A high ranking source in the Middle East cruise industry has informed Cruise Arabia & Africa that the British cruise line P&O Cruises is considering home porting a cruise ship in the Middle East for the first time.
Cruise Arabia & Africa has reached out to P&O Cruises for comment, but a spokesperson with the line declined to comment at the time of writing. If the rumours are true, it would mark a major development for the Middle East cruise market, bringing the total number of cruise lines sailing roundtrip in the Middle East to seven.
MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean, AIDA Cruises, and TUI are all offering roundtrip Middle East cruises during the 2015/16 cruise season out of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, while in the 2016/17 cruise season these cruise lines will be joined by Celebrity Cruises.
“We’ve been in talks with P&O Cruises since around 2013, trying to convince them to bring a cruise ship to the Middle East for a season,” said the official, who is part of the Cruise Arabia alliance (a joint partnership between the Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatari tourism boards that aims to promote the Middle East as a cruise destination).
The Cruise Arabia alliance is a separate entity to Cruise Arabia & Africa, the Middle East’s only cruise magazine.
According to the official, who asked not to be named, P&O Cruises, which is recognised as one of the oldest cruise line’s in the world, is considering a Middle East deployment for the 2017/18 cruise season. The cruise line had reportedly been planning to announce a 2016/17 cruise schedule for the Arabian Gulf, but has put those plans on hold due to regional security concerns.
The news comes just months after P&O cancelled Dubai as a cruise departure port for Arcadia in April this year, the cruise ship still visited the city, but did not conduct a ‘turnaround’, where a portion of the guests disembark, with new passengers taken on.
P&O’s Arcadia has been a regular visitor to Dubai in the past, but according to the official Cruise Arabia & Africa spoke to, there are no plans for P&O to deploy the ship in the Middle East. “With the recent sale of Adonia to fathom cruise line, they’ll likely send one of their next smallest ships to the Middle East as a ‘tester’,” the official said.
Adonia, the smallest cruise ship in the P&O fleet, was transferred to fathom cruises, a new brand of from P&O’s parent company Carnival Corporation, earlier this year to sail a series of roundtrip cruises from Miami to the Dominican Republic and Cuba.