With more than 50,000 berths available in the Scandinavian/Northern Europe cruise market in 1990, the region will be seeing a 21 percent increase in capacity over the almost 40,000 berths that were available this year. A number of ports in this area are in the midst of expansion plans and three cruise lines are calling in Scandinavia/Northern Europe in 1990 and ’91 for the first time.
This area, which encompasses Scandinavia, Baltic Russia, the Arctic Circle, Great Britain, and northern continental Europe – including Holland and West Germany – is heavily dominated by the homeports of Tilbury and Copenhagen. In fact, most lines are evenly divided between homeporting in Tilbury and Copenhagen. Last year, Copenhagen received 91 calls while it anticipates 145 and 125,000 passengers in 1990. In comparison, Tilbury accommodated 80,000 passengers in 1989 and anticipated 100,000 by 1991.
“Tilbury may be losing a bit of its claim to being the gateway to Scandinavia since Copenhagen is becoming a major homeport,” stated Arne Ellefors, Project coordinator of the Baltic Tourism Center (ETC). Copenhagen can berth eight or nine vessels at a time. Copenhagen also plans to build the “Mermaid Center” by 1993, which will: consist of a passenger terminal, convention center, hotel, shopping arcade, and restauracts.
In order to combat such expansion, Tilbury has spent $1.6 million renovating its passenger terminal, which features a very extensive security system. According to Chief Executive, John McNab, they will spend about $2.8 million when all exterior renovations are complete. He also noted that the Port of Tilbury is negotiating to purchase a neighboring building so that both passenger and berthing facilities can be expanded. In addition, Tilbury plans to start a ferry service for faster access to central London.
Competition not only exists between Copenhagen and Tilbury, but also between the moorings at the Port of London and Southampton. At present, Southampton is investing $1.5 million in an ongoing port improvement program while the Port of London is improving passenger facilities at three of its moorings. In 1990, improved passenger facilities will be complete on the H.M.S. Belfast mooring. The Port of London also plans to build passenger facilities near the Tower Bridge mooring and at Greenwich.
A number of Scandinavia’s smaller ports are also vying for cruise calls and therefore are improving facilities. Baltlink Guest Harbor in Tallinn, Estonia, will complete its passenger terminal in 1990 while Sweden’s Port of Kalmar is planning to build a new cruise ship berth measuring at least 460 feet by 1993. Tallinn’s cruise ship calls will increase from eight last year to 20 in 1990.
Ellefors pointed out that according to their surveys, Americans are interested in including more ports of call on their itineraries, particularly at smaller cities and towns. He felt that Baltic ports such as Tallinn, Riga (Latvia), and Norrkoping (Sweden), are all in the position to accommodate such growth.
Scandinavian Ferry Industry
Another reason why Baltic ports are experiencing such growth is because of the thriving luxury ferry industry which tends to mainly attract Scandinavians/northern continental Europeans. According to Ellefors, the Baltic area accommodated 13 million ferry passengers in 1988, while cruise ships (both American and European companies) carried 2.8 million. Because of the popularity of the luxury ferries, Riga and Norrkoping, for example, are building a pier and passenger terminal, respectively, aimed mainly to accommodate ferry passengers.
The continued growth in both the Baltic ferry and American-based cruise shipping has given most Baltic ports increased number of cruise calls. While most ports have experienced a gradual increase over the past few years, 1990 seems to represent the largest increase yet. For example, the Swedish port of Visby on the island of Gotland had 20 calls in 1980, 145 in 1989, and expects 180 in 1990. Helsinki is also experiencing growth, from 89 calls this past year to 100 next year.
Ellefors noted that Stockholm is the only Scandinavian port which is stagnating at 85 calls annually. He attributed part of this to the need for more port facilities. According to Ellefors, the Port Authority of Stockholm is discussing possibly building new berths, but there are no concrete plans at the moment. Ellefors felt that Stockholm is experiencing some environmental opposition in respect to increasing cruise ship activity here.
Baltic Tourism Center
The Baltic Tourism Center (BTC) is the central coordinating committee for developing cruise calls and facilities in the region. The 21 ports involved are undertaking a joint $100,000 advertising/marketing campaign. This past September, the group sponsored a Baltic Tourism Conference in Visby.
The BTC will also be evident during the Miami Sea Trade conference this March as Ellefors will deliver a speech on the Baltic as a cruise destination. They will also have a sales manual available for cruise lines which will promote cruising possibilities. Each port will highlight their facilities, mileage from other major ports, and the excursions available.
Ellefors feels that they will begin to see the effects of their efforts in 1991. The group is aiming for a 12 to 15 percent increase in cruise passengers by ’91. He hopes to convince cruise lines to call in Scandinavia rather than the area’s two main competitors: the Mediterranean and Alaska.
“The Baltic is a very stable area politically, which is a positive aspect we plan to promote,” he said.
The major players in this area among the American-based cruise lines include: Royal Cruise Line, Royal Viking Line, Ocean Cruise Line, Paquet, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Cunard Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Salen Lindblad Cruising, Renaissance Cruises, and Special Expeditions.
While no one cruise line dominates the market, there is one newcomer in 1990 – Royal Caribbean Cruise Line – which is entering this area with a big splash. The Sun Viking will have two positioning cruises based primarily in the British Isles, along with six voyages originating in Tilbery and calling in Scandinavia.
Another 1990 addition will be Renaissance Cruises, which will have 11 cruises in the Baltic and British Isles aboard its upcoming vessel, Renaissance II.
Growth is expected to continue into 1991 since Crystal Cruises is planning to operate in area with the Crystal Harmony.
Cruise lines are also continuing to try new itineraries here, particularly to the North Cape and Iceland.
Because of the recent easing of political conditions in many Eastern European countries, growth is expected to continue, particularly in the eastern Baltic. Paquet, for example, is evaluating land excursions into East Germany and Poland on its 1990 itineraries. Last year, Gdansk already had 50 cruise ship calls. Although the infrastructure outside of major cities such as Leningrad needs further development, Intourist is making an effort to improve both roads and hotel facilities.
Because of perestroika, entry into Eastern Block countries is faster and easier than before and the public’s curiosity has generally been aroused the past few months concerning the countries on the other side of the Iron Curtain. This opening of doors is opposite of what has happened recently in other cruising regions. Therefore, the Baltic and northern Europe may seem a more attractive cruising alternative.
Geography also plays a major role in the development of this area. With almost a dozen different countries in the Baltic/Northern Europe region, along with the variety of capital cities and thousands of small islands, this market offers a myriad of destinations to be explored.