Middle East Cruise News

Ras Al Khaimah targets luxury and expedition cruise growth

While Dubai and Abu Dhabi have established themselves as the primary cruise ports in the Middle East, with Dubai especially popular as a homeport for Arabian Gulf itineraries, Ras Al Khaimah is looking to make itself a more niche destination.

The emirate on the UAE’s north coast, near the Strait of Hormuz, is planning to grow its expedition and luxury cruise destination credentials, and is targeting 50 ships per year as part of a wider tourism growth plan.

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism and Development Authority wants to attract 3-million tourists per year to the emirate, and sees the cruise sector as a key source of international travellers.

Seabourn Encore arriving in Ras Al Khaimah in 2019

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Zaiton Consultancy, a local cruise tourism specialist consultancy, has been brought in to guide the emirate’s cruise strategy, and represented the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism and Development Authority at the Seatrade Cruise Global event that concluded Thursday.

“With an initial strategy based around smaller passenger ships before moving our focus to mainstream cruise liners, we will bring our global expertise to market Ras Al Khaimah’s truly unique offering,” Zaiton said in a statement.

Working with RAK Ports, the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism and Development Authority has redeveloped the old ferry terminal into a modern cruise terminal, and designed visitor itineraries for smaller luxury and expedition cruise ships.

Seabourn Encore at the new cruise terminal in Ras Al Khaimah

The terminal, which welcomed its first post-revamp vessel in 2019, can accommodate cruise ships of up to 214 metres in length, meaning that most of the cruise ships homeporting in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be too large to dock.

However, Ras Al Khaimah is hoping to attract the fast-growing expedition and luxury segments of the wider cruise industry. Eight expedition cruise ships are due to launch in 2022 alone, while several small-ship cruise lines are showing interest in the Middle East as a destination.

Emerald Cruises will homeport its new superyacht cruise ships Emerald Azzurra in Doha for the 2023 winter season, while luxury cruise line Seabourn is returning to the Arabian Gulf with two cruise departures in 2024.

Ras Al Khaimah is also refocusing its cruise growth plans at an opportune time for the local cruise market, which has seen a boost in interest with the opening up of Saudi Arabia to cruise ships, and the growth in cruise infrastructure in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi in February opened a new cruise dock at the Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach on the island of the same name, removing the need for ships to anchor offshore and take passengers ashore in tenders.

The immense Dubai Harbour development last year also saw the arrival of the first cruise ships to its new Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal, the city’s second cruise port, which has now become the primary embarkation hub for all Carnival Corporation-owned cruise ships sailing from Dubai.

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