Middle East Cruise News

Dubai goes all out to attract cruise lines back to Arabian Gulf after pandemic

Dubai went all-out at this year’s Seatrade Cruise Global to encourage cruise lines to return to the Arabian Gulf following the COVID-19 pandemic, with 15 co-exhibitors and stakeholders participating alongside the Department of Economy and Tourism (DET).

The 15 entities are comprised of tourism boards, port operators, airlines, and destination management companies from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Oman, which all participated under the ‘Cruise Arabia’ banner (which is not affiliated with this blog).

The travel and tourism partners showcased the city and wider Arabian Gulf region at Seatrade Cruise Global, leading event for the global cruise industry in the final week of April.

The Arabian Gulf is looking to attract cruise lines back to the region after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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During the event, the unified Cruise Arabia stand promoted the region’s far-reaching cruising capabilities, highlighting the resilience of the cruise and maritime industry and the appeal of the region to global cruise lines and their passengers.

The region’s cruise sector made a strong comeback from the pandemic during the most recent 2021/22 cruise season between November and March, with five cruise ships homeporting in Dubai and 500,000 passengers sailing in the Gulf.

MSC Cruises also became the first cruise line in history to homeport in the city through the summer months, with MSC Bellissima taking over the cruises previously sailed by MSC Virtuosa until July.

This came on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought the global cruise industry to standstill through much of 2020, and forced the total cancellation of the 2020/21 Arabian Gulf cruise season out of Dubai.

That resilience was one aspect to the region promoted at the event, the other was its widespread appeal with cruise passengers, an appeal that has been boosted even further in recent months with the entry of Saudi Arabia to the cruise sector.

MSC Bellissima in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Now that Saudi Arabia is allowing cruise ships to dock on its Red Sea coast, and homeport through the peak winter season, the repositioning route between the Middle East and Europe has become a lot more attractive to cruise lines and passengers, with new ports such as Jeddah available to guests.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi have also recently enhanced their cruise infrastructure with the opening of the new Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal and the launch of a new cruise pier at Abu Dhabi’s cruise island destination, Sir Bani Yas.

DP World, Dubai Harbour, Emirates Airline, Arabian Adventures, Sharaf Tours and Orient Tours, were some of the big names participating in Seatrade Cruise Global, which provided a valuable platform for DET’s partners to facilitate discussions on homeporting opportunities, and itineraries featuring Dubai as a port of call.

The event also enabled DET and stakeholders to reconnect with global cruise lines as the industry continues to recover and return to growth following the global pandemic, and gain industry insights and intelligence surrounding the trends governing the global cruise market.

Costa Firenze in Dubai

During the event, DET showcased Dubai’s popularity as one of the world’s foremost tourism destination for discerning travellers and a compelling cruise destination offering diversified choices across all budgets and demographics – including boutique, ultra-luxury and mega-ships.

Many of the world’s largest cruise lines already include Dubai within their itineraries and the city is homeport for a number of luxury liners.

Maritime tourism is a key pillar of Dubai’s travel and tourism industry, and Dubai’s popularity as a cruise destination has increased significantly in the last ten years, with the city continuing to lead the market as the regional cruising hub and the gateway to the region and the world.

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