P&O Cruises, which is homeporting a cruise ship in Dubai during February and March, 2019 for the first time, is considering a full Middle East cruise season for 2020, according to Steven Young, Director Port Services & Government Affairs, P&O Cruises and Cunard, Carnival UK.
Young made the comments during a presentation at the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum in Dubai.
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“P&O Cruises will homeport in the region for the first time in early 2019,” he told delegates. “It’s taken more than three years to convince our P&O team in the UK to do so, and we think that its going to be a very well-received proposition for British cruise tourists given all this region has to offer.”
He added that P&O were now considering expanding their Middle East cruise deployment out of Dubai during the following year. The Dubai cruise itineraries for P&O in February and March, 2019 are a test-season, it seems.
“The Arabian Gulf has one of the most stable winter climates in the world, in fact after the Caribbean it’s one of the most ideal winter cruise destinations in the world.,” Young said. “And the cruise infrastructure development in the region is second to none.”
However, he added that because of the small size of the local source market for cruises in the Middle East, brands like P&O have to rely on fly-cruise passengers for volume.
“Because of this, ticket price net yields can be a challenge, because they’re diluted by the flight costs,” he said.
It’s for these reasons that P&O have not committed to a full cruise season in the Arabian Gulf out of Dubai, but if the 2019 tester season goes well, it will bring its cruise ship Oceana back to Dubai to operate a full season between November 2019 and March 2020.
P&O Cruises will be the second British cruise line ever to homeport in Dubai. Thomson Cruises was the first during the cruise season that just past, with Thomson Celebration sailing a number of Arabian Gulf cruises from Dubai Cruise Terminal.
Thomson did not return to the region for the 2017/18 cruise season, but has indicated that it may do so next year, when Royal Caribbean is expected to return again for its second cruise season since 2013.
P&O Cruises’ first Middle East cruise season will buck the regional trend somewhat as they will be sailing a number of 10-night roundtrip Dubai cruises instead of the usual 5-7 nights offered by Costa, AIDA and TUI.
It seems that P&O are trying to find a middle ground between the two-week cruise itineraries that Celebrity Cruises sails out of Abu Dhabi, and the shorter one week or less cruises offered by its sister Carnival Corporation brands (P&O, Costa and AIDA are all owned by Carnival Corporation, while Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity and TUI).
P&O Cruises is also diversifying its Arabian Gulf cruise itineraries, with roundtrip Dubai cruise departures that go to more regional cruise destinations than any other cruise line homeporting in the Middle East.
P&O’s Oceana will visit Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, Bahrain, Muscat in Oman and Khassab during her ten-day cruise, with overnight stays in port in Dubai at the beginning and end of each cruise. She’ll also spend a full two nights in port in Abu Dhabi, emphasizing the growing prominence of the UAE’s capital as a cruise tourism destination with the opening of The Louvre, Abu Dhabi.