Cruise tourism is on the rise in the UAE. In Dubai, 625,000 passengers arrived on nearly 160 ships over the course of the 2016/17 season – a 15 percent increase year over year. Many of the ship calls were first-time arrivals, including visits from the Norwegian Star, MSC Fantasia and Mein Schiff 1.
“We are very pleased with the success of our 2016/2017 cruising season, and with the city’s sustained popularity as a winter cruise destination," said Jamal Humaid Al Falasi, Director of Dubai Cruise Tourism. "Bolstered by our recent success and our upcoming partnerships over the coming seasons, we are confident we will achieve our strategic goal of welcoming one million cruise tourists to Dubai by 2020/21 cruise season.”
Just down the coastline, the brand new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal has already begun boosting Abu Dhabi's numbers, even in its first full year in operation. TCA Abu Dhabi reports that bookings for next year are 23 percent higher than the same period in 2016, and the forecast is for a total of over 300,000 passengers for 2018. A recent study commissioned by the agency and its partners found that the emirate's cruise business is on track to grow to 800,000 passengers by 2025.
According to the agency, the thriving cruise business in the UAE falls into three broad categories: winter sun circular tours of the Arabian Gulf, home ported in the Emirates; port-of-call stops on regular regional itineraries; and one-day stopovers of vessels that are on round-the-world voyages. Celebrity Cruises and MSC Cruises both have vessels homeported in Abu Dhabi, and bookings have been strong. “The success shown by [these lines] underlines the growing confidence in Abu Dhabi as a viable home port base for the world’s leading cruise lines,” said Saeed Al Dhaheri, the cruise tourism manager at TCA Abu Dhabi, speaking at a recent conference.