mast destruction

Amsterdam is cracking down on cruise ships

The Dutch city is trying to limit tourism and pollution

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Only small boats allowed.
Only small boats allowed.
Photo: Eva Plevier (Reuters)

Amsterdam’s latest measure against out-of-control tourism and worsening pollution is closing down a cruise ship terminal in the city center. The Dutch city’s municipal council voted on Thursday (July 21) to restrict large ships from docking in the center with aims to eventually close the terminal, the BBC reported. The timeline and details of implementation are yet to be etched out.

The measure is set to tackle two issues at once. “The polluting cruise is not in line with Amsterdam’s sustainable ambitions,” said Ilana Rooderkerk, the local leader of the D66 party, which introduced the motion. “Cruise ships in the city center also do not fit in with the task of combating mass tourism.”


Amsterdam has had plans to close the cruise terminal since 2016. It already imposed a limit of 190 on the number of ocean cruise ships that are allowed to dock at the Amsterdam cruise terminal, and there is an investigation underway into the impact of river cruises, Amsterdam’s finance chief and deputy mayor Hester van Buren told local publiation NRC (link in Dutch). 

Another lens: A bridge that won’t let cruise ships pass

A ban on cruise ships would also enable the development of local infrastructure. D66, which runs the city with the social democrats PvdA and GroenLinks environmentalists, said plans for a new bridge connecting the city’s historic southern district and the more recently developed district north of the river IJ would be impossible to realise if cruise ship traffic was not halted, the Guardian reported.


The growing northern district is one of the few areas within the city’s limits with room to add housing stock, and the city wants to build the bridge to a height of just 30 feet for both cost and accessibility reasons.

Amsterdam tourism, by the digits

700,000: Cruise passengers the Amsterdam port hosts each year. Most tourists come to Schipol via cheap flights

20 million: The threshold Amsterdam has established for visitors in the city of a million residents. At the 18 million mark, the municipal executive is compelled to take action

23 million: How many tourists are estimated to visit Amsterdam in 2025

Quotable: Amsterdam’s “London” and “Venice” problems

“We have to tackle two problems. The first problem is what I’d call the London problem: Our city is becoming too expensive...Our second problem is the Venice problem: The people who live here become estranged especially in the city center, because it’s no longer part of their city. We have to find a new balance, in being a home for people from Amsterdam and at the same time welcoming international visitors and tourists.” Femke Halsema, Amsterdam’s mayor since 2018, speaking to Bloomberg in July 2022


A non-exhaustive list of Amsterdam remedying reckless over-tourism

🛍️ Banning new tourist shops in the city’s central Singel area and on all main streets reaching out to the edge of its Canal Belt.


🏡 Outright banning Airbnb and similar rental services from some busy districts, and setting time limits on others

🕤 Temporarily altering closing times for pubs, clubs, and restaurants in some areas


🌿 Banning marijuana smoking on the streets of the red light district

🥴 Launching a “How to Amsterdam” campaign seeking to warn tourists against “urinating in public, drunkenness, noise nuisance, and buying drugs from street dealers.”


Targeting young British men with the “Stay Away” campaign, warning those searching for getaways to Amsterdam of the “consequences of antisocial behaviour and excessive drug and alcohol abuse,” including fines, arrest, criminal records, hospitalisation, and health issues.

Place of interest: Venice, Italy

By banning cruise ships in the city center, Amsterdam is following in the footsteps of Venice. The Italian government in 2021 banned large cruise ships weighing over 25,000 tonnes in Venice’s historic lagoon to protect the site. Since then, Venice has seen cruise ship air pollutants drop by 80%.


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