Saudi Arabia has introduced a new e-visa for cruise tourists taking cruises from the country, or arriving at its ports via cruise ship.
The new ‘e-maritime visa’ was introduced by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) as the country grows its cruise sector, which was opened in late 2021.
The e-visa will only be available to cruise tourists, but it was not clear at the time of writing whether it would be available to all nationalities. Saudi Arabia currently issues tourist visa’s electronically to visitors from 49 countries, including Canada, the US, UK, the Schengen bloc and several countries in Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Saudi Arabia currently has a long-term homeporting deal with MSC Cruises, which deployed its cruise ship MSC Bellissima in Jeddah during the summer and winter cruise seasons last year.
MSC Bellissima is due to continue sailing roundtrip from Jeddah until March, 2022. It is understood that she will return to the Kingdom again in November this year, although the final itineraries have not been announced.
Cruise tourists whose itineraries visit Saudi Arabia, or who are boarding a cruise ship sailing from Saudi Arabia, such as MSC Bellissima, will need to submit their applications through MOFA’s electronic platform.
MOFA said that cruise tourists should submit the visa application after purchasing the cruise ticket. It did not indicate how long it would likely take for the visa to be processed.
The introducation of an e-visa for cruise tourists will make it much easier for visitors to the country to arrange the necessary paperwork for their cruise, and will support the growth of Saudi Arabia as a homeport cruise destination.
Although only MSC Cruises is currently homeporting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabian cruise officials have said they are in talks with several other major cruise lines that have expressed an interest in deploying their ships in the Red Sea.
By making it easier for cruise tourists to enter the country, Saudi Arabia will enhance its appeal to these cruise lines, which rely on fly-cruise passengers for a large segment of their bookings.
When Saudi Arabia first opened its borders to cruise ships last year, officials indicated that they expect at least 50% of bookings to come from the domestic market initially.