Saudi Arabia has welcomed more than 9,000 cruise tourists in a single day for the first time, with three cruise ships calling in Jeddah and King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam.
The ships all called on Wednesday, which also marks Saudi Founding Day, a new annual holiday that commemorates the ascendancy of Mohammed bin Saud, who founded the First Saudi State. It’s a separate holiday to Saudi National Day, which celebrates the establishment of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
MSC Splendida kicked things off with her arrival in Jeddah Islamic Port on the country’s Red Sea coast. She was followed shortly afterwards by The World, a ship operated by Residences at Sea.
MSC Splendida was completing her latest roundtrip cruise from Jeddah for the 2022/23 winter cruise season, while The World was calling in Jeddah on her repositioning voyage between Europe and Asia.
MSC Splendida was carrying more than 3,000 passengers, while The World had just 80 full-time and temporary residents on-board.
On the other side of the country, on Saudi Arabia’s Arabian Gulf coast, MSC World Europa called in Dammam as part of her regular schedule on her roundtrip itineraries from Dubai during the 2022/23 cruise season.
MSC World Europa was carrying more than 6,000 passengers. She is the largest cruise ship ever to cruise in the Middle East, and certainly the largest to ever homeport in Dubai.
In Jeddah, cruise tourists were welcomed at the cruise terminal with traditional activities associated with Founding Day, including cultural gifts, Saudi coffee, dates, and folklore dances.
The cruise tourists, primarily from the UK, Spain, Italy, France, and Russia, also witnessed and engaged in vibrant Saudi Founding Day festivities during their various shore excursions in both Jeddah and the Eastern Province through Dammam Port.
From Jeddah, these excursions included a flight to visit AlUla, Saudi’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, an enjoyable walk at Jeddah’s Waterfront (Corniche), as well as a journey back in time through centuries of culture and traditions by visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site of Jeddah Historical District (Al Balad).
Al Balad is filled with vibrant artwork, exotic scents, traditional markets (souks) and the authentic Hijazi architecture that is unique to the region. Muslim passengers and crew were given the opportunity to visitMakkah and performed Umrah (a holy pilgrimage).
From Dammam, the excursions included Saudi’s third UNESCO World Heritage site, Al Asha Oasis, exploring the Qara Mountain, Princess School, and AlQaisariyah Souq.
Other excursions provided a beach escape, or a city drive with a visit to Dammam’s distinctive Love Market.
Saudi Arabia’s cruise season, like that of the UAE and wider Arabian Gulf, began on November 2022 and runs until May 2023. During the current season, the country is set to welcome over 75 scheduled calls.