Zeebrugge played host to Cruise Europe conference 2019

Last week the Port of Zeebrugge and Bruges/Brugge played excellent host to the Cruise Europe conference (CEC) 2019.

Held in the brand-new ABC-Tower/multipurpose terminal with AIDAmar alongside, vice president Port of Zeebrugge Rik Goetinck addressed the 180 attendees: “Big or small we all share in the same ambition: to consolidate and increase our cruise business, to create added value for our region. We need to keep abreast of current and future trends.

“The goal is to be hassle-free for passengers. Every port is a link in the chain so we must have equal standards. We are competitors but allies. Cooperation is nothing more than self-evident. Cruise Europe is that initiative.”

Each year the conference is held in a different port from within the association. Networking opportunities figure highly and the results are plain to see.

Disney Cruise Line will be calling Zeebrugge and Gothenburg for the first time in 2020. Russell Daya, executive director marine & port operations DCL, told CE that this was as a direct result of networking at CE events. Steven Young, vp port & shore operations P&O Cruises and Cunard, commented: “CE is a highlight of the year,” adding that meeting with, and learning about, different ports in the association does result in calling new destinations.

This year there are 150 calls and 400,000 passengers expected in the Belgian port which is just 20 minutes from Unesco world heritage Bruges.

Piet Vandenkerkhove, public relations Ports of Zeebrugge, and De Buck Travel, ably supported my CE managing director Jens Skrede, worked tirelessly to ensure an organised, efficient and faultless conference together with surrounding events.

The sun shone on those taking a guided walking tour from Grand Hotel Casselbergh, together with canal boat ride, of the medieval centre of Bruges. All the sights are easily accessible on foot but the ancient cobbled streets are best navigated in flat shoes as is The Belfry Tower with its 366 steps!

Some of us were lucky enough to visit chocolatier Dominique Persoone of The Chocolate Line who gave us an inspirational talk on his life and work interspersed with tasting chocolates as diverse as apero (with vodka, passion fruit and lime) and italiaanse javanais (with fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes and black olives).

Evening events took place in the Town Hall, Brewery Halve Maan, and the Bruges Concert Hall. The latter was accompanied by a stunning orchestra and soprano as well as a brilliant magician.

Next year Edinburgh will be hosting CEC 2020 in mid March.

(Cruise Europe)

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