Swan Hellenic made its first port call in Saudi Arabia this month aboard SH Diana, with an overnight in Yanbu and a maiden call to Jeddah, the Kingdom’s principle port on the Red Sea.
SH Diana called in Yanbu on October 12th and stayed overnight so passengers could enjoy the city’s old town and venture into the historic ‘Layl Souq’, while also exploring iconic sites further inland, such as the holy city of Medina.
The ship then set off from Jeddah, but spent a day at anchor off Baridi Island, offering a new expedition experience with pristine beaches and coral reefs.
In Jeddah, SH Diana’s passengers explored the streets of Al Balad – a UNESCO World Heritage site, recognised for its Hijazi style historic district, with its traditional buildings and authentic shops and cafes.
“We were honoured to welcome Swan Hellenic’s cruise ship, SH Diana to Saudi for the first time, in what was a milestone visit for Cruise Saudi,” said Lars Clasen, CEO of Cruise Saudi. “We are proud to be constantly expanding our programme of onshore experiences to provide such an authentic insight into Saudi culture for our guests.”
SH Diana’s maiden calls to Saudi Arabia are reflection of just how much the country’s entry into the global cruise industry has changed the nature of cruising in the Red Sea.
Prior to 2021, when Saudi Arabia first opened its ports to cruise ships, vessels sailing between Europe and Asia typically called in Aqaba, Jordan (gateway to the lost city of Petra) after transiting the Suez Canal, and then spent 10 or so days at sea cruising for the coast of Oman.
Now, Yanbu and Jeddah have established themselves as popular ports of call for ships transiting the Red Sea, especially cruise ships on repositioning voyages before and after their homeporting seasons in the Arabian Gulf out of Dubai.
“It’s incredibly exciting to have incorporated this Maiden Voyage to Saudi and to offer this new destination to our passengers,” said Kai Ukkonen, Captain of SH Diana. “Our goal is to always create unforgettable moments for our guests, so it was a top priority to work with Cruise Saudi on creating a collection of unique and curated adventures for a truly immersive experience.”
Cruise Saudi is a government-backed agency charged with developing Saudi Arabia as a cruise destination. It has led the development of cruise infrastructure, shore excursion options and even a domestic cruise line brand, the first of its kind in the Arab world.
Saudi Arabia has identified cruise tourism as a crucial part of its plans to diversify the economy away from oil, and is targeting 1.3 million cruise tourists by 2035.