The new destinations, the island nation of Bahrain and the seaside town of Fujairah in the UAE, will be added on two of the three itineraries MSC Cruises is sailing in the Middle East this coming cruise season.
MSC is deploying three ships to the Middle East for the coming winter, MSC Virtuosa and MSC Opera sailing in the Arabian Gulf roundtrip out of Dubai, and MSC Orchestra cruising roundtrip in the Red Sea out of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
MSC Virtuosa will sail 17 seven-night voyages from Dubai, visiting Doha in Qatar, the new port call of Manama in Bahrain, as well as Abu Dhabi and Sir Bani Yas Island in the UAE, before returning back to Dubai.
Guests will be able to choose from three embarkation ports: Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi. MSC Virtuosa will also serve as a cruise ship hotel for the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race being held between November 24th and 26th in Abu Dhabi.
During the event, the cruise line is also offering a Grand Prix shore excursion for guests, with exclusive access to behind-the-scenes events and experiences.
The smaller MSC Opera will also be homeporting in Dubai, sailing 22 seven-night sailings from Dubai visiting Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, and either Khasab in Oman or Fujairah in the UAE, and the Omani capital Muscat before returning to Dubai.
This will mark the first time MSC Cruises has sailed to Fujairah during the annual winter cruise season, although the cruise line has called in the city before on its repositioning cruises between the Middle East and Europe.
MSC Cruises is also adding 80,000 return air seats as part of its “Fly&Cruise” program with leading airlines.Dubai welcomes around 1-million cruise passengers annually during the winter cruise season, which runs from November to March, but the vast majority of them are fly-cruise guests.
The market in Saudi Arabia is somewhat different, with up to 50% of passengers coming from the Saudi home market, according to the cruise line.
In Saudi Arabia, MSC Orchestra will operate a new itinerary from Jeddah, with 20 seven-night roundtrip voyages visiting Safaga for Luxor in Egypt, Aqaba for Petra in Jordan, a new port of call at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Sokhna Port for Cairo in Egypt and back to Jeddah.
Like its Arabian Gulf itineraries, MSC Cruises is offering Safaga, Jeddah, Sharm El-Sheikh and Sokhna Portas embarkation ports for guests.
“Winter cruises in the Middle East are forever growing in popularity with our guests from all over the world and the region is a particularly important aspect of our growing business which is reflected in the uplift of 80,000 return air seats in 2023-24 with leading airlines to fly into a range of embarkation ports for our three ships,“ said Achille Staiano, Senior Vice President of Global Sales at MSC Cruises.