MSC Cruises has downsized its Dubai cruise program for the 2020/21 Middle East cruise season, with just one ship homeporting in the Arabian Gulf, but its two-ship plans for South Africa remain in place.
Instead of sending MSC Seaview and MSC Lirica to Dubai for the winter season between November, 2020 and March, 2021, MSC Cruises instead will have just one ship homeporting in the region, MSC Fantasia.
A sister ship to MSC Splendida, which homeported in Dubai the cruise season before last, Fantasia remains one of the largest cruise ships ever to cruise roundtrip from the UAE, she just isn’t quite as cool as MSC Seaview.
MSC Fantasia will offer seven-night itineraries from Dubai, visiting Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, as well as Bahrain and Doha, following a broadly similar itinerary to that of MSC Splendida in 2018 and MSC Bellissima in 2019.
On the final night of each cruise, she’ll stay overnight in Dubai, giving passengers more time to explore the city.
“Our winter program sees us offering cruises in all of the regions of the world where we traditionally operate, and while there are some updates to the original planned deployment of specific ships, we are still able to offer our main itineraries so that guests can enjoy the holiday that they booked with us,” said Gianni Onorato, CEO, MSC Cruises.
The updated itineraries bring to a pause MSC Cruises’ rapid growth in the Middle East market. During the most recent cruise season, which was interrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic, the cruise line homeported the largest ship in its fleet, MSC Bellissima, in Dubai.
While MSC Cruises has scaled back its Middle East cruise deployment, its published cruise itineraries for the South African season remain unchanged.
The smaller MSC Opera will also operate her planned itinerary from Cape Town.
This was billed as MSC Cruises biggest ever South African cruise season, so it’s good to see it looking set to bounce back strong from the Coronavirus lockdown, assuming local restrictions on cruise ships are lifted.
MSC Cruises still plans to homeport Bellissima’s sister ship MSC Virtuosa in Dubai next year though, so Dubai will bounce back too, just a little later.