When the Gulf Crisis kicked off in June this year, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries cutting all trade and diplomatic ties with Qatar, it was anticipated that the regional cruise industry would be impacted.
Cruise lines told Cruise Arabia & Africa at the time that they were monitoring the situation closely as the UAE government indicated that all merchant, private and cruise vessels calling at any port in the UAE would not be given access if it had Qatar on its itinerary.
This was a problem for several cruise ships, including Seabourn Encore, the new luxury cruise liner in the Seabourn Cruises fleet, because she was scheduled to call at Abu Dhabi on October 24th and Dubai on October 25th before cruising overnight to Doha, Qatar.
Seabourn Encore departed Dubai Wednesday and docked in Qatar on Thursday morning, despite a stated ban on all marine traffic between the UAE and Qatar.
In the weeks after the Gulf Crisis unfolded her cruise itinerary remained unaltered, and now today she docked at Doha Port after departing Dubai yesterday, indicating that international cruise ships at least are not being made to suffer the impact of the diplomatic dispute with Qatar.
Seabourn Encore at port in Doha, Qatar on Thursday, Oct 26th.
Azamara Club Cruises, TUI Cruises, Crystal Cruises, and MSC Cruises are all scheduled to visit Doha this year, all of them on cruise itineraries departing from Dubai, it now appears that those itineraries are in fact safe from any adjustment.
In 2018 there are at least 48 scheduled port calls for Doha by these cruise lines.
Cruise Arabia & Africa has reached out to all Qatar-bound cruise lines and the UAE government for comment.
UPDATE: At the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum in December it was confirmed that cruise ships are exempt from the restrictions. Steven Young, Director Port Services & Government Affairs, P&O Cruises and Cunard, Carnival UK, described the measures as a ‘blessing’ for the regional cruise market.
“Cruise itineraries between the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf are port-lean, and the cruise destinations within the Gulf require greater diversity of shore excursion offerings to really make them stand out,” he said during the event, later adding that not being able to sail to Qatar would have been a great disadvantage for cruise lines.