Dubai Cruise Terminal saw the busiest day of the upcoming 2018 Middle East cruise season on Friday as all four of the cruise ships homeporting in the Arabian Gulf for the winter season docked simultaneously.
Costa Mediterranea, MSC Splendida, Mein Schiff 5 and AIDAstella shared the 1.9-kilometre cruise quay at Port Rashid, which is capable of handling seven cruise ships at once. Some 21,411 cruise tourists boarded the cruise ships to begin their week long Arabian Gulf cruise itineraries.
Each ship sails a week-long itinerary, but Mein Schiff 5’s Friday departure was an 11-day cruise around the Arabian Gulf, putting her out of sync with AIDAstella, Costa Mediteranea and MSC Splendida, which will all meet in port every Friday throughout the Middle East cruise season.
Press material from Dubai Customs described Friday’s event as unique on the Dubai cruise calendar.
“This is the first time the Port receives four cruise ships together in one day which confirms its readiness to meet the growing demand in the cruise tourism sector and the emirate’s plans to target a million cruise tourists by 2020,” a press release said.
This is in fact incorrect, Dubai Cruise Terminal hosted five cruise ships simultaneously in the 2015 cruise season and while four cruise ships docking on the same day is unusual, it isn’t unheard of.
The press release also listed the cruise ships with incorrect spelling as “Aida Stilla, Main Chef 5, MSC Splendida and Coasta Mediterrania”, which is incongruous with Dubai Customs experience in handling these cruise ships, all four have been regular callers in the Middle East for several years.
The press release is correct in its assertion that the event marks Dubai’s emergence as a global cruise hub. The city was the turnaround port for 157 cruise itineraries during the 2016-17 cruise season, an 18% increase on the previous year’s 133 and a 15% increase in cruise tourists to 650,000.
“The port can receive seven cruise ships simultaneously on a 1,900m quay and Cruise Terminal 3 alone is the biggest of its type worldwide with a capacity of 14,000 passengers and 125,000m2 of area,” said Mohammed Al Mannaei, CEO P&O Marinas and Executive Director Mina Rashid, DP World.
MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises have both deployed much larger cruise ships out of Dubai this year compared to previous cruise seasons.
Dubai Cruise Terminal has seen not just the number of cruise ship calls increase during recent years, but also the size, with all four cruise lines homeporting in the Arabian Gulf deploying larger ships out of Dubai this year.
With Middle Eastern countries investing heavily in infrastructure, cruise lines now see the region as an attractive place to move their Europe fleets in the winter season, while travellers see the itineraries as an easy way to check off several bucket list attractions they may not previously have visited.
Cruise passengers in Abu Dhabi increased tenfold over the last decade, with 345,000 arrivals last season, thanks in large part to Celebrity Constellation homeporting in the UAE capital.
That number is set to increase by an additional 5 percent this season. Dubai, meanwhile, is projected to top 1 million cruise passengers by 2020—while also launching two additional cruise terminals that are currently under development.