MSC Cruises announced recently that they were replacing MSC Fantasia with her sister ship Splendida in the Middle East cruise market, with Dubai as her homeport.
Now the Italian cruise line has expanded that commitment up until 2019, with both Dubai and Abu Dhabi offered as cruise embarkation ports in the Arabian Gulf.
The decision underscores MSC Cruises long-term commitment to the local cruise market, and its belief in the potential of Abu Dhabi as a regional cruise hub alongside Dubai.
Dubai Cruise Terminal in Mina Rashid is currently the leader in terms of the number of cruise ship departures in 2017, with all five of the cruise lines homeporting in the Middle East using it as a turnaround port.
In contrast, just three cruise lines will be offering roundtrip Abu Dhabi cruises, but they include some famous names, such as AIDA Cruises, MSC Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, which is using the capital exclusively as a base for its first ever Middle East cruise season.
Like MSC Cruises, Celebrity has also confirmed it will keep a cruise ship in the Arabian Gulf for a further two cruise seasons.
Princes for MSC Cruises out of Abu Dhabi, visiting Sir Bani Yas Island, Dubai, Khorfakkan and Muscat start at around AED1,500 for ‘anytime’ rate, which encompasses all 15 of the roundtrip cruises Splendida will be making out of Abu Dhabi during 2017.
Specific cruise dates will likely be more expensive.
For cruise passengers travelling to the UAE from other parts of the Middle East and world, the option to board in Abu Dhabi may prove more convenient as the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal and Etihad have a seamless connectivity agreement allowing baggage to be taken right through to the ship.