Cruise activity, which suffered massive losses since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2019, picked up last year with 1,957 cruise ships bringing 1.32 million passengers to Greece, according to annual data published this week by the Hellenic Ports Association (ELIME).
ELIME dubbed 2021 a “year of recovery” for the sector in view of limited activity in 2020 when only 210 cruise ships visited Greece carrying 67,528 passengers.
In pre-pandemic 2019, Greek ports welcomed 3,979 cruise ships with a total of 5,552,384 passengers.
According to ELIME, the number of cruise ship calls to Greece increased by a massive 732 percent compared to 2020 with the number of cruise passengers up by 1.750 percent in the same year.
Compared however to 2019, a record year for Greek tourism, cruise ship activity was at 49.2 percent and at 23.7 percent in terms of passenger figures.
ELIME notes that passenger numbers appear to be smaller due to stringent health and safety protocols implemented on board ships which traveled in reduced capacity.
Top ports of call in Greece in 2021 were Piraeus, Mykonos, Corfu, Rhodes, Santorini, Katakolo and Heraklion.
For the first time, Spetses, Hydra, Folegandros, Kalymnos, Parga, Astypalea, Tinos and Sifnos have been also been included in ELIME data.
In terms of cruise ship passenger arrivals, first in line was Corfu, followed by Piraeus, Mykonos, Rhodes, Katakolo, Heraklion and Santorini.
The Piraeus Port Authority expects total arrivals in 2021 to reach 1,400,000 on board 2,000 ships or approximately 50 percent of pre-Covid 2019 levels when final numbers are released.
Thessaloniki, meanwhile, also recorded an increase in cruise ship arrivals in 2021 marking a 142 percent increase in passenger arrivals. The northern port city is already expecting 55 ship arrivals in 2022 with the first scheduled to arrive on February 5.
Looking ahead, ELIME analysts expect to see an increase in cruise activity in 2022 based on the number of bookings so far and plans for the extension of the tourism season. The association also cites new agreements reached between the Greek government and cruise ship companies as well as plans to increase homeporting activities at Greek ports.