Viking Ocean Cruises may be cruising more regularly from Dubai after 2020, as it places orders for another four cruise ships, according to a Dubai Cruise Tourism official who spoke to Cruise Arabia & Africa on the sidelines of the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum.
According to the official, who asked to remain anonymous as he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, an executive with Viking Ocean Cruises said during a closed door summit meeting at the event that the Arabian Gulf was of “huge” interest to the cruise line.
Viking Ocean Cruises has added Middle East cruise ports to its itineraries for 2018 and 2019, with Viking Sun and Viking Orion calling in Muscat, Oman twice during the coming year, but it has not as yet offered a Dubai cruise departure.
Both calls at Muscat are not turnaround port calls, but according to reports out of last week’s Seatrade event, this may change in 2021 or 2022, suggesting that Viking Ocean Cruises may make its Arabian Gulf cruise debut at the same time as Virgin Voyages, if it does ultimately commit to the Dubai cruise market.
The expanded cruise fleet will give Viking Ocean Cruises more options in terms of cruise ship deployment, and the Arabian Gulf is the ideal winter cruise destination while repositioning cruise ships between Europe and Asia.
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“Following the agreement signed last April between Fincantieri and Viking Ocean Cruises, the contracts for the construction of the 7th and 8th ships have become effective and, furthermore, the company has exercised the option for the 9th and the 10th unit,” Viking Ocean Cruises said in a statement regarding its expanding fleet.
The additional orders will enable Viking CEO Torstein Hagen to achieve his long-held ambition to have 10 ocean vessels and 100 river-based longships.
The new ships will be the same size and design as the two Viking Ocean cruise ships already ordered and the four already in operation.
Viking Ocean Cruises is currently operating Viking Sea, Viking Star, Viking Sky and Viking Sun, which were built at other Italian shipyards in Marghera and Ancona. All four cruise ships are deployed for 2018 in the European, Caribbean and Asian cruise markets.
Three of the six new sister ships, including those related to the exercised option, will be delivered in 2018, 2019 and 2021. An additional two will be delivered in 2022 (the same year Viking is expected to debut in the Middle East) and the last one in 2023.
The Middle East cruise market, with most cruise ships homeporting in Dubai between November and March every year, has seen extraordinary growth over the last five years, with Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), noting recently that “Dubai remains on track to receive one million cruise passengers by 2020”.
He also said that Dubai would focus on letting cruise tourists feel the “soul” of the city going forward, which would fit in well with Viking Ocean Cruises’ destination immersion approach to shore excursions and port calls.
“As we continue to grow our fleet, we have more opportunities to offer guests new and different options for experiencing the Viking way of destination-focused cruising, an approach that is completely unique in the industry,” said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking Cruises, when the cruise line announced its 2017/18 destination line-up.
“Our guests are experienced travelers who are curious about the great art, history and cultures of the world, which is why we design our ships and itineraries to help immerse them in the destinations they visit,” he added.