Saudi Arabia has announced the launch of AROYA, its first-ever domestic cruise line, and the first homegrown cruise brand in the Arab world, marking a true sea change in the regional cruise industry, but what will travelling aboard a Saudi cruise line be like?
AROYA will be owned by Cruise Saudi, which is itself owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, but will be independently operated. Details about itineraries and the onboard experience have yet to be announced, but it seems clear that AROYA will showcase the natural beauty and cultural heritage of its home country.
The Saudi Arabian cruise line will offer a unique travel experience that combines relaxation, entertainment, and education, eschewing the bells and whistles of other cruise lines in favour of cultural and educational enrichment. This will likely be reflected in the cruise itineraries offered by the line.
AROYA will offer shore excursions to key cultural sites in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom is home to many important cultural and historic destinations. One of the most popular destinations for tourists is the historic city of Jeddah, which is known for its beautiful architecture, bustling markets, and seaside promenade. Jeddah is also home to several museums and art galleries, which would be of particular interest to passengers interested in learning more about Saudi Arabian culture.
Jeddah will also be the homeport for AROYA Cruises, following a successful business model established by MSC Cruises, which has operated several popular cruise seasons out of Saudi Arabia, using Jeddah as the homeport for its Red Sea itineraries.
Itineraries have yet to be confirmed, but a key cultural site that a Saudi Arabian cruise line might visit is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Al-Hijr, which is located in the northwest of the country. Al-Hijr is a pre-Islamic archaeological site that contains the remains of a series of stone structures and tombs, many of which date back to the first century BC. This site is of significant historical and cultural importance and would be an excellent destination for passengers interested in learning more about the country’s ancient past.
Al-Hijr lies several hundred kilometres inland and would be accessed from the port of Yanbu, or indeed the futuristic city of NEOM, a greenfield development that will include a floating industrial complex, a global trade hub, tourist resorts and a linear city called The Line—all powered exclusively by renewable energy sources.
Accomodation options aboard AROYA Cruises will likely range from the affordable inside cabins of most mainstream cruise brands, to more exclusive suites and even penthouses in a nod to the ultra-rich clientele that characterise the Middle East tourism market.
The cruise line would likely offer a range of high-end cabins and suites, with amenities such as private balconies, luxurious bedding, and top-of-the-line entertainment systems.
AROYA will also likely offer a variety of onboard amenities designed to promote relaxation and well-being, such as a spa and wellness center, fitness facilities, and of course several swimming pools. The cruise line may also offer specialized activities and classes such as yoga, meditation, and other wellness-focused programs, rather than the big, boozy parties found aboard other cruise lines.
Saudi Arabia is known for its rich cultural heritage, and a Saudi Arabian cruise line would offer a range of entertainment options designed to showcase this cultural wealth. This might include traditional music and dance performances, as well as art exhibits and other cultural displays. There is also likely to be live music and comedy performances to film screenings and interactive workshops, but they will be tailored to remain sensitive to the cultural values of Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab world.
Some of the entertainment may be gender-segregated for example, and there may be women-only events and activities in some of the lounges during the day, while at least one of the pools onboard, and spa, will almost certainly be gender-segregated. Similarly, passengers may be expected to adhere to a dress code that prohibits roaming the ship in swimming costumes.
It’s unclear whether AROYA ships will be an alcohol-free environment: As alcohol consumption is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, the cruise line would likely be an alcohol-free environment, but the Kingdom has made moves in recent years toward introducing spaces in which alcohol consumption is allowed for tourists. What will almost certainly not be offered on-board is a casino, as gambling is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia.
When it comes to dining, AROYA will offer a high-end, but unique range of cuisines, as all food served onboard will likely be Halal. Halal refers to food and drinks that are permissible under Islamic law, meaning they must be prepared and consumed in accordance with specific guidelines.
Some of the key requirements of halal food include that it must be slaughtered in a specific way, with the animal facing Mecca, and the person performing the slaughter must say a prayer. The food must also not contain any alcohol or pork products, and any meat must be from an animal that has been raised and fed in accordance with Islamic principles.
For AROYA as a Saudi Arabian cruise line, halal food options would be an important consideration for catering to Muslim passengers, who make up a significant portion of the country’s population, as well as its own values as a Saudi-based cruise line. The line would likely offer a wide variety of halal dishes, including traditional Middle Eastern cuisine such as hummus, falafel, and shawarma, as well as international cuisine that is prepared in accordance with halal guidelines, much like international hotels based in the Kingdom.
AROYA then will offer a unique and culturally rich travel experience that showcases the beauty and heritage of the country while also adhering to local customs and traditions.