Saranda poised to register strong increase in cruise ship tourists
- "Some 56 ships with a capacity of 1,000 to 3,500 tourists have already made reservations while dozens of other smaller ships are expected to anchor," Sotir Davella, the director of Saranda Port
TIRANA, Feb. 23 – The southern Albanian port of Saranda is poised to register a strong boost in its emerging cruise ship tourism as some major ships have placed Turkey off the itinerary on security grounds and replaced it with alternative Albanian and Greek destinations.
“Viking Sky” opened this year’s season, bringing to the southernmost Albanian city along the Riviera some 1,000 tourists, most of whom Americans.
The Butrint archeological park, a UNESCO World heritage site that has been the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city and a bishopric is the main attraction for tourists visiting Saranda. The present archaeological site is a repository of ruins representing each period in the city’s development.
Saranda port officials say this year is set to register a 3-fold increase in the number of cruise ships and yachts visiting the city and its surroundings.
“Some 56 ships with a capacity of 1,000 to 3,500 tourists have already made reservations while dozens of other smaller ships are expected to anchor,” Sotir Davella, the director of Saranda Port has told VoA in the local Albanian service.
Port authorities say MSC Cruises, one of the leading cruise companies in the Mediterranean, is set to make Saranda a weekly destination starting next April.
MSC Cruises is already advertising Saranda offering city tours, visits to the UNESCO neighbouring city of Gjirokastra, the ancient ruins of Butrint, the Blue Eye Spring and the Albanian Riviera and its villages.
Back in 2014, USA Today news portal placed Saranda among the world’s ten great cruise ports.
Known as the pearl of Albanian Riviera, the southernmost Albanian district of Saranda is a top destination in Albania during summer, offering tourists a combination of rocky and sandy beaches as well as cultural heritage attractions such as the Butrint UNESCO World Heritage site and the Blue Eye spring. Situated just next to the Greek island of Corfu with regular ferry lines, Saranda remains one of Albania’s top destinations despite the boom of uncontrolled constructions somehow spoiling the beauty of Albania’s southernmost coastal town.
Saranda, known for its beautiful pure Ionian waters, has been earlier named by the United States Price of Travel portal as the third cheapest beach destination in Europe.
“The town of Saranda in the south is arguably the highlight of the Albanian Riviera, and part of its appeal is that it’s just across the channel from the (also modestly priced) Greek island of Corfu. Perhaps one day it will be competing for the mass market cheap holidaymaker, so it could be a good choice for those who like to go to those places first so they can complain about the development later,” says the portal.
The Saranda Port handled about some 251,000 passengers in 2015, including tourists on 22 cruise ships and 657 yachts.
The country’s key port of Durres could also see a hike in cruise ship tourism as some international companies are skipping Turkish ports over fears of terrorist attacks.
The Durres Port handled 25 cruise ships with thousands of tourists on board and some 218 yachts in 2016.
In their single-day visit to Albania, cruise ship tourists, visit Durres, the neighboring historic town of Kruja and the UNESCO World Heritage town of Berat.
“In Roman times, the city of Durres was an important port perched on the head of a long beach. These days, the city has spread south, adding a sprinkling of monuments, shopping boulevards and sprawling suburbs to the mix. Things still centre on the coastline – the sands here roll out for an impressive 10 kilometres,” says U.K.-based Thomson company about its Durres itinerary.