Greece to Restrict Cruise Visitors from 2025 – The New Venice?

Greece to Restrict Cruise Visitors in 2025 – The New Venice?

Greece is considering imposing limits on the number of cruise visitors to its most popular destinations, according to a statement by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in an interview with Bloomberg. The potential restrictions, which could begin in 2025, have caused significant concern within the cruise industry, leading to a sharp decline in cruise stock prices.

Celebrity Ascent and Oosterdam in Santorini - © Copyright: Sail Away Magazine
Credit: Celebrity Ascent and Oosterdam in Santorini – © Copyright: Sail Away Magazine

Tourism plays a crucial role in the Greek economy, with Greek Island cruising dating back to the 1950s. The popularity of these cruises has grown tremendously, particularly at ports like Santorini and Mykonos. Truist Securities reports that Greece saw a 50 percent increase in cruise ship passenger arrivals in 2023, predominantly at these two ports. Cruises typically start in Piraeus or from international locations, with trips ranging from a few days to over a week. The country also boasts a robust interisland ferry trade.

Data from the Hellenic Ports Association, cited by Bloomberg, shows that Santorini welcomed 800 vessels in 2023, carrying 1.3 million visitors—a 17 percent increase from 2022. However, the influx of tourists has led to long waits for attractions like the cable car ride up the island’s volcanic crater. Santorini has been seeking ways to control cruise ship arrivals for nearly a decade, a challenge that has only grown as cruise ships have increased in size.

Mykonos, another hotspot, saw 749 cruise ship visits in 2023, up 23 percent from the previous year. The Prime Minister suggested that restrictions might involve limiting berths or implementing a bidding process for cruise lines to secure slots, similar to practices in other destinations like Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.

Patrick Scholes, an analyst at Truist, expressed concerns about the vague nature of Greece’s plans, noting the difficulty in financially quantifying the impact at this stage. Truist estimates that major cruise lines have a 5 to 14 percent exposure to the Eastern Mediterranean market.

Marella Discovery in Santorini - © Copyright: Sail Away Magazine
Credit: Marella Discovery in Santorini – © Copyright: Sail Away Magazine

The announcement led to a drop in cruise line stock prices, which fell by as much as 7.5 percent following the Bloomberg report. Cruise companies argue that they can manage arrival times and schedules to prevent overcrowding at ports. However, the industry is also grappling with a recent report from Bank of America indicating that cruise prices softened in June, raising fears about maintaining price and booking strength.

Greece joins a growing list of destinations worldwide struggling with overtourism. Cities like Venice have moved cruise ships away from the lagoon to protect historic structures, while Amsterdam and Barcelona have taken steps to redirect ships from city centres. In the U.S., Juneau, Alaska, reached a voluntary agreement with the cruise industry to limit daily passengers starting in 2026, and other locations such as Bar Harbor, Maine, and Key West, Florida, have pursued similar restrictions.

The proposed measures in Greece reflect a broader trend of managing the impact of mass tourism while balancing economic benefits and the preservation of local environments and communities.