Middle East Cruise News

Crystal Symphony kicks off 2023 Middle East cruise season in Arabian Gulf

The Arabian Gulf cruise season officially kicked off Thursday with the arrival in Dubai of the first cruise ship of the season, Crystal Symphony.

The luxury cruise ship, part of the recently re-launched Crystal Cruises fleet, docked in Dubai on October 26th, departing later the same day to sail a 55-night Dubai to Auckland itinerary.

The voyage was also available as a shorter 13 night cruise to Mumbai, or a 41-night ending in Fremantle, Australia.

After departing Dubai, Crystal Symphony sailed for Doha, Qatar; Manama, Bahrain; Sir Bani Yas Island off the coast of the UAE; Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE; Khor Fakkan on the Musandam Peninsula, and Muscat in Oman.

Her port call in Doha marked the beginning of the cruise season for Qatar as well, with tourism officials in the country taking the opportunity to emphasise the importance of the cruise sector to the wider economy of the region.

Crystal Symphony in Doha, Qatar.

“Cruise tourism is an important pillar through which Qatar will fulfil its national tourism strategy to become one of the world’s leading destinations,” said Saad Bin Ali Al Kharji, Chairman of Qatar Tourism. “We look forward to a new cruise season with visitors from around the world who will have the opportunity to experience Qatar’s hospitality and diverse tourism offering.”

Qatar is one of three homeports used by cruise ships sailing roundtrip itineraries in the region. Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, and TUI will all sail roundtrip itineraries in the Arabian Gulf, using Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha as homeports, while AIDA Cruises will homeport in Dubai.

Cruise ships such as Norwegian Dawn and Le Bougainville will be making their debut in the Arabian Gulfthis season, with both ships operating as full homeporting vessels embarking from Doha.

Norwegian Dawn will sail 7-night cruises from Dubai to Doha, while Mein Schiff 2, MSC Virtuosa and Costa Toscana will all interport between Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha.

Qatar has seen a steady increase in cruise ship arrivals and passenger numbers over the years. The 2022/23 cruise season concluded with a 151% increase in visitors compared to the previous season, with 54 cruise visits and 253,191 cruise visitors.

Cruise passengers arriving to Qatar through Doha Port are welcomed in a brand-new Grand Terminal that features state-of-the-art facilities. It can accommodate two megaships at a time and up to 12,000 people a day, ensuring seamless operations.

Upon exiting the terminal, passengers find themselves by the Mina District, an all-round destination where visitors can enjoy plenty of restaurant options, retail outlets, and a stunning promenade that makes the most of the city’s iconic skyline.

Dubai remains the primary cruise port in the Middle East.

The UAE remains the primary cruise destination in the Arabian Gulf, especially Dubai, which accounts for the bulk of homeporting cruise ships in the region, and is the port from which the majority of cruise tourists in the region board ships.

More than 900,000 cruise tourists visited Dubai during the 2022/23 cruise season, marking a full recovery from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and even more are expected this cruise season with ever-larger cruise ships homeporting in the city.

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