On Saturday 26th March the cruise vessel m/s Ventura of shipping company P&O cruises opens the Belgian cruise season. For Oostende the first cruise vessel will be Sea Cloud II, calling on Thursday 19th May.
Since 2009 the port authorities of Zeebrugge and Oostende have joined forces in the “Belgian Coast Cruise Project” to promote cruise tourism and to strengthen the global market position of the Belgian ports. These efforts go together by the name “Belgian Coast Cruise Project”. The ports are assisted by Mr. Bob Harrison, who has over 30 years of maritime and cruise expertise.
This cooperation has already booked quite some results. This year 92 cruise vessels (77 in Zeebrugge and 15 in Oostende) and approximately 235,000 cruise passengers are expected.By comparison, in 2010 there were 72 cruise ships and 196,000 passengers. Up to 87 cruise ships are announced for the year 2012 in the ports of Zeebrugge and Oostende. Thanks to its port facilities, Zeebrugge can easily accommodate the biggest cruise ships that carry over 3,000 passengers. For Oostende the urban framework is an attraction point for the smaller cruise ships.
It is selfevident that Bruges, as world heritage city, is the main touristic attraction, but not all passengers choose an excursion to Bruges. Some other West-Flemish coastal cities such as Oostende, Blankenberge or Knokke-Heist or cultural cities such as Ghent, Brussels or Antwerp appeal to many passengers.
Important is that, according to recent calculations of the British magazine Seatrade, each passenger spends an average of € 90 per day when getting of the ship. Cruise tourism ensures a considerable added value for the Flemish economy.In the future Zeebrugge and Ostend want to be more than just a port of call. The region indeed offers enough logistic facilities to use both ports also as embarkation or disembarkation port. Initially the ports would offer “soft embarkations” whereby a limited number of cruise passengers would be boarding.This would give a direct added value for the local tourism service providers and suppliers.
In Zeebrugge the port authority starts a shuttle service that brings passengers safely from the ship to outside the terminal. The shuttle bus brings the passengers to the area of the marina. From there they can choose to explore Zeebrugge, take the coastal tram or take the train towards Bruges. Also touristic brochures will be on board of the shuttle bus. In Oostende the cruise terminal is situated next to the train station, with direct access to the city or the marina. The tourist office of the city of Oostende welcomes the cruise passengers with all relevant information.