The Port of Bilbao has concluded the 2023 season with 80 calls with just under 150,000 pax.
The final call was made by Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines’ (FOCL) ‘Bolette’, which berthed on 16th November. Overall, 13 ships made maiden calls this year.
Whilst the tourists have primarily been transit passengers coming from the UK (41%), North America (27%), and Germany (13%), the port has been successful in supporting turnaround/embarkation cruises for Oceania Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.
“The Port of Bilbao, and its terminal at Getxo, continues to be positioned along the route of the major cruise lines, and this is making a significant contribution to the increase in tourism in the Basque Country and, by extension, to boosting our economy,” said Ricardo Barkala, President Port Authority of Bilbao.
“As a result, we continue to support this activity and to promote the development of the economic fabric of Bizkaia and the Basque Country.
“In a sector as competitive as the cruise sector, cruise lines choose Bilbao because of the infrastructure and services it offers, the operability of the terminal, the flexibility and ease with which stopovers can be managed, and the convenience for their passengers,” Barkala added.
This was underlined at the beginning of November when FOCL’s ‘Balmoral’ berthed at Bilbao at extremely short notice and stayed for three days.
The port and local tourism authorities were asked to lay on a variety of experiences throughout the stay. Activities included visits to local exhibitions, laying on extra free shuttle buses to visit the Hanging Bridge UNESCO heritage site and Bilbao’s Old Quarter, which received praise from both the Master and Kai Algar, FOCL’s Marine & Port Planning Manager.
In 2019, the Port of Bilbao received 50 calls. A year later, cruises were suspended, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, 14 calls were made in 2021 and 78 in 2022.
The Port Authority has also unveiled the BilbOPS project to deploy shore power technology in several of the port’s docks, including the cruise ship berths.
This initiative’s aim is to improve service delivery, and, in turn, contribute to environmental sustainability. The facilities are due to become operational in the beginning of 2026.