Cruise operators could co-ordinate itineraries including calls to ports in Europe as they already do in Alaska to ease the pressure on popular destinations.

Adam Goldstein, vice chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises and global chairman of industry body Clia told ITB Berlin last week that cruise is ‘very visible’ in these sensitive places.

He said cruise must put leadership, stewardship and partnership at the heart of its policies to operate sustainably and dispersing the impact of its activities on local communities.

Goldstein said although the prevailing legal opinion has been that competing operators cannot collaborate on itineraries, in Alaska a process is in place in which they do.

Conflict resolution meetings between lines see them agree when operators’ ships can visit Alaskan ports to mitigate the impact of the sector on the region.

“It was fine from a legal point of view, so we have thought why should it be that Alaska is the only place that has that, let’s see how we can reflect that sort of approach elsewhere.

“We are starting [to do this]. That’s where we are. This is a new thing that will mature over the next five to ten years.

“In Alaska now it’s a very mature process that every cruise line understands and there has to be some give and take.”

The focus on cruise’s impact on ports has been particularly acute in certain much-visited destinations in Europe like Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik.

Goldstein said the sector’s role is “very visible” in these coastal communities because of the physical nature of its ships but that cruise has a responsibility to address concerns about so-called ‘overtourism’.

“The industry visits more than 1,000 destinations,” he said, “and the implication of all that is opportunity. But the world around us has changed. It’s a different place.

“The word I want to focus on is sustainability. If you aspire, as we have, to become a mainstream vacation presence then you are going to have to marry up opportunity with sustainability.”

Goldstein said cruises’ relationship with destinations was “most crucial” and, citing Dubrovnik, conceded that until recently the sector did not have the engagement it should with the authorities there.

He said the industry has changed this after learning from a newspaper article that the mayor of Dubrovnik had decided to limit the number of ship visits to the Croatian city port.

The mayor said too many vessels were visiting the destination on the same days of the week and arriving at the same time on those days.

“He said can we do something about that,” Goldstein said, “and we said yes we can get more dispersion around days of the week and hours of the day.

“Now we have got to the point where the mayor has become an advocate for how the cruise sector and a city like this can collaborate and find solutions for tourism impact challenges.”

Goldstein said negative press coverage of the potential negative impact of the cruise industry is especially prevalent in Europe.

But he said there was no point blaming the media and that the sector needs to “tell our story in the best way we know how” about how advances in ship technology are addressing its environmental impact.

Goldstein said the vast majority of the destinations cruise ships visit would want more business if they could have it.

“In the Caribbean destinations are basically desperate for more business in the summer time.

“Even in Europe there are destinations that would very much like to have more business, but there are probably 10 or 20 that are really well known for the pressures of tourism on them.

“In most of those cases if there were no ships coming to them almost all of those tourism pressures would still exist.

“On most days of the year there are no cruise ships there and yet they still have all these challenges they have to meet.”