Europe is one of the world’s most stable cruise markets – with sea-faring holidaymakers enjoying the opportunity to cruise around the Med and through the beautiful countries of Scandinavia. With plenty of ports to choose from throughout the continent’s 50 countries (and a few dependencies), we thought we’d have a look at the busiest port destinations in Europe. So here are the top ten busiest ports of Europe, compiled with a little help from the Cruise Lines International Association.
Barcelona – 2,364,000 Passengers in 2014
It is not surprising that the Catalan capital, Barcelona, comes out on top of this list with an excellent strategic position and an enduring charm, ever-popular with visitors. A huge selection of major cruise ships call Barcelona home when they are completing Mediterranean sailings. Barcelona’s port has a history stretching back 2,000 years as the city’s position next to the water allowed its people to thrive.
There is plenty for visitors to Barcelona to see and do, from visiting the (still unfinished) Sagrada Familia to just spending a day filling up on delicious tapas and wine served throughout the city.
Civitavecchia – 2,140,000 Passengers in 2014
The port supporting Rome and the Vatican City, Civitavecchia regularly welcomes more than 2 million visitors through its waterways every year. Although a city in its own right, most visitors choose to travel for a little over an hour to the capital of Italy, Rome, and the world’s smallest country, Vatican City.
Despite the tiny size, there are almost limitless things to enjoy and experience in Vatican City, including St Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, the Gardens and the truly incomparable Vatican Library.
Venice – 1,734,000 Passengers in 2014
A city unlike any other, Venice is built upon the waterways which stretch to the port – assisting a seamless transition from cruising to exploring. There have been calls to ban cruise visits to Venice, for a fear that they may be potentially harmful to the city’s treasured waterways. However, plans for an artificial island complete with port terminal could be the answer that locals and visitors are looking for.
For those who love travelling by water, surely the best way to spend an afternoon in Venice is to enjoy a beautiful and relaxing gondola ride through the city’s waterways.
Southampton – 1,573,000 Passengers in 2014
Welcoming just over one and a half million passengers every year, Southampton is the only entrant on the list which is not positioned on the Mediterranean Sea. The Port of Southampton benefits from being the UK being a nation of cruise lovers – with a huge number of itineraries departing from the south coast.
Perhaps the most exciting itineraries which kick off from Southampton every year are Cunard’s legendary Transatlantic sailings over to New York – truly exceptional experiences on the must-do lists of many a cruise lover.
Palma Majorca – 1,336,000 Passengers in 2014
The Balearic Island of Majorca is holidaymaker paradise, with huge stretches of sandy beach and beautifully quaint towns providing a picture perfect insight into relaxed Spanish life. Cruise visitors flock to the island year after year for a little rest and relaxation.
The wilder party animals on a cruise calling in at Palma, can make the short trip to neighbouring Magaluf for a mad night out.
Marseille – 1,311,000 Passengers in 2014
The major cruise port of the French Riviera, Marseille is a popular destination for those with a taste for the finer things in life. Cruising up and down the French Riviera is a beautiful experience in itself, passing by Toulon, Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice and Monaco. A stop in Marseille provides a perfect chance to enjoy a little French cuisine and a bottle of the local wine.
Naples – 1,114,000 Passengers in 2014
Pizza lovers will adore the chance to visit the home of the bread, tomato and mozzarella baked together expertly. Naples is perhaps a little bit more industrial (read: inexpensive) than most other tourist cities in Italy, but it provides a true taste of the city. For a glass of wine and a dish of authentic Italian grub, there is nowhere better on the old boot.
Piraeus – 1,055,000 Passengers in 2014
Located less than 10 miles from the centre of Athens; Piraeus is the port city supporting the Greek capital. An ever-popular cruise destination, there are few places in the world which offer a more lucid and interesting insight into the civilisations of the past than Athens.
History buffs will love the chance to experience some of the world’s most important and famous sites such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis of Athens.
Savona – 1,019,000 Passengers in 2014
Savona has a long history of sea travel, most famous for being the home of navigator Christopher Columbus – who chronicled his journeys from a farm in the area. More than a million visitors every year descend upon Savona and its beautiful selection of ancient churches, monuments and fortresses.
Located at the North West tip of the country, Savona is often the first port of call for visitors touring around Italy.
Genoa – 824,000 Passengers in 2014
The fifth entry on this list for Italy; Genoa is slightly to the East of Savona, and offers a stunning selection of sights and experiences for visitors. The historic centre of Genoa is built around a very traditional maze of squares and alleys – giving you the classic Italian experience, even you’re only there for a few hours.
Whether you’re looking to visit one of Europe’s most popular ports or fancy something a little more niche, Cruise1st can help you find your perfect itinerary. For a full range of deals, visit the Cruise1st site, or call our team on 0808 274 6777.
Images sourced via Royal Caribbean Press Center and Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Joe Tolley, Jesus Solana, Victoria Reay, Tambako The Jaguar, Andrés Nieto Porras, Artur Staszewski, Robert Pittman, Pedro-Szekely, Luca Serazzi, Tom Lee