Amsterdam to Bar Cruise Ships From Central Terminal

Amsterdam to Bar Cruise Ships From Central Terminal

Europe|Amsterdam to Cruises: ‘Party Time Is Over’

The Dutch capital will stop cruise ships from docking in the city center as part of a campaign to curb pollution and reduce the flow of tourists.

A multistory cruise ship docked on a waterway in central Amsterdam.
A cruise ship at the passenger terminal in central Amsterdam last year.Credit…Hugo Kurk/Alamy

Isabella Kwai

Amsterdam will bar cruise ships from docking in the city center as part of a broader effort to curb pollution and reduce the large numbers of tourists who visit the Dutch capital.

The City Council passed a proposal on Thursday to close a terminal where more than a hundred cruise ships dock each year not far from the central train station.

“The motivation of the proposal from the City Council was to reduce the number of tourists, but also for environmental reasons,” Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, Hester van Buren, said in a statement on Friday. The municipality has not yet determined when the change will take effect.

The cruise ship measure was the latest attempt by Amsterdam to cap the number of visitors and crack down on bad behavior as the tourism industry has rebounded, addressing residents’ longstanding grievances linked to overcrowding and rowdy tourists. Last year, the city drew about 20 million visitors and in 2021, close to nine million tourists came either for a day trip or overnight, according to city data.

To appease the city’s 900,000 residents, the local government this spring introduced a raft of new measures aimed at sending a message to disruptive tourists to behave or stay away. It has banned the smoking of marijuana on the streets of its popular red-light district, mandated earlier closing hours for cafes and restaurants and prostitution businesses, and banned the sale of alcohol in stores after 4 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday.

The city also released an ad campaign in March aimed at British men age 18 to 35, threatening fines for those who come to the city for a “messy night.”

“Amsterdam prides itself on being a very open and tolerant city,” said Ko Koens, a professor of new urban tourism at Inholland University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam. But residents felt that the open attitude was being abused by tourists.

Covid showed residents how quiet the city could be, he said, adding that Amsterdam wanted to send a message: “Party time is over.”

Amsterdam’s central cruise terminal has welcomed more than 3.8 million passengers and 2,100 ships since it opened in 2000, according to its website.

Dick de Graaff, managing director of Cruise Port Amsterdam, said they had noted that the council no longer wanted sea cruises at the terminal’s current location. But details were still unclear on when that measure would be implemented and on the process of searching for a new location. “There is certainly no immediate ban on ships — let alone an immediate closure of the terminal,” he said in a statement. “It is business as usual.”

One report by the environmental consultancy CE Delft found that a ship that docked in Amsterdam, the Marella Discovery, emitted the same amount of nitrogen oxide pollutants as 30,000 trucks.

“The polluting cruise does not match the sustainable ambitions of our city,” said Ilana Rooderkerk, leader of the centrist D66 party, which pushed the cruise ship proposal. The city also wanted to build a new bridge to connect a developing district in the north with the rest of the city. But that plan was hampered by the cruise terminal.

“In other words, Amsterdam sails better without the cruise,” she said.

City residents take a dim view of cruise ship tourists, who come in large groups for short visits that do not generate as much for local businesses as those who stay longer, Professor Koens said.

“The Venice scenario is what every city fears,” he said.

Venetian officials have worried in the past about the impact of day-trippers from cruise -ships, who locals say have threatened the city’s identity. In 2021, Italy banned large cruise ships from the lagoon around Venice’s historic center to protect it from mass tourism, but have not yet built a new dock to replace it.

Officials in other popular European cities, like Barcelona, are also fighting to limit the numbers of cruise ship tourists disembarking on their shores.

Amsterdam is less economically dependent on tourism than other popular cities, and is hoping that being more selective about the visitors it attracts will prevent overcrowding that could threaten it several years down the line.

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