In recent years Gibraltar has become increasingly popular as a port of call for cruise liners, and this week the TUI Discovery 2 joined the list of nautical visitors to the Rock.
This ship was built in 1995 and operated by Royal Caribbean as the Legend of the Seas until it was sold in 2016 to Thomson Cruises. It is a Visions Class cruise ship weighing 69,472 tonnes, with a length of 264 metres, accommodation for approximately 1832 passengers and a crew of 771.
All inaugural cruises are welcomed to Gibraltar with a special ceremony and an exchange of plaques between the ship’s captain, the representatives from the Gibraltar Tourist Board, the Port Authority and local shipping agent Incargo.
The Minister for Tourism, Gilbert Licudi , said , “As one of the largest tourism groups in Europe it is always great to welcome ships from the TUI fleet and in particular TUI Discovery 2 on her first call. It is encouraging to see the major cruise lines continuing to show their commitment to our unique product and our attributes as one of the most popular cruise ports in the Mediterranean.”
Last year, 225 cruise ships visited Gibraltar, carrying around 350,000 passengers, and making it the third most visited port in Andalucía. The number is expected to increase this year.
Such is the success of Gibraltar as a destination for cruise passengers that neighbouring La Línea appears to be hoping to follow suit. According to reports, the council has plans to create a huge marina and facilities for these enormous ships at a cost of approximately 35.8 million euros.
The mayor of La Línea, Juan Franco, is reported as saying that the construction work could begin this year and that “this will be our Guggenheim”, a major attraction for visitors.
The authorities believe that Gibraltar will eventually reach the point where it has no more capacity for the increasing number of cruise liners and La Línea can absorb the overflow.
However, reactions to the news have been mixed. Although some residents of La Línea believe the project would be beneficial for the town, others think it could backfire because passengers are likely to walk across the border to Gibraltar instead of spending their money locally.