Middle East Cruise News

Abu Dhabi and Fujairah see massive cruise call growth in 2019 as lines discover GCC

Abu Dhabi Ports saw a significant increase in cruise passengers in the first half of the year, with the total number increasing from 237,169 in the first half of 2018 to 321,277 for the same period this year.

The 35% jump in cruise tourism numbers is a result of more cruise ships calling more often at Abu Dhabi’s Port Zayed and Sir Bani Yas Island, as well as Fujairah (a port in another emirate, but still operated by Abu Dhabi Ports).

“Total cruise ship calls grew from 93 during the same period last year to 129 for the first half of 2019,” says Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports.

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“Fujairah’s cruise passenger numbers almost tripled from 5,931 to 14,441,” he added.

Abu Dhabi Ports attributes the significant rise in passenger numbers to investment in cruise facilities at the three terminals, as well as strategic partnerships with organisations such as Etihad Airways.

Currently only three of the eight cruise lines homeporting in the UAE use Abu Dhabi as a turnaround port (MSC, Costa and AIDA), with Dubai remaining the most popular embarkation port according to MSC Cruises.

However, Abu Dhabi Ports hopes that investment in infrastructure will change that.

Abu Dhabi Ports has invested in streamlining the fly-cruise experience for passengers boarding cruise ship in the UAE capital, with check-in desks for Etihad flights at the cruise terminal itself.

“Abu Dhabi Ports has invested heavily in developing state-of-the-art cruise infrastructure facilities. Our streamlined check-in services further cement our commitment to deliver distinctive services for cruise passengers in our facilities,” says Noura Rashed Al Dhaheri, Cruise Terminal Manager at Abu Dhabi Ports.

Abu Dhabi’s new Cruise Terminal as seen from aboard a cruise ship

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The tripling of cruise tourism numbers for Fujairah is largely a result of luxury cruise line’s growing interest in ‘off the grid’ cruise destinations in the Middle East, rather than any investment in cruise infrastructure.

Fujairah does not have a dedicated cruise terminal and cruise ships dock at commercial quays, with passengers provided free shuttle busses to the port entrance and into town.

However, the city, which has always been a popular getaway destination for Dubai residents, has now been discovered by Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea, all of whom called at the port several times during the most recent cruise season.

Even Norwegian Cruise Line will be calling in Fujairah during its coming port calls to the region aboard Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Spirit in 2019 and 2020.

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