The Jordanian port of Aqaba on the Red Sea, the gateway to the iconic ancient city of Petra, will see cruise calls from more than 20% of the global cruise fleet by the end of this year.
Some 34 cruise ships are expected to call in Aqaba between now and the end of 2022, driven in large part by the rapid recovery of the Middle East cruise sector, which is based primarily in Dubai in the UAE.
All cruise lines homeporting in Dubai for the winter cruise season, or calling in Dubai on repositioning and grand cruises between Asia, Europe and Africa, also typically call in Aqaba.
“Cruise tourism in Jordan significantly contributes to the local economic growth, and Aqaba port [Jordan’s only seaport] is attracting cruise tourists, particularly during winter,” said Nidal Majali, Commissioner for Tourism and Environment in the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA).
Majali added that around 80 cruise ships arrive at the port each year, bringing between 50,000-70,000 tourists, primarily from Germany, the UK, France and the United States.
The first cruise call of the winter season arrived on Friday October 21st. Mein Schiff 6, carrying 2,180 German tourists, was en-route to her winter cruise season in the Arabian Gulf out of Dubai.
During the first four months of the year, around 18,000 tourists came on 32 cruise ships.
Aqaba expects to see an increase in cruise tourism numbers when a new cruise terminal opens in January next year.
Majali said that “the new cruise port will allow cruise tourists to have an improved experience” and will enhance the appeal of Aqaba as a cruise destination in its own right.
The new cruise terminal will be developed and operated by UAE-based AD Ports. The terminal will be built as part of the Marsa Zayed project in Aqaba. It will be the first terminal to be developed by AD Ports in Jordan and its first cruise facility outside the UAE.
At present, cruise ships dock in the commercial port and passengers are processed onboard before being bussed to the port entrance. The process is more time-consuming and restricts the freedom of passengers to independently explore the city.