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New holiday cruises to Corfu

- by Dabs Banner

Holidays cruises to Corfu could get busier with new cruise ship and ferry routes opening up to port resorts in Italy.

The Corfu Port Authority (CPA) is set to relaunch the Corfu to Italy coastal shipping route in the summer of 2015 with new sailings to the southern Italian port of Brindisi in the Apulia region on the Adriatic coast.

New cruise holiday routes will also be opened up to the Italian Adriatic port resorts of nearby Bari and the eastern seaport of Ancona, not far from Rome.

On top of this talks on a new route from Venice to Corfu are also under way and, if it gets the go-ahead, is expected to attract many more visitors from Italy and Northern Europe.

Starting a Greek island holiday from Italy, with a ferry or cruise crossing of the Adriatic is already a popular option for many holidaymakers.

In fact, the most common way to travel between Italy and Greece is by ferry across the Adriatic Sea with several Italian ports to choose from to take a ferry to Greece, Croatia, and many other Mediterranean destinations.

Brindisi is already the Italian port most commonly used to catch a ferry to Greece as it offers the most travel options.

Frequent ferries leave Brindisi for the Greek islands of Corfu and Kefalonia then on to the mainland Greek ports of Igoumenitsa, and Patras.

Brindisi is located at the 'heel' of the Italian boot and it's the most southern Italian ferry port.

It's possible for cruise holiday passengers to reach Corfu from Brindisi in under seven hours with departures throughout the day.

Bari is also in southern Italy and holiday visitors can catch a ferry here to Corfu, Igoumenitsa, and Patras as well as Dubrovnik, Split, and other ports in Croatia.

Most Bari ferries leave in the evening and have sleeping cabins. The fastest ferries travel between Bari and Corfu in about eight hours.

Bari's ferry port is close to the resort's historic centre, centro storico, which is a pleasant place to explore before the ferry leaves.

Ancona is in central Italy and is probably the most convenient port for a ferry to Corfu if you don't want to travel overland to the southern Italian ports, but the sea journeys are much longer.

Ancona ferries go to Igoumenitsa and Patra. with journey times to the former taking 15 to 20 hours and for travel to Patras it's more like 20-23 hours.

The ferries from Venice will probably take around 24 hours to reach Corfu and longer to get to Igoumenitsa and Patras. Ferries usually leave Venice in the evening and sail overnight.

More cruise ship visitors for 2015

Corfu tourist leaders are confident that new ferry services will bring in plenty more visitors in 2015.

Port authorities are already boasting 370 slots already booked by large-capacity cruise ships for next year and are confident of even more booking from smaller cruise operators.

Earlier this month the docking of the Costa Fascinosa cruise ship in Corfu officially marked the end of the tourist season for the Ionian island port.

Tourism officials are pleased with visitor figures this year despite the difficult economic conditions in Greece and the unstable political situation in the wider east European region.

According to latest figures a total of 672,000 cruise passengers visited Corfu with around 72.000 passengers staying in Corfu for their holidays in 2014.

Corfu Port Authority figures show a high occupancy rate of berths in the port this year at 90.3% compared to 87.5 % in 2013 and 86% in 2012.

The majority of ship passengers visiting Corfu were from the UK with a total of 145,353 passengers or 22.8% of total boat traffic, followed by the Italians with 112,554 passengers (17.7%) and the Germans with 6,489 (10%).

One of the most encouraging signs for Corfu tourism officials was the growing upward trend to cruise and other ship passenger arrivals throughout the year with November notching up one of its highest rates with 18 cruise ships berthing in Corfu post being 30,871 cruise passengers.

Although port activity in Corfu was down overall for the year, port officials say this was expected given the difficult economic times for the Greek economy.

Overall cruise visits dipped for the whole year with 85 fewer cruise ships docking at Corfu, down 17%, and a fall of 10% on the 709,000 passengers that arrived in 2013.