Qatar is gearing up for its busiest cruise season on record as Dubai bounces back from the unprecedented disruption the COVID-19 pandemic forced on the cruise industry.
At least 78 cruise calls are scheduled for Doha, the capital of Qatar, the vast majority of them from the five cruise ships homeporting in Dubai during the winter cruise season.
Qatar’s cruise season, like other cruise destinations in the Arabian Gulf, runs from December, 2021 to April, 2022. The cruise season this year is starting and ending a month later than usual due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least 78 cruise calls are scheduled from five cruise ships homeporting in Dubai. MSC Virtuosa was the first, calling in Doha on Thursday, December 9th on her inaugral cruise from Dubai for the 2021/22 season.
She will be followed by Mein Schiff 6 on Friday, and Costa Firenze, Europa 2 and AIDAbella on December 14th.
While Doha has always been a fairly popular cruise port on the Arabian Gulf cruise circuit, this year will be particularly busy due to several major events taking place in the country.
These include the FIFA Arab Cup, the Qatar International Food Festival, the Qatar Live Festival and the Light and Laser shows. Next year’s cruise season will be even busier, thanks to the hosting of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar from November 21st to December 18th, 2022.
“The current cruise season is expected to be the busiest, with the arrival of around 78 cruises,” Akbar Al Baker, Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive told Zawya. “This includes 11 cruise ships making maiden voyages to Doha, 11 turnaround voyages and 10 ships that will dock in Doha Port.”
“With the opening of the permanent passenger terminal at Doha Port, we expected to witness a growth in cruise visits in the coming period, particularly in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022,” he added.
The global cruise industry, which was estimated to be worth US $150 billion in 2018, was forced to shut down globally in 2020 due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruises have gradually resumed in Europe from August last year, the United States from early 2021, and in the Middle East during the current cruise season.
According to Abdulla Mohamed Al-khanji, CEO, Qatar Ports Management Company MWANI, several precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure a safe restart, with Qatar following similar COVID-19 mitigation measures to Dubai and other cruise destinations.
“Many health and safety procedures [have been] put in place in coordination with the stakeholders to ensure the safety of the community and to secure an enjoyable and safe travel experience for tourists, starting from the moment the cruise ships arrive until they leave the quayside,” he said.
Qatar currently allows passengers from most countries to enter the country without quarantine measures if they have been fully vaccinated. A list of approved vaccines and other entry requirements can be found on the website of the Ministry of Public Health.