Middle East Cruise News

Abu Dhabi sees more than 700,000 cruise tourists for first time during 2022/23 season

Abu Dhabi has reported its busiest cruise season on record for the 2022/23 season, with more than 700,000 cruise tourists having visited the city on 184 cruise ship calls, more than 10% of which were turnaround visits, with the cruise starting in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi typically benefits as a cruise destination from the growth of Dubai as the primary cruise homeport in the region. The vast majority of cruise ships sailing a cruise season in the Arabian Gulf do so out of Port Rashid and Dubai Harbour, but Abu Dhabi has grown as a homeport in its own right.

More than 82,000 cruise passengers this season were aboard cruise ships homeporting in Abu Dhabi. MSC, Costa, and AIDA all interport between Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, meaning passengers can choose which city they want to begin and end their cruise in.

Seabourn Encore at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal

According to AD Ports Group, the operator of the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, the first quarter of 2023 was particularly strong, with 363,494 cruise tourists and 120 cruise ship calls. This compared to Q1 of 2022 which saw 89,953 visitors and 60 calls, representing the ongoing growth in the size of cruise ships operating in the Arabian Gulf.

Cruise passenger volumes for Q1 2023 surpassed the number of visitors accommodated for the full year of 2022 by more than 37%.

“The increasing number of visitors is a testament to Abu Dhabi’s position as a world class hub for maritime tourism and the trust bestowed on us by our partners in the cruise industry to deploy their latest and largest vessels to the region,” said Saif Al Mazrouei, Chief Executive Officer – Ports Cluster, AD Ports Group.

“Both Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal and Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach have evolved to offer an incredible and unique cruise experience for all guests, providing them with the opportunity to discover both the extraordinary attractions within Abu Dhabi and the natural beauty of Sir Bani Yas Island,” he added.

Abu Dhabi welcome more than 700,000 passengers this season.

All the major cruise lines homeporting in the Arabian Gulf this year increased their tonnage in the local market. MSC Cruises operated its largest and newest cruise ship MSC World Europa, the second-largest class of cruise ship in the world, while Costa Cruises deployed Costa Toscana and AIDA Cruises sent its new ship AIDAcosma.

Costa Toscana and AIDAcosma are sister ships, part of the new Excellence class from Carnival Corporation, which is the parent company of both cruise lines.

“Tourism is a driving force of Abu Dhabi’s economic progress and prosperity, with the growing attractiveness of the emirate to cruise passengers playing a significant role in its success,” said Saleh Al Geziry, Director General of the Tourism Sector at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal

“The solid performance from the 2022-23 season demonstrates the rapid development of this visitor segment and showcases the effectiveness of our robust growth strategy for cruise travel in Abu Dhabi,” he added.

Noura Al Dhaheri, Managing Director of Cruise Business, AD Ports Group, said the growth in the local cruise sector was being driven by constant investment in cruise infrastructure and upgrades to facilities, enhancing the appeal of the city to both cruise lines and their passengers.

“All these factors are crucial to attracting larger number of visitors,” she said. “We remain committed to working closely with cruise lines to position Abu Dhabi as one of the top cruise destinations globally.”

Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal was launched in December 2015, providing a entry port for passengers in the heart of the UAE capital. The Cruise Terminal itself also offers restaurants, retail outlets, duty-free shops, Etihad Airline check-in, and baggage storage during each season.

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