I just spent last week talking to tourism officials from many parts of the world at Cruise Shipping Miami, a convention and trade show where suppliers and ports show off their stuff for all the cruise lines that are located here in South Florida. A large portion of the show is technical displays by ship builders like Fincantieri, engine companies such as Rolls Royce and other companies that provide services to Cruise Lines. This isn’t why I go, but it is a lot of fun to walk around and see the huge displays and machines. Its a lot of engineers talking to cruise line executives about what their next ship will look like…pretty cool stuff.
Also there are the ports, large and small, unknown and popular. The world’s most popular ports are there making sure that they don’t lose their place. Miami and Fort Lauderdale had huge displays. New Orleans was giving out Mardi Gras beads and had a band playing some cool Orleans Rhythm and Blues. Actually the whole place is rocking, with Scottish bagpipes, South Pacific drum ensembles and other musical styles. And there are lots of ethnic nibbling foods and beverages. Belgium had chocolates and truffles. Greece had stuffed grape leaves and feta. Turkey had bowls of Turkish Delight. As always Spain had their great lunch with paella. And of course the French had wine. I had a wurst in the Germany pavilion.
This was my second year to go there to promote the site. It was really nice seeing the same people I met a year ago. Back then I had only a few pages and even less traffic. But now that things are really cooking, so naturally they were interested in the site. The ports are helping me select the best businesses to promote at their port. That was my main goal – to get the local experts to share their insider knowledge and help me make local connections.
Who did I talk to?
- I walked over to the Sicily booth and met Daniela Mezzatesta from Palermo for the first time. She found her colleagues, Maria Cristiana Laura from Messina and Valeria to sit down with me. Daniela shared her passion for her island’s wonderful food and gave me a wonderful picture book about the street food of Sicily. I couldn’t show my wife some of the pictures (Anthony Bourdain type items if you know what I mean!). Everyone I know who visits Sicily raves about it. I can’t wait to go back to see the places I haven’t been.
- In my search for someone to talk about Portofino, I found Silvio Ferrando from Genoa. “Why aren’t we talking about Genoa?” he asked me. Portofino is about 40 kilometers south and is a truly tiny place that only the smaller ships can go and they still have to anchor off shore. On the other hand, Genoa is one of Italy’s great cities, with an exciting history and a vibrant historic center. His was a good question. And I’ve been to Genoa, so I know what a great place it is. Silvio gave me some good insider tips about Portofino and Genoa, too. Did you know that Genovese (and Ligurian) are not considered Italian languages? Silvio’s father and uncle speak the local language and he can’t understand them when they are speaking the local language. That’s so different than the US. Silvio was extremely helpful and gave me some great suggestions and encouragement.
- I talked to a few ports outside the Med including my my favorite booth in the Middle East – Oman! It was good to see Nasser’s smiling face again. “Have you created a page for my Port Qaboos?” I had to confess I had not. “You must!” he told me. So I promised it would be very soon! Who could say NO to Nasser with his amazing smile and disarming manner. We discussed the special culture of Oman and how Omani trading ships have connected India, East Africa and the Middle East for centuries. I am looking forward to seeing him next year and being able to say YES this time. And perhaps a visit to Muscat is in my future!
- And of course there were my friends from Var, Delphine Beudin and Anne-Marie Blum. It was great to see how busy they were. This quieter part of the French Riviera offers famous St. Tropez and the big port city of Toulon, but also many lovely boutique ports such as Sanary-sur-Mer, Bandol and the scenic island of Porquerolles. These two have been cheerleaders for my website since I met them in Cannes in 2010. Delphine promotes all of Var’s ports and Ann-Marie is responsible for the Toulon airport and ports encouraging the lines to do turnarounds there. Var is a quieter part of the Provence Coast…a little slice of heaven where I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time.
- Sinop, Turkey is a lovely spot on the Black Sea I haven’t posted on the site yet. They have a few cruise stops each year. Tolga Ergun was there promoting Sinop and two smaller ports, Ordu and Giresun. Its a tough job to get the cruise lines attention even if you have an interesting place like Sinop to represent. Tolga made a strong impression talking his home with its Fortress Prison, the excellent archaeological museum and the stunning waterfalls not far away.
- My Venetian friend Fillipo Olivetti set up a meeting with Francesco from Venice, Anna from Ravenna and Antonio from Catania representatives who were very open to promoting their local businesses on my site.
One of the exciting things about Cruise Shipping Miami is seeing what new destinations are coming in the future. I went to Cruise Shipping Med in 2010 and discovered Igoumenitsa, an exciting destination in northwestern Greece very close to Corfu. From there cruisers have access to some wonderful attractions including Meteora. Thomas and Costas did a great job promoting the port and now Holland America has scheduled 2013 stops there. This week I met Konstantinos Tzovaras, the President of the Passenger Terminal.
The representatives from up-and-coming ports I met this week included Celal Ulas from Cesme, Turkey; Aykut Terzioglu from Izmir, Turkey; Olivier Costil from Brest, France; Antonio Tzagkarakis and Manioudaki Stella from Chania, Greece; Panagiotis Georgiadis (a former fighter pilot) from Kavala, Greece and Isabel Valdes Heugas from Gijon, Spain. These are all fascinating places already posted or soon to be posted on my site.
As many of you know, I love to read fiction from other cultures. I had a chance to talk with several representatives from Tura Turizm (the Turkish company building a much-needed new cruise port and terminal for Istanbul). One was Cigdem Oner who has a degree in English-language literature and talked about reading one of my favorite American authors, William Faulkner. She recommended Sait Faik when she heard I really enjoyed Orhan Pamuk’s book Snow.
That’s one of the great things about these shows…meeting people from around the world who share your passions. Whether its food, history, art, reading or shopping you can find someone who shares your interests. It’s not exactly travel, but it might be the next best thing. In 2013 it will be even better since I’ll have even more friends there!