MSC Virtuosa called in Saudi Arabia’s largest and busiest port on her repositioning voyage to the Mediterranean after wrapping up her winter cruise season in the Arabian Gulf out of Dubai.
The ship is the second MSC cruise ship to visit Saudi Arabia, joining her near-identical sister ship MSC Bellissima, which is spending the summer months sailing roundtrip Red Sea itineraries from Jeddah Islamic Port.
MSC Virtuosa is the sixth cruise ship to visit Saudi Arabia since the country opened its cruise sector in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the global cruise industry to a standstill.
Despite the disruption wrought by the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has made a strong entry to the global cruise market, quickly positioning itself as a unique new cruise destination for homeporting cruise ships, and cruise ships repositioning between the Middle East and Europe.
Cruise Saudi, the government agency tasked with guiding the growth of Saudi cruise market, has welcomed several major international cruise lines since its launch including MSC, Scenic Group, Silversea, and Viking.
More than 70 cruises have been sailed to or from Jeddah during the 2021/22 summer and winter cruise seasons, and in April last year, MSC Cruises signed a five-year preferential berthing agreement that will see it homeport annually in the country until at least 2026.
“We are proud to host the flagship of one of the world’s most established and popular cruise lines,” said Lars Clasen, CEO, Cruise Saudi. “MSC Virtuosa’s visit highlights Saudi as an exciting cruise destination for international cruise lines and travelers.”
“At Cruise Saudi, we look forward to welcoming more guests and operators to experience the glistening waters of the Red Sea as the tourism industry gathers pace,” he added.
Cruise Saudi has stated it intends to build a fully integrated, world-class cruise industry in the country in line with Vision 2030 – the Saudi leadership’s plan to diversify the economy away from oil, which aims to elevate tourism as a primary industry in the wider national economy.