Cruise lovers will be enticed to catch a flight to Malta to board their holiday ship after the island was chosen as homeport for four different itineraries next year.
Costa Cruises’ decision to use Malta as its homeport promises to increase tourist arrivals both by sea and air.
The Costa Allegra – built in 1992, refurbished in 2006 and 187 metres long – will operate three back-to-back itineraries from Valletta between June 29 and July 18 next year. Its sister ship Costa Pacifica, rather longer at 290 metres and built this year, will be operating weekly Mediterranean tours from Valletta between March and November.
“This will have a ripple effect on Malta’s economy as cruise liner passengers, who usually visit Malta for a few hours, are likely to stay on for a few days,” Parliamentary Sectary for Tourism Mario de Marco said during the launch of Costa’s programme for 2010 aboard the Costa Pacifica.
Dr de Marco elaborated that the Italian cruise liner would be increasing its calls to Malta from 24 this year to 37 next year.
Whereas 50,000 Costa cruise passengers landed in Malta this year, they were expected to increase to about 70,000 in 2010, he added.
Recent figures released by the National Statistics Office showed that cruise passenger traffic in Malta amounted to 310,763 between January and September. This marked a decline of 26.6 per cent when compared to the same period last year. Dr de Marco explained that the global economic crisis had a negative effect on the tourism sector. However, projections suggested 2010 would be in line with 2008 when Malta experienced a record in terms of cruise passenger arrivals.
He said the government was committed to ensure Malta and Gozo benefited from the cruise liner industry and worked closely with Viset, which managed the terminal at the Valletta Waterfront.
This year, six ships stopped in Gozo as a separate destination from Malta. Separating the two sister islands as different destinations translated into a double gain for Malta’s economy, he said.
Costa Cruises director Angelo Capurro and Michael Abele from Cruises International, which represents Costa in Malta, outlined the itineraries for next year. The Allegra will first set off on a trip from June 29 to July 6, 2010. It will take passengers around the Adriatic through Sarande (Albania), Dubrovnik (Croatia), Koper (Slovenia), Venice (Italy), Kotor (Montenegro) and Brindisi (Italy).
Between July 6 and 12 the same ship will cruise around the Greek islands through Olympia, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Crete and Kefalonia. Next, the Allegra will sail around Greece from July 12-18 through Olympia, Mykonos and Delos, Meteora, Santorini and Kefalonia.
In a separate itinerary, the Costa Pacifica will sail through Taormina (Catania), Civitavecchia (Rome), Savona (Portofino), Barcelona and Palma De Mallorca (Spain) and Tunis (Tunisia).