Viking Star has called in Saudi Arabia for the first time during her 118-night 2022 World Cruise, becoming only the fifth cruise ship ever to do so.
Viking Star made her first port call in Saudi Arabia last week during her 2022 Viking World Horizons as she voyaged from Asia to the Mediterranean via the Red Sea and Suez Canal.
The port calls in Jeddah and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia were not part of the original itinerary the cruise line released back in 2020, underscoring the interest Saudi Arabia’s entry into the cruise sector has generated among passengers.
Viking Star’s maiden port call in Saudi Arabia was celebrated by Saudi Arabian tourism officials and the ship’s crew at Jeddah Islamic Port, where a traditional plaque exchange ceremony was held.
“Viking Star’s visit is an important milestone for Cruise Saudi in welcoming a new cruise line to Saudi,” said Lars Clasen, CEO, Cruise Saudi. “We are proud to have hosted ships from some of the biggest and most renowned international cruise lines including Viking.”
“We are excited to offer tourists a new and exciting opportunity to discover all that Saudi has to offer from pristine islands and beaches of the Red Sea to unique culture and heritage – all underpinned by the quintessential Saudi hospitality,” he added.
Viking Star is the fifth cruise ship to visit Saudi Arabia since the country opened up to cruise lines in 2019, beginning with a test cruise season in partnership with Silversea, before MSC Cruises announced that it would become the first cruise line to homeport in the country for a full season.
Saudi Arabia has indicated that it plans to grow its nascent cruise sector significantly, with new infrastructure such as cruise terminals in Jeddah and Daman planned, and talks taking place with major cruise lines for potential homeport seasons.
Ultimately, Saudi Arabia aims to attract more than 1-million cruise tourists annually and see the cruise sector employ more than 50,000 people locally by 2028.
“We aim to be recognized as a world-class one-stop-shop maritime operator and to develop the cruise industry in Saudi as an important economic pillar of tourism in line with Vision 2030,” explains Clasen. “Our ultimate goal is to establish the Red Sea and Saudi as a cruising hub, echoing the history of the region as a maritime hub.”
Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline provides a convenient and intriguing opportunity for cruise lines to make port calls when cruising between east and west via the Suez Canal.
Before Saudi Arabia’s entry to the cruise market, cruise ships would have to spend up to a week at sea because of the lack of port call opportunities between the Suez Canal and Salalah or Muscat in Oman.
Since the cruise industry began to reopen following the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, MSC Cruises, Scenic Group, Silversea and Viking, have completed more than 70 sailings during the summer and winter seasons in 2021 and 2022.