There has been a surge in bookings for Dubai cruises from Spanish cruise tourists after Madrid lifted a ban on international cruises and other travel restrictions on June 7th, 2021.
With the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Spain continuing to improve, restrictions on domestic tourism and international travel have been relaxed, including cruises.
Dubai is the primary cruise port in the Arabian Gulf, with five cruise lines homeporting here for the 2021/22 cruise season, sailing roundtrip cruises in the Gulf between November, 2021 and March, 2022.
However, it relies on international cruise tourists booking fly-cruise packages as the domestic cruise market makes up only around 10% of the almost 1-million cruise tourists that visited the UAE annually pre-pandemic.
Spain is one of the largest European cruise markets, alongside the UK, Italy, France and Germany, all five of which are major source markets for Dubai cruise tourists.
With the easing of travel restrictions, demand for Dubai has rebounded, according to Fernando Pacheco, General Manager of MSC Cruises in Spain.
“For the December long holiday weekend alone, we have 1,000 bookings from Spaniards for a cruise to Dubai,” he said, referring to MSC Virtuosa, which will be homeporting in Dubai for the coming winter cruise season.
MSC Virtuosa is a sister ship to MSC Bellissima, which was deployed to the Arabian Gulf out of Dubai last year before the pandemic emerged.
In Spain as well, interest in cruising has recovered quickly due to pent up demand.
MSC Cruises has homeported four ships in Barcelona and Valencia for the October to December season.
“One will embark and disembark in Valencia and another two in Malaga. The experience of last summer tells us that domestic demand is still very strong and that the same thing will happen in autumn as in summer: there will be a lot of domestic travel and little foreign travel,” said Pacheco.
The winter schedule will run from January to March. During this time MSC will have two ships operating from Barcelona. One of the cruise ships will be calling at Palma.
During MSC Virtuosa’s season in Dubai, she’ll be sailing to Dammam in Saudi Arabia for the first time, after the Kingdom opened to cruise travel earlier this year.
MSC Bellissima is homeporting in Jeddah, sailing three, four and one-week itineraries in the Red Sea.