Middle East Cruise News

Capacity in Middle East cruise market sees largest-ever year-on-year increase

The Middle East cruise market, based primarily out of Dubai, and the Indian sector, based primarily out Mumbai, has seen the largest-ever capacity increase in a single year, with a year-on-year jump of 63.5% according to the 2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report.

The Middle East and Indian Ocean cruise market is growing at it’s most rapid pace when it comes to year-over-year percentage increases primarily due to new homegrown entrants to the market (Jalesh Cruises) and cruise line’s homeporting ever-larger cruise ships in Dubai.


MSC Splendida in port in the Middle East (she will be replaced for the coming season with the even larger MSC Bellissima)

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Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises and AIDA Cruises have all recently increased tonnage and capacity in the Dubai cruise market.

Costa Cruises are replacing Mediterranea with the much larger Costa Diadema for the coming cruise season, MSC Cruises is replacing MSC Splendida with its largest cruise ship MSC Bellissima, and AIDA Cruises last year switched out AIDAvita with AIDAprima.

In addition to this, the coming cruise season will see the return of Jalesh Cruises, the new homegrown Indian cruise line homeporting Karnika in Dubai from October, 2019 until early 2020, while Royal Caribbean will return to the Middle East for the first time since 2016 with Jewel of the Seas.

This has led to a 63.5 percent increase in guest capacity, year-over-year, with MSC Cruises leading the way as the biggest operator in the region.

Jalesh Cruises, under the ownership of Essel Group, launched its cruise program from Mumbai earlier this year aboard the Karnika, which it acquired from P&O Australia where it had been sailing as the Pacific Jewel.

Karnika’ at Mina Rashid

Karnika arriving at Dubai Cruise Terminal in Port Rashid

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Sailing short cruises from Mumbai, Jalesh is the only operator seriously in the Indian homeport market and sourcing locally, while other operators target India as a source market for fly-cruises.

Karnika has also been repositioned to the UAE for the summer, cruising roundtrip from Dubai between July and September this year.

Jalesh has stated it intends to operate a multi-vessel fleet, suggesting a more permanent homeporting operation in Dubai in the years to come.

Other cruise lines with strong seasonal Middle East programs out of Dubai include TUI, P&O, Pullmantur, Celebrity and Marella.

Both P&O and Pullmantur are new to the region, cruising their first ever cruise seasons during the season that concluded in March this year. Both have confirmed they will return for the coming 2019/2020 season.

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