Dubai is determined to remain the cruise capital of the Middle East, undertaking a major redevelopment and expansion of its facilities at Port Rashid and the recently announced Dubai Harbour, and now it wants to better-target the luxury cruise sector too.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, Esam Ahmed, commercial manager at Mina Rashid and Mina Hamriyah ports for DP World, said the plans were part of a range of upgrades to the port’s cruise infrastructure.
“Today, we have the capacity to handle six ships and by 2020 we are adding one more berth to be seven berths for the big vessels to call at Mina Al Rashid,” he said, adding that passenger capacities at Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 will also be increased, while a tubing system will be built to allow passengers to move more easily between two terminals.
This will be especially useful for passengers that book back-to-back Dubai cruises, usually switching from a roundtrip Dubai cruise in the Arabian Gulf to a cruise from Dubai to Singapore or one of the major Mediterranean cruise ports, Barcelona, Civitavecchia (for Rome) and Venice being particularly popular.
The two current Dubai Cruise Terminals are too far from each other for passengers to easily walk between, making a tube system necessary.
The tube system between the two terminals will also boost capacity. Currently, Terminal 2 can handle 4,000 passengers per day and Terminal 3 can handle 14,000, but improving links “will enhance the capacity for an additional 4,000-5,000 passengers per day,” according to Ahmed.
These upgrade plans are already budgeted and approved, but DP World is considering further enhancements to Dubai’s cruise offering through Port Rashid, including a possible dedicated berth and small terminal for the luxury cruise lines.
“We have, for example, the full quayside, 1.9km, for the cruise ships. And then we have additional quayside we can use,” he said. “What we are thinking of is building a small terminal, called Terminal 4. This terminal might be for luxury ships.”
He said that DP World is currently “evaluating the numbers” and talking to cruise lines about what further enhancements to Dubai’s cruise infrastructure and processes they need in order to attract more ships to the region and achieve its 1-million cruise tourist target by 2020.
Although the target is ambitious, Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), says its achievable if the UAE’s government departments continue working together to enhance the Dubai cruise product offering.
The UAE has prioritised the cruise industry for growth in a number of ways, including the introduction of a multiple entry visa for India and Chinese cruise tourists, the exemption of cruise liners from the Qatar maritime restrictions, and the recent decision to redevelop Port Rashid into a pure cruise port and leisure and lifestyle destination.
Mina Rashid Marina will be the name of the redeveloped Port Rashid, from a commercial port into a cruise port and luxury lifestyle destination.
The port is currently a busy commercial port, with fishing vessels, offshore workboats and ro-ro ships using its docks, which will soon become waterfront luxury apartments, restaurants and shops, alongside the region’s largest yacht marina.
QE2, berthed at the old Cruise Terminal 1, will become the Queen Elizabeth II Hotel, a floating hotel adjacent the yacht marina.
It will also be home to the Queen Elizabeth II Hotel, a floating hotel concept that it is hoped will become the permanent home for Cunard’s former flagship, QE2, which has been facing an uncertain future in Dubai for more than ten years.
“The numbers that we have achieved today, and even the target number we have set ourselves of one million, is still scratching the surface,” Kazim said, referencing similar comments made several years ago by Dubai officials when they said Dubai will in the future be the most popular winter cruise destination in the world, after the Caribbean.
“No goal is far beyond reach,” Kazim added.