MSC Cruises will be the first mainstream cruise line to homeport in Saudi Arabia following the signing of a landmark agreement with Cruise Saudi, a cruise-focused government agency that seeks to develop Saudi Arabia’s cruise industry.
MSC Cruises will sail a series of Red Sea itineraries from Jeddah during the coming winter 2021/22 cruise season aboard MSC Magnifica.
The 7-day cruises from Jeddah, one of the largest cities of Saudi Arabia, with a historical centre that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, will visit a selection of ports and destinations in the region and three Saudi ports including weekly calls to the port of AlWajh, gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage site of AlUla.
The agreement, a major landmark deal for the regional cruise industry, was signed in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, between Fawaz Farooqui, Managing Director of Cruise Saudi, and Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises.
“Having witnessed at first hand the richness of the local heritage, I am impressed with Saudi Arabia’s ability to preserve its traditions and culture and make them available for the world to see,” said Vago.
“I look forward to helping tourists from all over the world as well as from the Kingdom discover the incredible wonders that this country has to offer, including the untouched beauty of its coastline and historical sites,” he added.
In addition to homeporting MSC Magnifica in Jeddah, MSC Cruises has also revealed that its larger and newer ship MSC Virtuosa, already announced for the Dubai 2021/22 cruise season, will be visiting Saudi Arabia on her cruises from the UAE.
MSC Virtuosa will call in the port of Dammam, visiting AlAhsa oasis, another UNESCO World Heritage site, on her winter Arabian Gulf cruises.
MSC Virtuosa will call at Dammam every week from December, 2021 to March, 2022.
As Saudi Arabia prepares to host the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 on December 5thin Jeddah, MSC Magnifica guests will also have the chance to follow this global sports event during the cruise season.
The decision by MSC Cruises to homeport a ship in Saudi Arabia for a full season will provide the local cruise market with a more accessible cruise holiday option, although most Arab cruise passengers tend to prefer itineraries in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.
MSC Cruises expects 170,000 fly-cruise tourists to visit Saudi Arabia onboard MSC Magnifica and MSC Virtuosa during their cruise seasons out of Jeddah and Dubai.
For cruise tourists flying direct to Jeddah, they will benefit from direct connections between Jeddah and major European and global cities by the national carrier Saudia.
The airline has even modified its schedules to fit the two ships’ departure and arrival times to ensure smoother connections throughout.
Fawaz Farooqui, Managing Director of Cruise Saudi, indicated during the signing ceremony that the deployment of MSC Magnifica in Jeddah was only a first step in Saudi Arabia’s ambitious cruise tourism plans.
“[We] are keen to forge a long-term partnership. We look forward to exploring opportunities to increase the number and size of vessels operating on Saudi routes in the future,” he said.
“Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer visitors, and the new collaboration will open doors for intrepid travelers from across the globe to be amongst the first to experience the rich Saudi heritage and warm, hospitality,” he added.
The opening up of Saudi Arabia’s cruise tourism potential will be a transformative development for the Middle East cruise industry, which has long been held back by a lack of cruise destinations in the Red Sea.
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