Mein Schiff 6 was the first cruise ship to arrive in Dubai for the current 2021/22 cruise season, which runs from October to March annually and is expected to see half a million cruise tourists visit the city.
While the arrival of Mein Schiff 6 was a welcome sign of the industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, many challenges remain for Dubai to regain the approximately 300,000 cruise tourists it has lost due to the pandemic.
Five cruise ships will homeport in Dubai during the 2021/22 cruise season, sailing roundtrip in the Arabian Gulf to Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Oman, and (in the case of MSC Cruises) even Saudi Arabia.
Mein Schiff 6 will homeport in Dubai from October, 2021 until February, 2022. She will be joined by MSC Virtuosa and MSC Opera of MSC Cruises, as well as Costa Firenze of Costa Cruises, and AIDAbella of AIDA Cruises.
While its a huge improvement on the 2020/21 cruise season, which didn’t happen because the COVID-19 pandemic remained a serious concern for international tourists, especially cruise tourists, it is still the slowest cruise season for the city in half a decade.
Around 500,000 cruise tourists will visit Dubai, which represents similar capacity to the 2017/18 cruise season, and is a significant reduction on the 1-million that were anticipated to visit the city by this year pre-pandemic.
However, cruise tourism officials in Dubai are confident in the city’s ability to stage a strong rebound, mirroring strong recovery across other sector’s of the economy, with hotels, flights, industry and retail all staging a comeback.
“Dubai’s effective management of the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the emirate to restore normalcy in record time and accelerate the recovery of the tourism sector,” said Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed, Chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management.
“The emirate has also been able to demonstrate its ability to swiftly negotiate any challenges and restore growth across all sectors,” he added.
In addition to the five homeporting cruise ships, a further five cruise ships will sail international itineraries from Dubai in the coming season, while more than a dozen will feature the city as a port of call.
In total, some 126 cruise calls will feature the city and over 500,000 visitors are expected to visit Dubai.
Dubai has the largest cruise port in the UAE, with two terminals at Port Rashid that have the capacity to accommodate 7 cruise ships on the same day.
The new Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal was meant to launch in 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic. It received its first cruise ships earlier this year, but they weren’t carrying passengers.
During the coming 2021/22 cruise season, the Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal will welcome its first cruise passengers when Costa Cruises’ ship Costa Firenze arrives in December to commence her Arabian Gulf cruise season.
Dubai Harbour will be used exclusively by cruise ships belonging to Carnival Corporation, which owns the Dubai homeporting Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises, as well as seven other international cruise lines that will either cruise from Dubai or feature it as a port of call in the coming months.
The 120,000-square-metre Dubai Harbour features advanced facilities, including seaport passenger-boarding bridges equipped to process more than 3,000 passengers per hour.
Located close to the newly opened Ain Dubai observation wheel and Bluewaters Island, the new terminal enhances Dubai’s appeal as a cruise destination and is future-ready, with a design suited to the largest class of cruise ships in the world.