You are currently viewing Analyzing Barcelona’s Cruise Traffic
Barcelona remains Europe's busiest cruise port

Barcelona is Europe’s busiest cruise destination. With about 2.9 million cruise passengers, the Spanish metropole is the start and end point for many Mediterranean cruises. Compared to last year, Barcelona will see an increase of 12 percent arriving cruise passengers. With so many passengers, Barcelona is even ranked as the fourth busiest cruise destination in the world.

  • Barcelona has 139 days where the number of expected cruise passengers exceeds 10,000.
  • Barcelona is Europe’s busiest cruise port & #4 in the world.
  • One ship, Costa Smeralda, sails to Barcelona each week of the year bringing over 6,000 passengers each time.
  • Costa Smeralda does a perpetual circle through the Western part of the Mediterranean.
  • The busiest cruise day of the week is Friday.
  • The busiest month is October followed by May.

In this blog we explore during what months and on what days Europe’s busiest cruise port will be at its busiest. We do this by analysing Barcelona’s daily cruise schedule. We also give an overview of the biggest cruise ships sailing to Barcelona in 2020. We only look at cruise ships carrying 500 passengers or more. Our methodology is explained below. Please note that we do not use official data published by port authorities but source our data ourselves. That allows us to not only look back put predict what will happen in Barcelona in 2020.

In total, 75 different cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in Barcelona in 2020. These 75 cruise ships will arrive a total of 735 times. When we sum up the maximum capacity of each ship on each arrival, we can calculate that Barcelona will be potentially visited by 2.92 million cruise passengers. The actual number will be slightly different as cruise itineraries can always change and we don’t know how many passengers are actually on board. That means that this number can go up or down slightly.

Barcelona monthly cruise arrivals

The graph below shows the number of predicted cruise passenger arrivals during each month of the year. The first thing to notice is that Barcelona welcomes cruise passengers each month of the year. There is also a clear peak season that lasts from April to November. Such a long cruise season is relatively new. In the past, arrivals outside the classic peak season (June to August) were much lower.

On average, Barcelona has 243,000 cruise passengers arriving each month. The busiest month of the year is outside the traditional peak season. In October 98 cruise arrivals are scheduled to arrive in Barcelona and bring an accumulated total of 372,000 passengers. This is only slightly lower than May, the second busiest month with 91 arrivals bringing 362,000 cruise passengers.

Cruise arrivals spread over the week

Similar to Venice, cruise arrivals are not evenly spread over the week. In Barcelona most cruise passengers arrive between (or on) Friday and Monday. Out of the 735 cruise arrivals in 2020 only 168 (or 22.9%) arrive on or between Tuesday and Thursday. The busiest day for Barcelona is Friday.

Barcelona busiest days

Barcelona has 139 days where the number of expected cruise passengers exceeds 10,000. On 78 of those days that number is even higher than 15,000 and on 23 days that number jumps even over 20,000 arriving cruise passengers. Only on two days in 2020 will there be more than 25,000 cruise ship passengers arriving in Barcelona. Those two days are August 28 and April 10. The overview below shows the busiest days of the year in Barcelona in 2020.

Rank Date Number of ships Sum of passengers
1 28.Aug 7 27801
2 10.Apr 6 26920
3 10.Jul 6 24566
4 07.Nov 5 24177
5 21.Aug 5 23061
6 08.May 5 22591
7 26.Jun 6 22424
8 14.Oct 6 22409
9 02.May 6 21896
10 18.Sep 5 21854
11 14.Aug 5 21854
12 23.Oct 5 21625
13 24.Jul 5 21170
14 09.Oct 5 21108
15 19.Sep 6 20726

Largest cruise ships sailing to Barcelona

Costa Smeralda does a perpetual circle through the Western part of the Mediterranean.

Below is an overview of the largest cruise ships sailing to Barcelona in 2020. The two largest ships both have a maximum capacity of 6.600 passengers but AIDAnova visits Barcelona much more often than Iona. Costa Smeralda, with a maximum capacity of 6,554 passengers, sails to Barcelona all year. The ship does a perpetual circle through the Western part of the Mediterranean. Passengers can hop on the round in Barcelona, Civitavecchia, Savona or Marseille. With a weekly arrival in Barcelona on Monday, this massive cruise ship brings in the most passengers.

Rank Ship Max capacity Barcelona arrivals Sum of cruise passengers
1 AIDAnova            6.600 30            198.000
2 Iona            6.600 3              19.800
3 Costa Smeralda            6.554 52            340.808
4 Allure Of The Seas            6.314 27            170.478
5 MSC Virtuosa            5.772 9              51.948
6 MSC Grandiosa            5.772 46            265.512
7 MSC Seaview            5.336 34            181.424
8 Norwegian Escape            5.218 2              10.436
9 Norwegian Epic            5.074 30            152.220
10 Anthem of the Seas            4.825 2                9.650
11 Norwegian Getaway            4.819 2                9.638
12 Costa Diadema            4.526 25            113.150
13 Britannia            4.406 12              52.872
14 Enchanted Princess            4.402 8              35.216
15 Carnival Radiance            4.375 5              21.875


Since it is just as important to know where the numbers come from as it is to look at the results, we want to give you insight in how we calculated the above statistics. For the first time this year, we collected all itineraries of cruise ships traveling to Europe in 2020. This data comes from websites where cruises are promoted. We then added the maximum number of cruise passengers to each arriving cruise ship so we can calculate the busiest cruise ports in Europe in 2020. Because we did the same analysis last year we are able to compare the cruise ports. Most of these cruise itineraries are fixed and will not change.

Our numbers are the sum of the maximum passenger capacity of each cruise ship each time that a ship arrives in port. We exclude all ships with less than 500 passengers. We also do not take crew members into consideration. As a result, our numbers might differentiate from official port authority numbers. If crew members are also taken into consideration, the numbers would be substantially higher.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that displayed data is based on our own research. All data in this blog are estimates and we cannot guarantee that they are correct. None of our numbers represent official port authority numbers and might differentiate substantially from any official publication.

For official numbers please contact port authorities.

In case a ship stays in port overnight, we take the passenger numbers for multiple days into consideration because the passengers usually leave their ship to go one shore (excursions). We are aware arrivals and departures will have an even bigger effect on crowds in a destination (people leaving and boarding the ships). However, we cannot estimate if the entire ship disembarks. Therefore, we only take the maximum capacity of a ship on any given day into consideration. For those destinations where people usually embark and disembark, such as Venice, Barcelona or Civitavecchia, crowds will be bigger than in other ports. Keep an eye on official cruise port websites for accurate information (eg. Barcelona).

Some new cruise itineraries will be announced later this year and some will be altered due to various reasons. Last year for example all ships planning on going to Amsterdam had to be changed. After the city introduced a cruise tax, many of those ships were diverted to IJmuiden and Rotterdam. This year it’s difficult to distinguish between cruise ships going to Amsterdam or to IJmuiden. Because they are so close to each other we consider them as one port, unless a cruise line specifically adds IJmuiden to its itinerary without mentioning Amsterdam. We will review our data on several occasions throughout the year. That means this overview be subject to some small changes throughout the year.

Leave a Reply