AFTER a drop of 3.5% in 2012, Mediterranean cruises are showing growth once more, according to statistics in the Med Cruise 2013 report, which were presented at Cruise Shipping Miami (you can peruse them in their entirety from our Data & Report section). Last year 27 million passengers travelled the Mediterranean (+4.2% compared to 2012 and a 23.7% increase from 2009). It should be pointed out that in 2014 there will be less to celebrate, considering that CLIA (the association that represents all the Cruise lines in the world) expects that the growth rate for cruise ship traffic will slow from +3.2% to 2.7%; all the companies are looking to shift capacity from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean; areas of conflict that make cruises dangerous are growing: as if the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war weren’t enough (and in fact, Med Cruise’s statistics do not include data for Egyptian ports or the port of Lattakia), n ow the Crimean crisis is threatening the Black Sea market, which until now was doing well both in terms of passenger growth (+35.7% since 2012, 213,000 people, +110% in four years) and in terms of the number of port calls (+55.2%, 419 calls). Within the Mediterranean, Italy remains (according to CLIA data) the greatest beneficiary of the cruise industry in terms of direct expenditure. According to the last available year’s data on the subject, which is for 2012, Italy grossed €4.4bn (28.8% of the total direct expenditure generated by the cruise tourists), versus Spain’s €1.2bn (8.1%) and France’s €1bn (6.9%). In 2013, Italy was also the leading country for passengers (10.5 million, or +5.7% and 38.9% of the total) and for port calls at 4,077 (+4.8%, 28.2% of the total). Spain came in second, with a decline (6 million, -1.1% and 22.3% of the total passengers) and Greece made a strong comeback, reaching third place (2.4 million passengers, +11.8% but only 9.2% of the total). In the ports ranking, the first four positions are held by Barcelona (2.59 million passengers), Civitavecchia (2.53 million), Venice (1.8 million) and the Balearic Islands (1.5 million). Piraeus (1.3 million) jumped two places ahead of Naples (1.1 million), which is the only one of the bigger ports to lose passengers (-9%) and has seen no significant increase (+2%) in passengers since 2009. Genoa, with 1 million passengers, realized a 56% growth rate – the second highest after Marseille’s 88 - for the period from 2009 to 2013, which puts it in ninth place, while Savona (939,000 passengers) is back in the top ten. The data on home-port traffic is even more interesting. In other words, the ports chosen by the companies for the embarking and disembarking of passengers at the start and end of a cruise. More than simply a port of call, the home port is the true business for the maritime cities, because it activates all kinds of logistical services, providers, passenger transport, and general services for the ships. Venice is the top Mediterranean port in this line-up (1.5 million passengers - but the ship-limiting decree that will take effect in November will no doubt hurt its position) followed by Barcelona and Civitavecchia. Liguria gets the lion’s share with Savona and Genoa in fourth and fifth place (670,000 and 649,000 passengers). And what about the La Spezia phenomenon? With its 213,000 passengers, it is only the 33rd most frequented cruise port in the Mediterranean – but last year it was just 42nd with 50,000 passengers, so the port had the highest growth in a year (+326%), followed by Northern Sardinia (+132%) and Cagliari (+81%). In four years, Trieste increased its number of passengers by a whopping 1013%, but the case of high percentages for low total figures applies in this case. In total, Trieste moved only 70,000 passengers, so using the figures for publicity wouldn’t make very much sense. Finally, the North African crisis is reflected in the performance of the Tunisian ports, which lost 32% in the four year period (but still moved half a million passengers).