Amsterdam Votes to Ban Large Cruise Ships From City Center—What This Means for Upcoming Cruises

The decision is part of a larger effort to reduce visitors and climate change–inducing emissions.

Small boats lined up along docks and buildings beside the waterfront in Amsterdam

Planning to cruise through Amsterdam in the near future? Read on for the latest.

Photo by Alessandra Easterth/Unsplash

Amsterdam’s city council voted this week to put an end to large cruise ships sailing into the heart of the city. “The polluting cruise does not match the sustainable ambitions of our city,” Ilana Rooderkerk, leader of the centrist D66 party that put the proposal forward, said in a statement. “In addition, cruise ships in the city center do not fit into Amsterdam’s assignment to reduce the number of tourists.”

The proposal, which was adopted by a large majority in the city council on Thursday, aims to close down the ocean cruise terminal near Amsterdam’s central rail station and move it further from the city to an undetermined location. No clear timeline has been set, however, and Cruise Port Amsterdam, which operates the terminal, said it is waiting for more information regarding next steps.

“There is certainly no immediate ban on ships, let alone an immediate closure of the terminal,” Dick de Graaff, director of Cruise Port Amsterdam, said in a statement sent to AFAR. He added that the cruise port is expecting to welcome 125,000 cruise ship passengers this year, and 175,000 cruise ship passengers next year.

“The city’s executive branch still needs to work out the details and it was unclear when the measure might be implemented. No year has been mentioned,” said de Graff. For now, he said, “It is business as usual at the terminal.” Cruise Port Amsterdam also operates the river cruise terminals near the city center, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether those docks would need to move as well.

The current cruise terminal was built in 2000 and cost around 40 million euros to build, according to Cruise Port Amsterdam. A few weeks before the city council’s decision, the city had approved the installation of shore power connections for ocean and river cruise ships that are expected to be operational by 2025.

“As the port has publicly stated, cruise ships have not been banned from Amsterdam,” said Sally Andrews, vice president of strategic communications and public affairs in North America for the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents the majority of the world’s cruise companies.

According to CLIA, of the more than 21 million visitors that Amsterdam receives each year, about 1 percent arrive by cruise ship, with cruise tourism contributing around 105 million euros to the city annually.

Discussions about moving the ocean cruise terminal in Amsterdam date back to 2016, but according to D66’s Rooderkerk, the plan can no longer wait.

“The climate crisis is no longer a distant prospect, we are in the middle of it,” stated Rooderkerk. “To achieve a sustainable and livable future, we must act now. Allowing hugely polluting cruise ships in the heart of the city does not fit in with that. It is time for action, because the climate will not wait.”

Amsterdam’s decision follows a similar move implemented in Venice, Italy, in 2021, when authorities decided to ban ocean cruise ships weighing more than 25,000 tons or longer than 530 feet from entering Venice’s fragile lagoon. “As a result, sulfur emissions have fallen by 80 percent” in Venice, stated Rooderkerk.

Amsterdam’s campaign to reduce “nuisance tourists”

The move to ban cruise ships from docking in the center of the city is the latest in a string of efforts Amsterdam has undertaken to rein in overtourism. Earlier this year, Amsterdam launched a campaign entitled “Stay Away” against what it called “nuisance tourism.”

“This online discouragement campaign is aimed at nuisance tourists who want to visit Amsterdam to ‘go wild’, with all the ensuing consequences,” the city said in a statement announcing the campaign. It initially targeted 18- to 35-year-old males in Great Britain with the aim of expanding to other “potential nuisance-causing visitors from the Netherlands and other EU countries.”

Amsterdam “is already taking lots of measures against excessive tourism and nuisance . . . but we have to do even more the coming years if we want to give tourism a sustainable place in our city,” Amsterdam’s deputy mayor, Sofyan Mbarki, stated when the campaign was unveiled.

The Netherlands capital also launched a “How to Amsterdam” campaign aimed at educating visitors who are already in the city about what kind of behavior is acceptable and which acts are forbidden, such as being drunk and disorderly, creating excessive noise, and buying drugs from street dealers. The city has also placed on a ban on smoking cannabis in public and has reduced alcohol sales in some areas of the city center.

“Visitors will remain welcome, but not if they misbehave and cause nuisance,” Mbarki said. “In that case we as a city will say: ‘rather not, stay away.’”

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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