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.
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.
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:
- New Zealand
- South Korea
- Czech Republic
- San Marino
- China, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan
Categories: Middle East Cruise News