Cyprus teams up with Israel to promote East Med cruises

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus is teaming up with Israeli authorities to promote the east Mediterranean as a prime cruise line holiday destination, the island nation’s tourism minister said Wednesday.

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Savvas Perdios said that the government is also in advanced talks with Egypt to offer cruise packages to include Cypriot and Egyptian ports of call.

“We've taken our relationship with Israel to such a good level politically and from a tourism perspective that both sides now are very open to such collaboration,” Perdios told The Associated Press.

“It's just a matter of time until they (Egypt) are also part of it.”

He said the aim is to put Cyprus back on the cruise line map with top global operators such as Royal Caribbean after an absence of several years. Cruise ship arrivals this year have doubled to 60 from a year ago and are expected to increase to 100 next year.

“I'm not surprised, actually, that the big cruise liners are starting to show interest in Cyprus and the region,” said Perdios.

The Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea with 2,750 passengers aboard will dock at Cyprus’ biggest port, Limassol, this weekend and later head to Israel.

The minister said attracting world-class cruise line operators would open a new tourist market, such as travelers from the U.S., Latin America and China, that Cyprus hadn’t previously accessed.

Apart from its eons-old history and culture, Perdios said Cyprus’ appeal to such holidaymakers includes the novelty of the island as a cruise destination, the ease with which they can go on inland excursions, unlike congested ports in other countries, and the short distances involved.

Although cruise passengers now are limited to single-day excursions in Cyprus’ interior, Perdios said a “taste” of Cyprus would entice them to become return visitors.

He said east Mediterranean cruises are ideal this time of year because of the region’s milder weather conditions.