Abu Dhabi’s ambition to become an international cruise hub has received a boost with the announcement that MSC Cruises will become the first cruise line to use the UAE capital on a homeport basis.
Under the terms of the agreement, Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed Port will serve as the primary embarkation and disembarkation point for the Italian operator’s maiden regional itinerary – scheduled for the 2011-2012 season - using its luxury MSC Lirica liner.
Abu Dhabi’s anticipated elevation from port-of-call to homeport status strengthens the UAE capital’s nascent cruise tourism credentials and serves as a core enabler in ADTA’s strategy to attract 2.3 million hotel guests to the Emirates by the end of 2012.
(Pictured: Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO, MSC Cruises; HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority; Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority)
The move will help bolster Abu Dhabi’s cruise tourism credentials, and serve as a core enable in Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority’s strategy to attract 2.3 million hotel guests by the end of 2012.
Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority has confirmed that MSC Lirica, a 59,000-ton, 2,199-guest liner, will be the first ship ever to use Abu Dhabi as a home port, beginning October 2011.
The ship will sail 19 seven-night cruises from Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed Port, travelling round the Arabian Gulf peninsula to Muscat, before turning round en route for the UAE’s eastern emirate of Fujairah on the Indian Ocean.
It will continue heading north to Bahrain, then sail southwards to Dubai, before completing its journey in Abu Dhabi, where estimates suggest that the ship will bring in some 41,000 cruise tourists who will also explore the emirate’s other attractions such as shops, restaurants and hotels.
In a sign that Abu Dhabi intends to become a big player in the cruise market, ADTA also revealed that it will begin a feasibility study towards the development of a dedicated cruise terminal, which would challenge Dubai’s new 3,300 square meter terminal.
“A state-of-the-art cruise terminal would greatly leverage Abu Dhabi’s positional and island geographies, strengthen our case to become the leading regional cruise hub over the next five years, and place Abu Dhabi’s inbound hotel guest target on a firm course,” said ADTA director Mubarak Al Muhairi.
Abu Dhabi’s cruise arrivals have risen from 125,500 in 2008-2009 to 180,000 in 2009-2010 and are expected to exceed 235,000 this season.
Figures released earlier this year by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing suggested that arrivals will be up 30 percent in 2010, with a total of 325,000 passengers.