Cruise Industry

Cruise ships pile-up in Dubai as cruise industry grinds to a halt amid Coronavirus pandemic

All seven of the remaining cruise ships homeporting in Dubai have cancelled their cruise seasons, with ships currently playing a game of musical chairs as they take turns disembarking passengers and re-fueling at Port Rashid in Dubai.

AIDA, Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, Pullmantur, Royal Caribbean and TUI were all forced to cancel the remainder of their 2019/2020 cruise seasons this week when the UAE’s Federal Transport Authority informed them that it was suspending cruise operations over Coronavirus concerns.

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There are eight cruise ships in port in Dubai now, with two more at sea waiting to disembark passengers

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The measure are part of sweeping action taken nationwide to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the UAE. Cruise ships have become a source of particular concern after two cruise ships were put under quarantine due to Covid-19 cases on-board.

Globally, Princess Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises and new cruise line Virgin Voyages have announced a total suspension of cruise operations for up to two months due to the virus, which was declared a global pandemic by the WHO this week.

While the Federal Transport Authority has not publicly acknowledged the shutdown of all the UAE’s cruise ports, all six cruise lines homeporting in Dubai have confirmed the decision with Cruise Arabia & Africa.

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Jewel of the Seas was at sea at the time of writing, waiting to disembark her passengers

Passengers aboard Jewel of the Seas with whom we have been in contact have confirmed that the ship is in the process of offloading passengers who want to return home. At the time of writing, Jewel of the Seas was at sea off Dubai as she had to be moved for MSC Bellissima to dock and disembark passengers.

“While all the cruises have been cancelled, and we’ve been cleared for disembarkation after the virus scare yesterday, we’ve had to go back out to sea to make space for another ship that needed to dock,” said a passenger, Debbie, aboard Jewel of the Seas.

“We’re expected to be back in port tomorrow for the rest of the passengers to get off,” she added.

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Dubai Cruise Terminal is at full capacity as it works to get all 16,000 passengers off seven cruise ships

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Dubai Cruise Terminal is having to move ships around as each disembarks its passengers and takes on fuel for onward journeys that will sail as dead-head voyages (cruises without passengers). But, a lack of space in Port Rashid means that not all the ships can dock at once.

Already, three cruise ships that arrived from Asia earlier in the week have been moved to commercial berths elsewhere in port. Norwegian Jade, AIDAvita and Nautica have all been laid-up in Dubai for the last few days.

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MSC Bellissima at Dubai Cruise Terminal 3

MSC Bellissima docked yesterday, joining MSC Lirica which made port in Dubai the day before. The cruise line has announced that all its Dubai cruises have been cancelled, and all passengers are being disembarked to fly home.

AIDAprima, which was stuck in Abu Dhabi earlier in the week, arrived in Dubai Thursday morning and began offloading her passengers amid a total suspension of all cruise operations in the UAE.

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Costa Diadema towers over the Dubai Cruise Terminal in Dubai

Costa Diadema is also docked in Port Rashid disembarking passengers, along with Mein Schiff 5. Both ships were at sea yesterday waiting for their turn at Dubai Cruise Terminal.

Dubai authorities are allowing cruise ships to offload their passengers so that they can fly home, while all other cruise ports in the country (Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Khorfakkan and Sir Bani Yas Island) have implemented a blanket ban, not evening allowing ships to dock.

All are being re-provisioned and refueled in Dubai, the primary cruise port in the region, where the vast majority of all cruise ships that visit the region conduct their turnaround port calls.

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