Saudi Arabia continues to break new ground following its entry into the cruise industry for the first time in 2021, with a spate of inaugural port calls by cruise lines eager for more ports of calls on itineraries between Europe and Asia.
Viking Mars is the latest cruise ship to call in Saudi Arabia for the first time, docking in Jeddah Islamic Port on her 20-night voyage from Mumbai in India to Piraeus (Athens) in Greece.
Viking Mars departed Mumbai on May 3rd and called in Jeddah on May 13th as she cruised the Red Sea bound for the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean.
Viking Mars was welcomed by cruise tourism officials from Cruise Saudi, the government agency tasked with promoting Saudi Arabia as a cruise destination and developing the infrastructure necessary for cruise lines and their passengers.
The ship’s arrival in Jeddah Islamic Port was marked with a plaque and key exchange ceremony betweenthe Cruise Saudi team and the captain of Viking Mars.
Cruise Saudi Chief Asset Management and Operations Officer, Barbara Buczek noted that although Viking Mars is calling for the first time, she is the third ship from Viking Ocean Cruises to call in Saudi Arabia.
“We welcome Viking back to Saudi the same way that we would welcome an old friend. We are grateful for Viking’s continued support on our journey to establish a cruise industry, with Viking Mars being the third of the cruise line’s ships to include Saudi on its itinerary.”
During their stop in Jeddah, guests had the chance to experience a guided excursion to the Jeddah Historic District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and go shopping in traditional souks.
After departing from Jeddah Islamic Port, the ship sailed north for Aqaba, Jordan, the gateway to the Lost City of Petra.
The decision by Saudi Arabia in 2021 to allow cruise ships to call in its ports on the Red Sea and on the Arabian Gulf is a major boon for the local cruise industry.
Cruise lines have long complained about the port-lean nature of repositioning cruises between Europe and Asia, with cruise ships spending as many as seven days at sea without a port of call between Aqaba in Jordan and Salalah or Muscat in Oman.
Saudi Arabia adds variety of these itineraries and makes the repositioning cruises via the Suez Canal far more attractive for cruise passengers and cruise lines.
The addition of Jeddah and other Saudi ports on the Red Sea also makes the repositioning cruises between Europe and the Arabian Gulf more attractive, supporting Dubai’s own position as the primary cruise homeport in the Middle East.