Middle East Cruise News

Saudi Arabia boosts cruise plans with port and shore excursion experts for Cruise Saudi

Saudi Arabia continues to expand its Cruise Saudi executive team as it pushes to establish the country as a new cruise destination within the Middle East market.

Cruise Saudi has hired former Royal Caribbean and Intercruises executives to develop its shore excursion offerings and cruise port infrastructure as it pushes to join Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other regional cruise hotspots.

Saudi Arabia is looking to turn its Red Sea coast into a cruise tourism hotspot

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Barbara Grabenweger, who previously worked for Royal Caribbean Group and ITM-Group Mexico, and Serafin Blazquez, who worked for Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services & Global Ports Holding, will lead the creation and implementation of services for the Cruise Saudi port and shore excursion network.

They bring a combined 30 years of experience to Cruise Saudi, joining Mark Robinson, previously of Global Ports Holding & Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services, and Miguel Reyna, previously of Royal Caribbean Group, who will lead business growth and oversee asset development for Cruise Saudi.

“I am delighted that Barbara and Serafin are joining our team,” said Chief Commercial & Operations Officer for Cruise Saudi, Mark Robinson. “Their expertise in both shorex and ports operations will be extremely valuable to the realization of the vision that Cruise Saudi plans to deliver to the cruise market.”

According to a press release from Cruise Saudi, the dual appointment “complements the team of cruise industry heavyweights dedicated to leading Cruise Saudi to become a prominent international operator”.

Barbara Grabenweger, who previously worked for Royal Caribbean Group and ITM-Group Mexico, and Serafin Blazquez, who worked for Intercruises Shoreside & Port Services & Global Ports Holding

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Both Grabenweger and Blazquez will focus on sustainability and innovation to create an optimal experience for all the stakeholders of Cruise Saudi port and shorex network, the release added.

Grabenweger will be responsible for developing the shore excursion product tailor made to specific cruise lines, as well as overseeing service delivery and consistency, while Blazquez will oversee development of Saudi Arabia’s cruise infrastructure.

According to Cruise Saudi, he will prioritize the preservation of the Red Sea’s environmental ecosystem and the integration of local communities within his port and terminal operational strategy.

Magha’er Shuaib ruins near Magna, Saudi Arabia are expected to be a popular shore excursion.

Cruise Saudi was launched at the end of January through the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, with the aim of developing cruise ports and terminals in several Saudi cities, as well as supporting ancillary sectors, such as shore excursions and tourist destinations.

The establishment of Cruise Saudi to build a local cruise sector in the Kingdom is part of awider plan by Riyadh to build a flourishing tourism sector in the country as part of its economic diversification away from oil and gas.

In April last year, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund acquired an 8.2% stake in Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise company, controlling around 45% of the global market.

The sizeable stake in the company will likely support Saudi Arabia’s efforts to encourage ships from across Carnival’s nine cruise brands to cruise to and from the country.

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