Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia Apostolos Tzitzikostas extended an invitation to the cruise industry to invest in Thessaloniki, noting that it has the potential to become a major destination for cruise travellers. ‘Thessaloniki offers a unique blend of historical and modern attractions, including museums, galleries, and a vibrant food scene,’ he said. ‘By investing in Thessaloniki, the international cruise industry could help to create new jobs and stimulate economic growth, while also providing travellers with an unforgettable experience in one of Europe’s most beautiful and fascinating cities.’  

It followed earlier remarks by Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman, MSC Cruises & global chair, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), as well as Governor of the Region of Central Macedonia and Mayor of Thessaloniki Municipality Konstantinos Zervas and Athanasios Liagkos, executive chairman of the BoD & MD ThPA SA – Port of Thessaloniki.

New cruise terminal coming to Piraeus 

During the Forum’s first panel, ‘The Return to Growth: Challenges ahead for Cruise Lines and Destinations,’ Yu Zenggang, chairman of Piraeus Port Authority, said that a new cruise terminal is on the way that will be able to accommodate the largest cruise ships in the world. The work is expected to conclud in a two-three-year period. 

In 2019, Piraeus port broke the 1m mark in terms of cruise passengers. 2022 was a record-breaking year for the Port Authority, with both revenue and profitability at their highest-ever levels; passenger traffic increased by 190% to 880,416 compared to 303,665 in 2021. Cruise ship berthing also rose by 79% to 677 berths compared to 379 a year earlier, surpassing 2019 levels.

Eastern Mediterranean

Figen Ayan, president, MedCruise, Marie-Caroline Laurent, director general, CLIA Europe, Wybcke Meier, CEO, TUI Cruises and Chris Theophilides, CEO, Celestyal also shared their thoughts on the growth of the cruise industry globally and in the Eastern Mediterranean more specifically.

Meier said, ‘This summer we will be even stronger than before, the demand is there especially for the Eastern Mediterranean and Greece in particular which is very popular for German tourists. 

‘We see very strong bookings for the years to come as we expand our fleet. We will have more opportunities to deploy ships in this region and from next year, we will have homeporting in Heraklion.’ 

She added, ‘When we work together in a more coordinated way with the destinations making sure that we provide a great experience to the local population and to our guests in issues such as berthing policy and a little bit more transparency can help us all as we can more effectively steer the guest flows we have.

The number of Germans who take cruise holidays is very small and the potential for growth is huge, which means that Greece as a favourite destination for German people stands to gain the most in the future.’ 

Theophilides asserted, ‘It’s very important that the event takes place in Thessaloniki which for Celestyal Cruises is a very important destination, as we have a vessel here every Sunday. An even bigger vessel, Celestyal Journey, will commence cruises from Thessaloniki in September. We believe that the number of passengers in 2023 will reach the levels of 2019 and we remain highly optimistic for strong growth well into the future.’

Ayan pointed out that cruise passengers in the Med have climbed from 31.15m in 2019 to 24.37m in 2022, and commended Greece for its rapid restart following the pandemic. 



Laurent emphasised the strength and the dynamism of the cruise sector. She said that the cruise industry recovered ‘well around 69% of passenger level compared to 2019’ while the overall tourism industry recovered at 62%, based on UNWTO figures. She said a lot had been learnt during covid, asserting, ‘We are quite confident that with the methodology that we have now established with Covid, we will be stronger in addressing – and being more resilient – in any future crisis… [such as] a pandemic, but also other geopolitical issues that may arise.’ 

Laurent went onto say border issues for ‘visas for crew changes, but also for the processing of passengers’ and ‘the implementation of the different environmental regulations that we see in Europe, but also at IMO level,’ were the two leading regulatory challenges.  

MoU Signed

Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME) signed an MoU with the Union of Cruise Ship Owners & Associated Members (EEKFN) to coordinate actions and bilateral plans designed to ensure that the development of the cruise industry in the Eastern Mediterranean region is done according to the international standards of service. 

Liagkos, in his capacity as chairman of Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME), said: ‘One of the first actions we will take as a result of this agreement is to implement a series of initiatives to facilitate vessels berthing allocation and to solve problems such as visas, Covid tests, immigration across the association’s 13 member ports etc. 

‘In the framework of this MoU, we will coordinate the activities of our members to develop port policy, the participation of ports in regional development, and the creation of robust and competitive port service companies.’ 

Over 400 people gathered at Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Palace hotel for the 7th Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum, which is being held at Greece’s second biggest city for the first time since its inception.