Experts predict that, by the year 2005, the number of cruise ship passengers disembarking in Portimão will increase by around 50 per cent. The forecast for the number of ships calling in at the Algarve port to grow comes as cruise holidays continue to rise in popularity.
The most recent addition to the list of ships planning to call into the city harbour, is one of the biggest operators on the planet, Royal Caribbean, which has booked Portimão as a port of call for their cruise liner Legend of the Seas on the July 5 next year. The visit will mark the first time that such a large cruise ship has sailed in the River Arade. Carrying 2,076 passengers, Legend of the Seas weighs 70,000 tons and is 265 metres long, four metres longer than P&Q Cruises’ Oriana.
João Azevedo, Manager of Algarve shipping agent, Pedro Bento Azevedo Lda, says that Legend of the Seas is just one of the many ships expected in Portimão next season. He predicts that the number of ships in the port will double. “Cruise tourism is growing all over the world and the situation in the Middle East is making people opt for other destinations,” he explains. The cruise ship companies have a strategy of constantly varying offers and introducing new destinations, and Portimão is currently being promoted as the perfect entrance to the Mediterranean.
Despite high expectations in 2005, the volume of sea traffic into Portimão is lower than predicted this year. Experts predict that between January and November, Portimão port should receive 15 overnight ships and 23 short calls, amounting to 9,000 passengers. Even though the number represents an increase of seven port calls since last year, agents had expected a larger increase because of the Euro 2004 Championship. However, 2004 will be remembered for the visits from ships such as Lindos Maritime’s Clélia II, Crystal Serenity from Crystal Cruises, Transocean Tours’ Astor, and the return of the giant Oriana, which will be anchored in Portimão on August 10.
Luis Rodrigues, from Pinto Basto Navegação shipping agents in Portimão, agrees that activity in the port is currently below expectations. But he believes that it is evolving as a port of call. However he thinks that Portimão needs to think carefully about what it offers cruise ship passengers. “The entrance to the port is lovely, everyone is amazed. But that’s not enough, we need to increase the attractions of the journey,” he explains. The administrator also thinks that the trips offered to passengers who come aboard are lacking and commented, “if Cabo de São Vicente didn’t exist, there would be no cruise ships in Portimão”.