Princess Cruises’ newest mega cruise ship Majestic Princess broke two Middle East cruise records Monday when she became the second-largest cruise ship ever to do a turnaround in Dubai, and the first cruise ship ever to visit the region during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
The 330m, 144,216-gross ton ship arrived at Dubai Cruise Terminal in the early hours of Monday morning, completing the first leg of her 49-night Rome to Shanghai cruise, a repositioning voyage ahead of her summer deployment in the Asian cruise market.
However, in a sign of the growing importance of Dubai as a global cruise destination, and the leading cruise hub in the Middle East, she used Dubai as a turnaround port, with hundreds of passengers disembarking and hundreds more joining the ship in the city for a 13-night Dubai to Singapore cruise.
Her time in port was also extended, with the ship departing Dubai at 11pm on Monday night, rather than the earlier scheduled 8pm. According to officials at Cruise Master ME, the regional representatives of Princess Cruises, this was to accommodate more shore excursions due to passenger demand.
After leaving Dubai, Majestic Princess cruised overnight to Abu Dhabi. “This is the first time that we have received a ship in Ramadan and this far into the summer,” Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal manager, Noura Al Dhaheri told The National.
According to Ms Al Dhaheri, the arrival of Majestic Princess’ 2,400 passengers in Abu Dhabi brings the total number of cruise visitors to the capital this season to 340,000, up from 230,000 a season earlier.
The dramatic increase is part of a plan by the Abu Dhabi authorities to push up the number of cruise ship visitors to the city from just 35,366 during the 2006-07 season to 450,000 by 2020 and 808,000 by 2025, when Dubai plans to have more than 1-million cruise tourists visiting the city per year.
Although the visit to the Middle East by Majestic Princess underscores the popularity of the region for cruise lines (105 cruise itineraries depart from Dubai in 2018 and six cruise lines are home porting in Dubai next year), it was a one-off occurrence this year.
Majestic Princess’ visit to the Middle East was part of her repositioning cruise and Dubai is a strategically located destination along the way, which doubles up as a reprovisioning port mid-way between the major cruise markets of Europe and Asia.
DP World, the operator of Dubai Cruise Terminal at Port Rashid, says it is too early to comment on the impact that the Qatar crisis may have on the regional cruise industry.
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt broke diplomatic ties with Qatar Tuesday, and cut off air, sea and land access to the country over a regional political dispute.
“We are working closely with the government authorities on this issue,” a DP World spokesman said. “It is too early to comment on the implications of the decision at this stage and we are assessing the situation.”
The comments come after several cruise lines with scheduled port calls in Doha signaled to Cruise Arabia & Africa that they were considering dropping the country from their Middle East cruise itineraries.