Middle East Cruise News

Cruises to Saudi Arabia another step closer to reality with introduction of tourist visa

Saudi Arabia has taken the historic step of introducing a tourist visa for travelers from 49 countries, including e-visas and visas on arrival for citizens of the world’s largest cruise markets.

Visitors from the USA, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Australia and several dozen other states will now be able to get a visa on arrival. Scroll down for the full list.

In addition, the Kingdom has relaxed it’s strict dress codes for female visitors, and will allow women travelling without a male chaperone to enter the country as well.

Triple Bay Wellness Resort

Saudi Arabia is developing tourism destinations on its Red Sea coast, such as the Triple Bay Wellness Resort

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From the end of September, female tourists are no longer expected to wear an abaya or cover up their hair.

However, they will still need to wear “modest clothing,” according to Ahmed Al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage.

What this equates to in actuality will likely mean that knees and shoulders must be covered.

The move will be welcomed by the cruise industry, which for several years has been calling for Saudi Arabia to open its ports to cruise ships.

“Cruise itineraries between the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf are port-lean, and the cruise destinations within the Gulf require greater diversity of shore excursion offerings to really make them stand out,” said Steven Young, Vice President, Port & Shore Operations for Carnival UK’s P&O Cruises and Cunard back in 2017.

“The opening up of the Saudi cruise market would really help in this regard,” he added during a keynote address to delegates from across the regional and international cruise sector during the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Conference.

dubai cruise ships2

Dubai is a major global cruise port, but is a ten day voyage from Aqaba, the only port call on the Red Sea

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More recently, Royal Caribbean International, the world’s second-largest cruise line after Carnival, said that it would be one of the first to dock in Saudi Arabia if the country allowed cruise calls.

“At the moment, cruise ships in the Red Sea make only one port of call, in the Jordanian coastal city of Aqaba. There’s just that one stop in Jordan after you pass the Suez Canal, then ships move on,” said Mohamed Saeed, General Manager, Middle East, Royal Caribbean.

“Dubai and Abu Dhabi did their part,” Saeed added of Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s impressive cruise infrastructure growth. “Oman is starting this initiative and Bahrain is working on it, but we need to see that [from Saudi Arabia].”

It can take up to ten consecutive days at sea to get from Aqaba in Jordan to Salalah or Muscat in Oman on the re-positioning cruises between Dubai and the Mediterranean, which is what puts a lot of passengers off the voyage, despite the popularity of the Suez Canal transit.

With the chance to be one of the first cruise tourists in largest and most powerful country in the Arab World, as well as the appeal of cruising the Suez Canal, with the glittering playground of Dubai at the end of the cruise, that may now change.

The following 49 countries will be eligible to apply for e-visas and visas on arrival:

  1. USA
  2. Canada
  3. Kazakhstan
  4. Singapore
  5. Brunei
  6. New Zealand
  7. South Korea
  8. Japan
  9. Spain
  10. Belgium
  11. Malaysia
  12. Austria
  13. Cyprus
  14. UK
  15. Croatia
  16. Estonia
  17. Andorra
  18. Denmark
  19. Germany
  20. Bulgaria
  21. France
  22. Hungary
  23. Czech Republic
  24. Holland
  25. Italy
  26. Finland
  27. Ireland
  28. Lithuania
  29. Greece
  30. Liechtenstein
  31. Monaco
  32. Iceland
  33. Malta
  34. Poland
  35. Latvia
  36. Norway
  37. Russia
  38. Luxembourg
  39. Romania
  40. Slovenia
  41. Montenegro
  42. Slovakia
  43. Switzerland
  44. Portugal
  45. Sweden
  46. Australia
  47. San Marino
  48. Ukraine
  49. China, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan

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