Middle East Cruise News

‘Open to all options’ says new line Virgin Voyages regarding Dubai cruises

Virgin Voyages, the new cruise line launched by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is ‘open to all options’ when it comes to its future cruise ship deployments after 2022, according to Craig Milan, Vice President of Itineraries & Destination Development at the cruise line.


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Cruise Arabia & Africa asked Milan whether Virgin Voyages was considering homeporting in the Middle East, or adding Dubai port calls to its itineraries, given his presence at Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum.


“We’re open to all options,” he said, “but it definitely won’t be any time before 2022.”

Virgin Voyages will take delivery of its first cruise ship in 2020, with a further two on order, to be delivered in 2021 and 2022, suggesting that if Virgin Voyages does cruise to Dubai or any other ports in the Middle East, it will be with its third cruise ship.

The first of the new ships, a new class of vessel dubbed ‘Lady Ships’ by the cruise line, will be based year-round in Miami, sailing week-long Caribbean cruises that will cater exclusively to the Millennial demographic.

Virgin Voyages, which promised in pre-launch publicity material to shake up the traditional cruise experience, have further confirmed that their ships will be adults-only.

The commitment to doing things differently is also evident in the exterior design of the first cruise ship, which carries its superstructure all the way forward over the bow, giving Virgin Voyages the ability to offer an ‘ocean terrace’ in 86% of its staterooms.

Other announcements made by Virgin Voyages at the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum were that the cruise line is interested in exploring the viability of shorter three to four-day cruise itineraries when its fleet expands.

“Given the demographic that we’re targeting, they’re younger and may be less interested in weeks-long cruises than older passengers, so shorter itineraries are something we might look at,” Milan said during a panel discussion at the event.

The Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum closed Wednesday at Dubai Parks and Resorts’ Lapita Hotel.


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The event was held during the build-up to the 2017/18 Middle East cruise season out of Dubai, with six cruise lines homeporting in the Arabian Gulf this year, offering roundtrip cruises from Dubai. It is expected to be the busiest cruise season on record.

More than 18 cruise lines will make in excess of 170 port calls during the coming season, carrying more than 600,000 cruise passengers through Dubai alone.

The city is well on track to hit its goal of 1-million cruise tourists per year by 2020, Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), told delegates at the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum.

“We want cruise tourists to feel the soul of Dubai,” he said during a keynote speech. “We’re going to be working with local tour operators and cruise lines to ensure that we’re offering excursions that show the heritage of the city and its older parts, as well as the more modern attractions and architecture.”

Referencing similar comments later in the event, Milan said during a panel discussion about extending the Middle East cruise season that the “potential of the Arabian Gulf for longer winter cruise deployments is huge”.

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