Saudi Arabia has revealed it plans to make NEOM city the Montenegro or Fort Lauderdale of the Middle East when it comes to the cruise sector.
The ambitious plan is to make the greenfield city project a cruise hub akin to the major cruise ports of the Mediterranean and Florida.
NEOM is located in the Northwest of Saudi Arabia and is intended to eventually accommodate over nine million people within a linear development called The Line, located within a footprint of just 34 square kilometres.
“It will be a cruise hub like Fort Lauderdale in Florida or Montenegro in the Mediterranean,” Giles Pendleton, Executive Director, The Line, told Arabian Business.
“The Red Sea is a fantastic boating area. And we don’t have tornadoes, we don’t have hurricanes. It’s very stable with great weather and beautiful crystal clear waters,” he added.
The Line will be part of the wider $500 billion NEOM project, a futuristic city with a mixed-use development, containing spaces for work, play and living.
Saudi Arabia will have its work cut out for it to meet the ambitious target. Montenegro saw around half a million cruise passengers board and disembark cruise ships at the port pre-pandemic, while Fort Lauderdale handles around 4-million cruise passengers annually as it is a major homeport for Caribbean itineraries.
Saudi Arabia is a newcomer to the cruise industry, having opened up its ports to cruise ships just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020. It has already proven hugely popular with domestic and international guests, however, and MSC Cruises has signed a long-term homeport deal with Jeddah.
NEOM and The Line will be major tourist destinations in their own right, and Saudi Arabia is developing offshore islands in the Red Sea for tourism use, enhancing the appeal of NEOM as a future homeport for cruise ships, while Jeddah is already operating its third cruise season this year.
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The Line will be just 200 metres wide but 170 kilometres long and 500 meters above sea level with and ideal climate throughout the year and a high-speed rail offering residents end-to-end transit in 20 minutes.
The linear city will embody “Zero Gravity Urbanism,” where city functions are layered vertically, according to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
It is being built in the kingdom’s north-west Tabuk province, and excavators have already begun digging a wide trench in the desert. The city’s mirrored walls are intended to help it blend into the local environment.