Cruise Industry

What the launch of homegrown Saudi cruise line AROYA means for the industry

The launch of Aroya Cruises, the first domestic Saudi Arabian cruise line and the Arab world’s first homegrown cruise brand, will be transformative for the regional cruise industry.

AROYA Cruises is a subsidiary of Cruise Saudi

Aroya Cruises, launching in 2024 with the former World Dream (acquired in 2023 and renamed Manama), has said it will provide an authentically Arabian cruise experience, with a focus on relaxation, entertainment, and education. 

There are several ways Aroya Cruises is likely to be different to any other cruise line sailing in the Middle East, but there are also several keyways it will completely transform the regional cruise sector.

Increased demand for Middle Eastern cruises

The biggest impact of the launch of a Saudi Arabian cruise line will be the likely increase in demand for cruises in the region, due to greater interest in cruises in the Middle East. This could lead to more cruise lines expanding their operations to the region, offering a wider variety of itineraries and destinations.

Aroya Cruises plans to primarily target the local home market in the region, as well as international cruise tourists interested in the culture and history of the region. Through this it will stimulate greater demand in regional cruises. This increase in demand for cruises in this region will have a domino effect within the industry. 

World Dream will be refitted for Aroya Cruises.

Cruise lines may feel compelled to expand their operations in the region to capitalise on the burgeoning demand created by Aroya, ultimately resulting in an expanded array of itineraries and destinations aboard a greater number of cruise ships, from the enchanting historical sites of Egypt to the picturesque coastal beauty of Oman.

The further growth of the Middle Eastern cruise sector would also accelerate the ongoing development of state-of-the-art cruise terminals and infrastructure, bolstering the region’s cruise tourism appeal even more for both cruise lines and their passengers.

By pioneering a local Saudi Arabian cruise market, Aroya Cruises will prove that such a market in the region is feasible, and may prompt more cruise lines to homeport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia instead of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE. 

This would widen the range of homeports available to passengers in the region, and in turn offer a wider array of destinations, such as the cruise ports of the Red Sea, which include Aqaba in Jordan and Safaga in Egypt, the gateway to the ancient Roman city of Luxor.

The Nabataean ruins of Hegra in Saudi Arabia

Greater awareness of Saudi Arabian culture and tourism

A Saudi Arabian cruise line would showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. Aroya has already indicated its intention to homeport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia initially, and sail roundtrip itineraries in the Red Sea. This will help raise awareness of Saudi Arabia as a burgeoning tourism destination and encourage more people to visit the country.

Aroya Cruises will introduce passengers to the cultural tapestry of Saudi Arabia and its awe-inspiring and ancient natural wonders, from the ancient Nabatean city of Al-Ula, with its mesmerizing rock formations, to the metropolis of Riyadh, a modern hub of art, commerce, and tradition. As a domestic cruise brand, Aroya will enable passengers to immerse themselves in the country’s diverse traditions, culinary delights, and folklore.

The mere existence of a Saudi Arabian cruise line like Aroya will therefore be a powerful catalyst enticing more visitors to explore the Kingdom. By exposing travellers to the richness of Saudi Arabian culture and the allure of its landscapes, it fosters an environment of curiosity and appreciation, ultimately encouraging more people to experience the magic of Saudi Arabia first-hand. 

This will ultimately lead to greater demand for cruises to or from Saudi Arabia, causing more cruise line to feature the Kingdom and wider Middle East on their itineraries, and supporting the region’s emergence as a major global cruise tourism destination. 

Introduction of larger and more advanced cruise ships to the region

The global cruise industry is highly competitive, and the launch of a new cruise line would increase competition further. This could lead to other cruise lines offering more competitive pricing and expanding their offerings to remain competitive.

To stay relevant and competitive in this evolving market, established cruise lines homeporting in Dubai may launch more diverse itineraries, or shorter cruises catering more to the local market, rather than international fly-cruise passengers. 

The launch of Aroya, and the growth of competition and demand, could also prompt cruise lines to introduce more innovative onboard experiences, and the deployment of larger and newer ships in the region. These developments can enhance the overall cruise experience and contribute to the industry’s evolution.

Outdoor Promenade on MSC World Europa (World Europa cruised from Saudi in 2022)

Aroya Cruises’ first cruise ship, Manama, the former World Dream cruise ship of the defunct Dream Cruises, will be one of the largest ships sailing in the region. The ship will boast multiple restaurants, bars and cafes, several pools, expansive sun decks and a number of ‘bells and whistles’ such as a waterpark, rock climbing wall, and possibly other at-sea attractions. 

This may prompt competing cruise lines in the region to send even more advanced cruise ships during the annual winter cruise season. Already the Middle East cruise sector has seen MSC World Europa homeport in Dubai (the second-largest class of cruise ship in the world), while Costa Cruises regularly deploys Costa Toscana or Costa Smeralda to Dubai, two of the largest and most advanced cruise ships in its fleet. 

More effort catering to diverse passenger demographics

The Middle East cruise sector caters to a diverse range of passenger demographics, with local Arab passengers, as well as international guests from Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. 

Aroya Cruises has made clear that Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab world will be its key target market, suggesting a cruise experience primarily revolving around Muslim passengers who require halal food and some gender-segregated facilities, such as the onboard spa and pool areas. 

AROYA is the first homegrown cruise brand in the Arab world

This could prompt international cruise lines operating in the region to try and cater to these different needs as well, in the same way that they do for the Asian market when sailing out of China.

Aroya Cruises’ launch in Saudi Arabia heralds a transformative era for the regional cruise industry, increasing demand for Middle Eastern cruises, bolstering awareness of Saudi culture and tourism, and possibly leading to larger, more advanced cruise ships being introduced to the region. 

By catering to diverse passenger demographics, from local Arab passengers to international travellers, the Middle East will become an increasingly attractive and dynamic cruise destination as well. Aroya Cruises’ entry into the market promises to reshape the cruise landscape, offering travellers a multitude of enriching opportunities to explore the cultural and natural wonders of the region.

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