P&O Cruises has become the latest cruise line to commit to the Middle East cruise market with the announcement that it will homeport a cruise ship out of Dubai during the 2019 cruise season.
The announcement comes more than a year after Cruise Arabia & Africa first reported that the British cruise line was in talks with the Cruise Arabia Alliance to move a ship into the Arabian Gulf cruise market.
The cruise line, the oldest in the world, has now confirmed that it will be deploying Oceana to the Middle East, offering five 10-night roundtrip cruises from Dubai between January and April, 2019. The announcement marks the end of a three-year study and decision process on the part of P&O.
P&O Cruises Senior Vice-President Paul Ludlow said if successful, the programme would be extended the following year from November to April and that the cruise line will initially be targeting its British cruise market base, not Middle East residents as a source market.
“The Arabian Gulf has become an ever-more popular region to holiday in, and the itineraries we are offering are exactly the kind of exotic mix that our guests are going to love,” he said, adding that P&O was the only cruise line in the region sourcing 99% of its passengers from the UK.
As a result of this, the line is partnering with Emirates Airlines to offer fly-cruise packages from the United Kingdom that will include a night in a hotel in Dubai ahead of the cruise. Ludlow is promising an itinerary of “unique cultures, camel racing, dune rides, mosques, museums, Arabic souks and shopping”.
The cruise line is expecting to carry 18,000 cruise passengers aboard Oceana during the initial ‘tester’ cruise season in the Arabian Gulf.
“Oceana is one of our sun-class ships, meaning it is a vessel that was built to operate in warm climates. So the outside deck space is phenomenal, and the Arabian Gulf is a region of the world where you can pretty much guarantee the evenings will be warm, so our team is working to ensure we maximise the space,” Ludlow added.
He dismissed suggestions some guests might be concerned about security in the region, pointing out that most cruise passengers “understand the difference between the places our Arabian Gulf cruises are taking them and other countries”.
The Arabian Gulf programme will go on sale this month, a week ahead of P&O’s main winter 2018-19 programme.