Abu Dhabi will reopen to cruises on September 1st, more than 17 months after it was forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however the first cruises aren’t due until October.
The reopening of Abu Dhabi to cruise tourism brings the city in-line with Dubai, which reopened to cruises in late 2020. No cruise ships homeported in the city during the 2020/21 cruise season, however, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We are delighted to welcome all cruise liners back to Abu Dhabi after a challenging year,” said Ali Al Shaiba, Executive Director of Tourism and Marketing at DCT Abu Dhabi.
“This comes as part of the efforts to enliven the Emirate’s tourism sector after the impressive results we have achieved in combatting the spread of the pandemic, and yet another step towards strengthening the UAE capital’s position as a world-class hub for maritime tourism,” he added.
Abu Dhabi welcomed 500,000 cruise tourists during the 2018/2019 cruise season, which was its busiest year on record, representing a 46% increase on the previous year.
Alongside Dubai, where most cruise ships homeport during the Arabian Gulf winter cruise season, the city had expected to welcome almost 1-million cruise tourists during the 2019/2020 cruise season, but that was cut short by the emergence of the pandemic.
Abu Dhabi, along with Dubai and all cruise ports globally, was forced to suspend operations as a precautionary measure.
Following the roll out of a robust vaccination drive nationally, the UAE is now one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, and has reopened to fully vaccinated international tourists, the cruise sector is one of the last to reopen.
“We are well prepared to receive and welcome vaccinated visitors to the UAE’s capital once again and are excited to see the resumption of cruise activities at both Zayed Port and Sir Bani Yas Island,” said Noura Rashed Al Dhaheri, Managing Director – Cruise Business, Abu Dhabi Ports.
As part of its reopening, Abu Dhabi Ports, which operates the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal in Port Zayed, has implemented a number of health and safety protocols.
All passengers will need to undergo PCR testing before boarding, while the cruise terminal will be sterilized frequently, with social distancing and mask mandates in effect.
There will also be “a comprehensive emergency response plan for handling positive cases within the terminal,” according to Al Dhaheri.
The reopening of the city to cruise tourism comes amid a number of landmark tourism projects.
These include Al Qana, the 2.4- kilometre canal project, Waterfront of Al Qana, near the Grand Canal, the largest aquarium in the Middle East, the world’s first Warner Bros Hotel, and Snow Abu Dhabi – the world’s largest indoor snow park at 11,660 square metres.
The first cruise ship due to call in Abu Dhabi this year is Mein Schiff 6, which will dock in Port Zayed on October 28th, 2021 during her first roundtrip Dubai cruise of the winter cruise season.
While AIDA Cruises, MSC Cruises, TUI Cruises and Costa Cruises have all confirmed they’ll be homeporting in Dubai this coming cruise season (and calling Abu Dhabi on each Arabian Gulf itinerary), only AIDA and MSC will be offering Abu Dhabi as a homeport as well.
MSC Opera will cruise roundtrip from Abu Dhabi on 7-night cruises to Dubai, Muscat and Sir Bani Yas Island (the only island cruise destination in the Gulf), while AIDA Cruises will be sending its brand new mega cruise ship AIDAnova to the UAE’s capital.
The 180,000-gross ton cruise ship, capable of carrying 5,200 passengers, will cruise from Abu Dhabi to Muscat and Dubai, staying overnight in all three ports.
Both vessels will also be offering Dubai as a homeport for the winter cruise season in the Arabian Gulf.