Royal Caribbean International is currently wrapping up its 2016/17 cruise season in the Middle East, with Vision of the Seas sailing her last few roundtrip Dubai cruises during March, before repositioning to Europe.
A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean however has told Cruise Arabia & Africa that the cruise line may return to the Middle East cruise market in 2019 once its fleet deployment has been finalised.
“The 2016/17 cruise season out of Dubai has been extremely successful,” he said. “Most of our remaining cruises are fully booked due to a last-minute surge in bookings. However, there are no plans at this time to bring a ship to the Middle East market for the 2017/18 cruise season.”
This is reportedly because Royal Caribbean International is in the process of upgrading and expanding its fleet. Splendour of the Seas, which sailed a Middle East cruise season out Dubai last year, was sold in April, 2016 to German line TUI Cruises, which in turn will lease it to UK-based Thomson Cruises.
Legend of the Seas, which is visiting Dubai on March 13th en-route to Barcelona from her Asia cruise deployment, is a sister ship to Splendour and Vision of the Seas and has also been sold to Thomson Cruises, with the handover expected in late 2017.
She has no cruises scheduled beyond her 26th March arrival in Barcelona.
Vision of the Seas is therefore being deployed out of Barcelona in the European cruise market to fill the gap.
“We have Symphony of the Seas, our fourth Oasis-class cruise ship, due for delivery in mid-2018,” the spokesperson added. “This will add capacity in the European cruise market during 2018 and the Caribbean from 2019 onwards, so ships in either of those markets may be redeployed to Dubai after that.”
Freedom of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas are all currently cruising out Barcelona for the 2017 cruise season. Freedom is the largest at 160,000 gross tons, while Brilliance is 90,000 gross tons. Rhapsody is a sister ship to Vision and seems the most likely replacement in the Middle East cruise market.
However, it is worth noting that Royal Caribbean’s first ever Arabian Gulf season out of Dubai was operated by Brilliance of the Seas, which Cruise Arabia & Africa reviewed at the time. Given the demand seen by Royal Caribbean during their return to the market in 2016, we may see them bringing a larger cruise ship to Dubai in 2019.