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No more giant cruise ships in Monaco: what impact on trade and the environment?

croisières monaco
The 2023 cruise season opened in April in Monaco - © Communication department

From now on, vessels cannot exceed 250 metres in length and 1,250 passengers.

The return of the fine weather in Monaco brings cruise passengers with it. The Principality launched its cruise season on 11th April with the departure of 900 passengers on board the Viking Sky, a liner that will be seen regularly in Monegasque waters this year. A total of 116 stopovers are scheduled on the Port Hercule breakwater and in Monaco harbour this season.

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But accommodating them as in the past is out of the question. Since the Covid-19 crisis, the Prince’s Government has chosen to favour “sustainable and responsible cruises” by only accepting cruise vessels that are under 250 metres long and have a maximum capacity of 1,250 passengers. This makes the Crystal Serenity the biggest ship with authorised access to the Principality.

Too high for Ecopolis

But Ecopolis Monaco says these numbers are still far too high. The environmental non-profit organisation is asking the government to reduce the number of passengers to 200, otherwise the “sustainable and responsible” criteria are not met. “We recognise that the government has made strides, but there is still a lot of room for improvement,” says President Evelyne Tonelli.

And while the government points out that the Principality banned the use of heavy fuel oil by ships in 2018, Ecopolis stresses that large capacity cruise ships run on fossil fuels, and leave fine particles in the atmosphere.

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“Their funnels still give off smoke. Given the Principality’s horseshoe configuration, and lack of wind, especially during the summer months, this accumulates over the territory,” the non-profit’s president points out.

She fears it represents “a high risk to the population’s health, on top of the unpleasant visual and olfactory aspects”. Quality of life is “diminished” rues Evelyne. “Even on foot, it is sometimes impossible to move around and public transport is overcrowded. Perhaps the Principality should only accept luxury cruises.”

Le Rocher impacted

The idea behind the new measures is in fact to bring in a clientele with strong purchasing power, one that the Government believes is the most profitable for the local economy. But there are mixed feelings among the shopkeepers in Monaco-Ville. “The very wealthy clientele isn’t necessarily intrested in the historic heart of Monaco. They tend to go to the One Monte Carlo and the luxury boutiques”, rues Alexandra Rinaldi, president of the Rocher shopkeepers’ association.

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The manager of the “Les 5 saveurs” shop says the verdict is clear: “you can no longer see the impact on Monaco-Ville when a boat docks in Monaco. And I think the La Condamine district is even harder hit, because the advantage that we have on the Rocher is that we get the cruise passengers who come from Villefranche [editor’s note: town on the Côte d’Azur where the biggest liners can berth, such as the Odyssey of the Seas, which can hold up to 4,900 passengers] from Cannes, Menton or Savona in Italy, thanks to the buses that systematically make a stop here.”

Another significant change this season: the cruise period has been curtailed from the beginning of April to mid-November, which should cut down greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the number of cruise passengers in the Principality, by a third. But as you can see, it’s difficult to keep everyone happy.

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