Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal has had its best-ever cruise season, with the maiden call of Princess Cruise Lines’ Majestic Princess and a 48% surge in passenger numbers to the UAE’s capital.
Abu Dhabi Port Company, which operates the terminal, recorded booming growth for the year with a 40% increase in vessel calls and said the same growth in cruise passenger numbers had been seen at Sir Bani Yas Island, the first cruise island destination in the Middle East.
The 2016/2017 cruise season saw more than 345,662 cruise tourists visit Abu Dhabi, up from 232,605 in 2015/2016. Likewise, cruise ship port calls increased from 115 in 2015/2016 to 161 in 2016/2017.
Abu Dhabi Port’s two cruise destinations are Zayed Port, home to Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, and the Sir Bani Yas Island Cruise Beach, which was launched during last year’s season as the first dedicated cruise beach and eco-tourism stopover.
Following on last season’s success with a 16% growth in passengers, this year the company recorded a 48% increase in passengers arriving at the terminals – close to six times the 8% increase expected by the company last year.
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Captain Mohamed Al Shamisi, CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports said that the record-breaking season was testament to the growth of Abu Dhabi as a global cruise hub and cruise tourism destination.
“For several years, we have made significant investments in our port infrastructure and tourism offerings to build a world-class cruise hub here in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“We offer market-leading services to provide cruise passengers with value added services that address all their needs, and support the maritime tourism sector’s role in enhancing Abu Dhabi’s appeal as a leading tourism hub. Today, I’m proud to say that the Company’s vision and strategy is paying off with another record-breaking year,” he added.
For more than a decade, Abu Dhabi has played second-fiddle to Dubai as the primary cruise destination in the Middle East, but that is beginning to change with the development of Sir Bani Yas Island and the opening of the dedicated cruise beach.
“Since developing the cruise terminal we have worked diligently and closely with cruise lines to promote Abu Dhabi as a unique travel destination,” says Abdulkareem Al Masabi, Executive Vice President, Ports, at Abu Dhabi Ports. “We launched Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach as a ‘must visit’ destination on cruise liner routes this season, which has contributed to a 40% growth in number of vessel calls this season, doubling last year’s forecast of 21% increase for 2016/2017.”
Calls by maiden vessels like the Majestic Princess are a sign of the growing prominence of Abu Dhabi as a cruise destination. Cruise ships from European and American markets have usually stopped only in Dubai during repositioning cruises between the major cruise markets of Asia and Europe, but now select Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal in addition to Dubai.
The leading 10 source markets for cruise passengers arriving at the cruise terminal this year were Germany (48%), UK (21%), Italy (10%), Russia (5%), The Netherlands (4%), USA and Spain (3%). Belgium, Switzerland and Austria each accounted for 2%.
While most years the company has typically seen the cruise season end in late April or early May, the Majestic Princess vessel’s arrival at the terminal this June was the latest port call ever in the season and the first in the UAE to coincide with Ramandan.
Majestic Princess visited Abu Dhabi on her cruise from Dubai to Shanghai, where she is to be homeported for the summer. The Dubai to Shanghai cruise was part of a longer 56-day repositioning cruise from Barcelona to China.
The Majestic Princess is the newest sister ship to Royal Princess and Regal Princess, the 19-deck ship carries 3,560 guests, 1,346 crew and was built and launched in 2017 as the latest addition to the company’s fleet, making her one of the newsest and the second-largest cruise ship ever to visit the UAE.