Explorer Of The Seas, one of the mega cruise ships to have come to Palma. | G. Alomar

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The Balearic tourism minister, Biel Barceló, has asked the Balearic Ports Authority and cruise-ship operators to avoid a repetition of what occurred on 5 May when there were eight cruise ships docked in Palma. This led, Barceló notes, to overcrowding in Palma city centre.

The minister made this request at the most recent meeting with CLIA Europe, the cruise-liners' association, at which Majorca's Chamber of Commerce and the Palma 365 Foundation were also represented. Referring to the eight ships in early May, Barceló says that these gave a sense of the city being overwhelmed, especially because of a concentration of ships in a relatively limited timeframe. "We must regulate in order that there are no more than four ships. I have let the operators know this."

However, the response from the cruise industry has not been what the government would like to hear. It is not about to accept the limit, Barceló adding that the operators are interested only in the volume of people that they move and so do not appreciate the problem of overcrowding in the old part of Palma. "What we ask is that there is more organisation and distribution of stopovers during a weekly period. The ports authority has been more receptive to this, despite the investments that have been made to attract more of the cruise-ship market share.

Barceló says that he understands that this is an industry driven by supply and demand, but insists that, above all, there is sustainable development of Palma as a cruise-tourism destination. This, he argues, requires greater planning in order to avoid overcrowding.

The minister welcomes moves by the town hall to take cruise passengers to different parts of Palma rather than their all leaving the port from the same spot and following much the same route. He points out that there has been no study to determine what would be an ideal number of passengers and so accepts that the figure of four ships is subjective. "But there has to be planning. The cruise ships are getting larger and so is the number of passengers."

Although the government would like there to be some sort of daily limit, Barceló stresses that the government has nothing against cruise tourism. It recognises that it has an economic impact, and so is a strategic tourism sector, but it is looking for some rationality.

On Monday, the largest cruise ship of all, the Harmony Of The Seas, will be docking in Palma.