Cruise Destinations

Sardinia targets UAE cruise and wider tourist market as direct FlyDubai routes launched 

With the low-cost UAE airline FlyDubai launching direct flights to Sardinia this month, the Italian island destination is looking to grow its share of the UAE cruise tourism sector, a small but high-spending market that typically gravitates to fly-cruise Mediterranean options.

Cruise Arabia & Africa spoke with Massimo Deiana, President of the Port Authority of Sardinia (ADSP), on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai to find out how Sardinia is looking to capitalise on the new opportunities FlyDubai’s direct flights present.

“Sardinia offers a raft of ‘hidden gems’, from the archeology, through to the culture and the gastronomy,” said Deiana. “Italy has long been a popular destination for UAE tourists looking to escape the desert temperatures in the summer… the direct Dubai to Sardinia route will provide a gateway to the beautiful island for UAE citisens.”

Massimo Deiana, President of the Port Authority of Sardinia (ADSP)

Sardinia is a major cruise port destination on the Mediterranean circuit with 236 cruise calls scheduled for the remainder of 2023 in Cagliari, and 245 already confirmed for 2024. ADSP is upgrading cruise infrastructure across the island in anticipation of further growth.

“In Olbia port, a new quay is currently being built on the south side of the harbour, which will involve the extension of pier 9 (incorporating the current pier 8) up to the alignment with the pier 7, resulting in.. a 316-metre quay suitable for the latest generation of cruise ships,” explained Deiana.

“In the port of Porto Torres, there are plans for the construction of a cruise quay, and work is underway in the port of Arbatax… which is attracting strong interest from luxury cruise companies,” he added.

Oristano last month hosted Costa Diadema with 4,000 passengers, the largest cruise ship to call to date.

Sardinia isn’t only popular as a cruise call destination though, it’s also positioning itself as a homeport, making it a viable option for UAE cruise tourists looking for an island destination with multiple cruise departures and plenty of pre- or post-cruise holiday activities.

Currently, both MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises homeport on Sardinia, Costa Toscana is cruising roundtrip from Cagliari throughout the rest of the year, while MSC Orchestra is cruising from Olbia.

“From rafting to trekking, from boat excursions to kayaking, and from cycling tours to climbing; the island offers the most exciting outdoor activities in the wildest settings of the western Mediterranean. It is this as well as the country’s enviable location in the central Mediterranean, that makes Sardinia a most sought-after holiday destination,” said Deiana.

Cagliari is the capital city of the Italian island of Sardinia.

Whilst Sardinia is famed for its beautiful 2,000 km of coastline, stunning beaches, and heavenly spots for surfers, sailors and divers, Deiana emphasised that the island also has a rich history for tourists to discover.

“There are countless archaeological treasures, including the mythical Nuraghi – dating back more than 3,000 years and recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – that bears witness to the various chapters of Sardinia’s interesting history,” he said.

With COP28 coming to the UAE later this year, Sardinia is also investing heavily in sustainable development to highlight its ‘eco-tourism’ approach.

“Its unspoiled nature, extraordinary biodiversity, large natural parks, and marine protected areas have positioned it as one of the richest ecosystems in the Mediterranean,” said Deiana.

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