More and more Bulgarians choose cruises for holiday. Such is the trend in the world. Last year, just under 28 million people were cruising around the world, up 5.5 per cent a year earlier. This year, nearly 30 million people are expected to opt for cruises. Of these, about 12 000 will be Bulgarians. This shows the data of the Bulgarian office of Usit Colors, which offer cruises.
Their research shows that over the last ten years, about 70,000 Bulgarians have opted for cruises and the number of new registrations has been steadily growing. Last year, about 11,000 Bulgarians were on a cruise, an increase of 9% compared to 2017.
No cruise ships at seaports in recent years
Despite the global growth, Bulgarian sea ports have been avoided by big companies in the industry. No major cruise ship has been moored in recent years, and the cause is insecurity in the Black Sea.
After the peak in 2014, when 27 cruise ships visited the port of Burgas, their number has steadily decreased, reaching zero in the past year. This year also there are no requests, said from the port in Burgas.
The only exception is the visit of the Le Bougainville mega-yacht to the ultra-luxury cruise company Ponant, which this year will twice trip to Nessebar. Once, as part of a ten-day cruise from the Greek Islands to the Black Sea and a second time as part of a ten-day route along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, Usit Colors Bulgaria said.
The reason for the large tourist ships to avoid the Bulgarian ports is the uncertain international environment in the Black Sea. The tendency to reduce interest began after the annexation of the Crimea from Russia and the tensions between Moscow and Kiev, as well as the attempted coup d'tat in Turkey in the summer of 2016, commented unofficially from the Maritime Administration to Mediapool.
At the end of last year there was again tension in the Kerch Strait, where Russia captured Ukrainian sailors in a dispute about entering its territorial waters, which raised tensions in the region.
It is believed that this is the reason why in 2018 and 2019 no cruise ship would land at Bulgarian seaports.
The security of cruise tourism is the first and the uncertain political situation in the region is the reason for it to be avoided by big companies, commented Boris Boev, Manager of Tourist Products at Usit Colors Bulgaria.
He pointed out that cruise ship visits are like a "dose of adrenaline" for the local economy not only for the city where the port is, but also for the whole area around it. That is why it would be good to be able to attract more large and popular cruise companies to include our seaports in our calendar, Boev said.
Vidin and Rousse are the preferred ports for cruise ships on the Danube
Unlike our seaports, the Danube is visited by cruise ships, the most preferred being Vidin and Rousse. This year they will be visited by ships of companies like The Luxury Cruise Company, AmaWaterways, Euro River Cruises, Viking, Scenic, Avalon Waterways, Uniworld Botique Cruise Collection and others.
In Rousse is the only Bulgarian company that has its own cruise ships and develops this tourism. "Dunav Tours" has been performing only river cruises along the Danube and its tributaries in Europe for 35 years.
The company has four river cruise ships: Rousse Prestige, Sofia, Elegant Lady and Ariana. According to the last published financial report of Dunav Tours for 2017, the revenues of the company amounted to more than BGN 32 million and decreased by about BGN 3 million compared to a year earlier. However, the profit has increased to over BGN 4 mln. "Dunav Tours" is part of the Union Group.
The cruise is like a holiday and an excursion at the same time
The reasons for the growing tourist interest in cruises are several. More and more people are aware that cruise holidays have similar prices to a standard holiday abroad but also have many additional benefits, Boris Boev said.
In his words, one of their biggest advantages is that they combine both holiday and excursion to new places. The combination of boat entertainment, the exploration of several new places and their sights, history and culture without having to change the "hotel" room make cruises an increasingly popular form of vacation, Boev said.
In addition, cruises give you the opportunity to spend a great week or two away from the city, work and repetitive daily lives. In recent years there has been a decline in the age limit of passengers on a global and national scale. More and more young people aged under or about 30, some with their children, are choosing cruise trips. This is mainly due to the efforts of cruise companies whose new ships are filled with a variety of extras, aimed at the whole family - from the smallest family members to their parents. Cruise companies compete in offering more and more attractive entertainment - aqua parks with water slides, swimming pools, 4D cinema, bowling, sports halls, full-time animators, while their parents enjoy complete rest, commented Boris Boev .
Destinations - Greek islands, Mediterranean and Northern Europe
Expectations are that this year, the number of Bulgarians who have chosen such a vacation will grow between 8 and 10 percent, reaching 12,000.
95.2% of Bulgarians already on a cruise journey would once again choose this form of travel, according to the Usit Colors Bulgaria study.
Nearly 40% of Bulgarians traveling on a cruise travel about one quarter (26%) with their family, and a little less than one fifth (18%) with a friend / girlfriend. Only 4 per cent travel alone and another 12 per cent are in a group of friends, according to the same survey.
The most popular destinations among Bulgarians are the cruises in the Greek islands, in the Mediterranean and in Northern Europe, because they are the most accessible, convenient and profitable for our market, said Boris Boev. Packages that are bought are from 4 to 7 days and average costs about 500 euro per person.
The cost of a cruise depends on a number of factors - season, ship class, cabin type, reservation period, cruise duration, and more. If we accept the seven-day cruises for the gold standard, then it can be said that for the entire Mediterranean, including the Greek islands, prices start at around 500 euros per person and for northern Europe from 1000 euros per person. But even this rough averaging is not quite true, Boris Boev commented. He specified that these costs do not include the cost of reaching the initial port.
Another interesting trend is that over the past year, there has been an increase in the booking of more distant and exotic places, with increasingly frequent destinations being the Middle East and the Caribbean. We expect about 1200 Bulgarians this year to choose exactly such destinations, said Boris Boev.
The prices of exotic cruises are commensurate with those of the popular Bulgarian destinations. Additional costs come from airline tickets to the port of departure and the visa requirements for some of the countries on the route. This is the role of specialized travel agencies to offer the best possible combination of components, Boev said.
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