Malta will welcome 510,000 cruise passengers by the end of 2014, with 269 cruise calls by December, according to the tourism minister.

Next year is set to beat that number with an expected 525,000 passengers from 270 calls from all cruise companies combined, said Edward Zammit Lewis last week.

Twenty-four ships in the MSC fleet will call at the island during 2015, bringing with them an estimated 57,558 people

The minister was speaking aboard the MSC Preziosa at the launch of the Hamilton Travel 2015 brochure and cruise fair, which ends today.

The Preziosa and its sister ship MSC Fantasia visited Grand Harbour on Monday carrying a total of 8,000 passengers.

Next year Maltese travellers will be able to embark and disembark on cruises from the island on the MSC Armonia.

Twenty-four other ships in the company’s fleet will call at the island during 2015, bringing an estimated 57,558 people. More than 318,000 cruisers visited Malta between January and September, an increase of 2.5 per cent compared with the same period of last year, the minister said.

During the first nine months of 2014, the number of passengers coming from France, Australia and Germany rose by 49, 39 and 16 per cent respectively when compared with same months in 2013.

Zammit Lewis said that the cruise sector has been evolving from just a port-of-call to one which, thanks primarily to major players in the industry, was a turn-around port as well as a home port.

With Malta’s position in the middle of the Mediterranean allowing multiple options for itineraries in the west and east, the industry’s outlook for the next two years was very positive, he said.

The cruise fair is open today from 2.30 to 6.30pm at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, Floriana. Entrance is free.

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