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No, Cruise Ships Are Not Banned from Amsterdam | Frommer's NAN728 / Shutterstock

No, Cruise Ships Are Not Banned from Amsterdam

Another week, another inaccurate travel headline that seems designed for clicks.

In recent days, you might have read that Amsterdam's city council has outlawed cruise ships. BBC News: Amsterdam bans cruise ships to limit visitors and curb pollution. People: Another Major City Has Just Banned Cruise Ships.

While there might be some very good reasons to eliminate cruise ship traffic from the intimate heart of the famous Dutch city, it's not happening anytime soon.

In fact, according to Amsterdam's director of cruise ports, 114 ships are expected to arrive in the city in 2023, and 130 more are coming in 2024. You could be on one of them, if you like. 

How can that be if cruise ships have been banned, as the travel press said?

It's because the council vote cited in the news reports was only a recommendation. The vote did not actually effectuate a ban.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), an industry group, is furious about the erroneous reporting, going so far as to issue a rebuke: "We are aware of the media reports about the future of cruise in Amsterdam. As the port has publicly stated, cruise ships have not been banned from Amsterdam," the statement read in part. "Furthermore, the port and Passenger Terminal Amsterdam have already pledged to undertake investments worth millions of Euros in port infrastructure and shoreside electricity for the long-term."

CLIA minimized the government vote as being merely "the views expressed by Council members." 

The Dutch council vote wasn't binding, but the tide is turning against the presence of giant cruise ships in the heart of Amsterdam (pictured above in 2016).

When big cruise ships dock in the old city, they must thread their way along a long waterway known as the IJ, which historically had to accommodate much, much smaller vessels. Seeing the multi-deck behemoths of the modern cruise industry tower like moving skyscrapers above the city's delicate sixteenth-century townhouses and church spires can be jarring, and watching these ships swivel within the tight channel so they can depart again can be downright harrowing. 

And it's also true that historic places around the world are feeling less welcoming to the environmental stress, overcrowding, and unsightly scenes that huge ships can bring. After experiencing some ugly accidents, Venice, Italy, banned the ships from entering the heart of the city. And the citizens in Key West, Florida, won a public referendum to ban the largest vessels—a vote that Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Republican colleagues found a way to ignore.

But getting rid of cruise ships also means forfeiting income, both for the town or for well-connected politicos, and in cases where cities decide to find more appropriate docks farther away, it takes time to figure out alternate arrangements. Amsterdam's council vote is significant in that signals a strong public shift and therefore a start to that process, but change will require new infrastructure that will take years to achieve. 

So contrary to news reports, you may get on a cruise ship to Amsterdam anytime you wish. Whether you want to, knowing how the locals feel about it, is another question. 

Amsterdam as seen from the 15th deck of the 20-deck Norwegian Prima in 2022