesca Antonelli explained.