MSC Cruises has expanded its fly-cruise partnership with Saudia Airlines to 36,800 seats for the current winter 2021/22 Red Sea cruise season out Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
MSC Cruises previously secured 16,800 seats, but has expanded the partnership by 20,000 amid significant interest from the European market.
The partnership enables MSC Cruises to offer a fly-cruise package for MSC Bellissima’s seven-night Red Sea sailings with the option available to travel from various international airports to Jeddah.
Italy, Germany, France and Spain are MSC Cruises’ main European source markets for sailings from Saudi Arabia this season.
MSC Bellissima is scheduled to continue to homeport in Jeddah from November, 2021 to March, 2022, after completing a well-received summer cruise season out of the city through mid-2021.
Gianni Onorato, CEO, MSC Cruises and brahim Al-Omar, director general, Saudi Arabian Airlines Corporation and Fawaz Farooqui, MD, Cruise Saudi, signed the deal this week at Saudia’s head office in Jeddah.
“We are proud to partner with Saudia, the Kingdom’s national flag carrier, and work towards the same common objectives in support of the further development of tourism in Saudi Arabia by bringing many thousands of international guests to discover this remarkable country, with more to come in future sailing seasons,” said Onorato.
“Through this extensive flight programme we are able to make our new cruise offering even more accessible to holidaymakers from Europe and North America and deliver best-in-class experiences,” he added.
According to Onorato the opening of Saudi Arabia to the cruise industry for the first time this year is a potential catalyst of wider tourism growth.
He said data demonstrates that a large percentage of tourists who visit a country for the first time while on a cruise holiday often return for a longer land stay with their families to further explore that country’s culture and other attractions.
MSC Cruises was the first cruise line to sail from Saudi Arabia, but was soon joined by Scenic Group and Silversea Cruises.
MSC Cruises has since signed a five-year preferential berthing deal with Cruise Saudi, giving it priority access to the new Jeddah Cruise Terminal (and another that is still under development).
“We are delighted to see Saudia and MSC Cruises partnering to serve 20,000 fly and cruise guests to Saudi Arabia for the winter season,” said Farooqui. “This close cooperation between our national carrier and the world’s third largest cruise line is exactly the kind of partnership which will help Saudi Arabia to become a world-class cruise destination, which is what Cruise Saudi is working to create in line with Vision 2030.”
MSC Bellissima’s Saudi itineraries
The 7-night roundtrip cruises from Jeddah aboard MSC Bellissima depart at 11pm each Saturday and include calls at King Abdullah Economic City, Yanbu with an overnight stay for visits to AlUla, followed by a day at sea. The ship then calls in Aqaba, Jordan for trips to Petra followed by a further day at sea before returning to Jeddah.
In order to make fly-cruise itineraries more convenient for international cruise tourists, Saudia has adjusted its flight schedule for Friday night flights from Milan, Rome, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris and Madrid.
This means that flights will arrive on Saturday morning in Jeddah, allowing time for passengers to see Jeddah or transfer from the airport to the ship.
The airline previously adjusted its schedule for guests from the USA, the UK, Switzerland and Austria for MSC Bellissima’s recent summer season out of Jeddah, according to Seatrade.