The gigantic Harmony of the Seas in Palma last summer. | G. Alomar

Balearic ports, as they normally are, ranked second in Spain last year for the number of cruise passengers. The figure for the ports is always a combined one, which isn't the case in the Canaries. Although the Balearics ports were second, there was an eight per cent decrease in passengers in 2016 down to a total of 1.95 million.

Barcelona, as always, led the way with 2.68 million passengers. This made it not only Spain's busiest port but also the busiest in Europe and the fourth busiest in the world. The number for Palma alone was 1.72 million.

A new record was set last year for the total number of cruise passengers at Spain's ports. The figure of 8.7 million was up by 0.6% over 2015; 68% of all passengers were at ports in the Mediterranean.

Forecasts suggest that cruise passenger numbers will continue to grow by up to three per cent per annum. By 2020, it is anticipated that Spain's ports will handle some 9.5 million passengers. According to information from the International Association of Cruise Lines, the contribution of cruise shipping to the Spanish economy has risen by 22.5% since 2008.

There will be a strong Spanish presence at next week's Seatrade Cruise Global trade fair in Fort Lauderdale. Ports authorities and others will be represented under the slogan - Blue Carpet: Step into Spain through world class ports. The Balearic Ports Authority will be one of those represented.