The move has thrown many passengers FIFA plans into disarray as the scheduled three-day stay in Doha has now been replaced with an extended stay in Abu Dhabi in the UAE, along with calls in Ras Al Khaimah and Sir Bani Yas Island, also in the UAE.
Azamara said in a statement it had no option but to drop the Doha port call due to Qatar’s announcement that only tourists with FIFA World Cup tickets will be allowed into the country during the tournament.
Qatar made the announcement in April, but Azamara appears to have only informed guests now because it was in talks with Qatari tourism officials to find a work-around.
“Travel authorities in Qatar have recently informed us that they will be closing the port and not allowing cruise ships to enter during the World Cup games,” Azamara told guests in a letter quoted by The Telegraph.
“Additionally, Qatar has provided logistical information explaining that travellers can only enter the country if they have tickets to the games. This means that it will not be possible for you to visit Qatar without attending a match,” it added. “We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”
Azamara had previously billed the cruise as FIFA World Cup-focused, with Azamara Quest staying in Doha from Monday November 21st to the 24th. The 21st will see England and Wales play for the first time, leading many of the predominantly British passengers to book tickets.
However, because not all passengers will be attending FIFA World Cup matches, the ship will not be allowed to dock. Other attractions for passengers in Doha usually include the stunning new National Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art.
Because Azamara Quest will be staying overnight in Abu Dhabi on November 21st, it is possible for passengers to book a flight from the UAE’s capital to the Qatari capital, but due to elevated demand, flight prices average around AED 2000 ($560) for the one hour flight.
Azamara says it is “working with the Qatar authorities to determine transportation options to attend a game”.
The Telegraph interviewed one passenger booked on the cruise who said he had spent 700 pounds on four lots of FIFA tickets.
“We’re so disappointed with what’s happened and still really want to go to the World Cup. I’m hoping that they may still find a way to get us to at least the England match but as the days pass we’re losing hope,” she said.
“We would be prepared to forego Abu Dhabi and stay in Qatar for the three days in a hotel if they would facilitate it.”
Those passengers without FIFA World Cup tickets have also been potentially inconvenienced, as Azamara Quest will be calling in Abu Dhabi on November 21st and 22nd, instead of November 24th as previously planned, meaning that guests who booked independent excursions are left with bookings they cannot use.
The FIFA World Cup 2022 runs from November 20th to December 18th. Due to Qatar’s FIFA ticket entry requirements, it appears that several cruise lines have dropped planned port calls in Doha during the month.
At the time of writing, only Mein Schiff 6 of TUI, Nautica of Oceania Cruises, Seven Seas Explorer of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Silver Spirit of Silversea Cruises, have scheduled port calls in Qatar during the tournament.
Cruise Arabia & Africa has reached out to all four cruise lines to clarify their plans for upcoming Doha port calls during the FIFA World Cup.