Murmansk and Arkhangelsk fail to attract foreign cruise vessels

Cruise ship passengers at Alosha statue in Murmansk. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
A new 206-meters long quay and newly renovated port facilities in the central harbor of Murmansk will be far from overcrowded this summer. Only six cruise ships will make port calls to what Russia brands as the «Gateway to the Arctic.»

Three years ago, foreign cruise vessels made 13 port calls to Murmansk, bringing more than 10,000 visitors. While the ships in 2015 had to dock at the remote and messy fishery port, today’s passengers can disembark in the central harbor next to the nuclear powered icebreaker «Lenin» which nowadays serves as a museum.

Also – and maybe more important – cruise vessel passengers can visit Murmansk without a holding a Russian visa, as long as they do not overstay the 72-hours visa-freedom stipulated for Murmansk in a decree signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev 2016.

Regional authorities in Murmansk said in a statement at the time «the successful implementation of projects for passenger port infrastructure for the tourism market enables Murmansk to become one of the most unique cruise and ferry points.»

Biggest ship scheduled for July 11th

2018-season starts with «Braemar» on June 21. A week later, «Pacific Princess» arrives. The largest cruise vessel this summer is «Pullmantur Zenith» coming to Murmansk on July 11. The ship can take up to 1,789 people. The three other vessels are «Oceania Nautica» on July 8, «Seven Seas Navigator» on August 9 and «Marco Polo» on August 30. All vessels will just stay in port for half a day.

The 206-meters long pier with design cobblestones is ready to open the gate for passengers without visa to Russia. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Arkhangelsk was the second port in the Russian north that got 72-hours visa freedom for foreigners arriving on board cruise vessels or ferries. This season, however, the only three foreign passenger ships to visit Arkhangelsk are both staying in Russian waters for more than 72-hours, since their voyages includes Murmansk and Solovki in the White Sea.

«Oceania Nautica» will come to Solovki on July 10 and Arkhangelsk the day after. «Marco Polo» – a well known visitor to the White Sea region – arrives in Arkhangelsk on August 28. «Seven Seas Navigator» will sail the White Sea in mid-August and include port calls to both Solovki and Arkhangelsk.

A priority for economic development

Like in Murmansk, also Arkhangelsk regional authorities highlights tourism and visits by cruise vessels as a priority for economic development in the region.

The monastery at Solovki in the White Sea is a highlight for visitors to northern Russia. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

All cruise ships sailing in to Russian waters in the north this summer are arriving from, and departing to Northern Norway or Svalbard.

Northern Norway gets a boost with 20 percent more visitors in 2018 compared with last cruise season, Nord24 reports. In total, 480,000 passengers are on board the vessels making 456 port calls at different harbors in the north. Most popular are Lofoten, Tromsø, North Cape and Svalbard.

72-hours visa-freedom does not help much. Here, a cruise vessel at port in Arkhangelsk with immigration control. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Hurtigruten, the largest cruise-liner in Norway, recently announced two voyages to Russia’s Franz Josef Land in 2019. En route from Tromsø, the vessel will make port call to Murmansk both ways.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Cruise through Northwest Passage has set sail, Blog by Mia Bennett

Finland: Could an underwater tunnel connect Estonia to Finland by train?, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: A cruise ship bound for the North Pole, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Aviation company considering a Murmansk-Oslo direct flight, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Northwest Passage cruise marks turning point in Arctic tourism, Alaska Public Radio Network

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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