Oman looks set to almost double the number of cruise passengers and cruise ship calls during the current 2023/24 cruise season, on the back of a strong cruise sector recovery last season, led by Dubai’s robust homeporting season.
The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism anticipates that before the end of the year more than 150,000 cruise tourists will have been welcomed in the Sultanate from 142 cruise calls, a major increase on the 85,092 cruise tourists that came ashore in 2022 aboard 77 calls.
The country is a popular port of call for cruise lines sailing grand voyages via the Middle East, from Dubai, and for cruise ships homeporting in Dubai for the winter cruise season.
The majority of ships calling in Oman are either cruising roundtrip from Dubai, or sailing extended voyages from Dubai to Asia, Europe, Africa and North America, but some ships call only in Salalah or Muscat on repositioning cruises between Europe and Asia.
The surge in cruise ship tourism this year is expected to not only benefit the tourism industry but also have a positive ripple effect on the retail business and transportation, thanks to the post-COVID resurgence in tourism-related activities.
Although the cruise tourism numbers this year show a strong recovery from the disruption of the pandemic, the cruise sector has not yet reached full recovery. In 2019, Oman saw a 43.6% increase in cruise ship tourists, totalling 283,488 passengers.
Oman has also worked to attract more cruise lines to the Sultanate, building out infrastructure, and running robust tourism campaigns highlighting Oman’s rich culture, heritage, diverse adventures, and popular attractions.
The ministry has been actively collaborating with government entities, the private sector, ship owners, and operators to enhance cruise tourism in Oman and improve the efficiency of local ports to accommodate larger cruise ships.
A tailor-made tour programme for cruise tourists includes visits to essential archaeological and tourist attractions in Muscat, such as forts, the Grand Mosque, Royal Opera House, the Corniche, and more.
Additionally, iconic places in Dhofar Governorate, including Al Baleed Archaeological Site, Sumharam, Al Mughassil, Al Haffa Market, and Taqah Fort, are on the itinerary.
In 2024, several prominent cruise ships will call in Oman, including Costa Toscana, AIDAcosma, MSC Opera, Mein Schiff 6, and Norwegian Jade homeporting in Dubai, as well as Queen Mary 2 on her annual World Cruise.