JEDDAH: As tourist cruise operator Red Sea Spirit launched its first recreational cruise in Saudi Arabia on Thursday on board the luxury cruise ship Silver Spirit, the high prices of the packages on offer aroused comment.
The Silver Spirit offers two luxurious packages: A three-night cruise from KAEC to Ras Al-Abyad in Yanbu and back, starting from SR7,475 ($2000); and a four-night cruise from KAEC to Ras Al-Abyad and Sindalah Island in NEOM and back, starting from SR10,465.
Waad Abdullah, 25, from Jeddah was excited to see that cruises were now available for Saudis.
“I know a lot of people, my family included, who like to go on cruises when traveling, and it’s nice to see it finally happening here,” she told Arab News.
Abdullah thought that prices were a little high by international standards, but she also found that understandable.
“It’s basically sensible for it to be a certain segment of society in the beginning to ensure it goes smoothly. It’s definitely not going to be a spontaneous activity, and larger families can save up to try it out,” she added. “But cruises in general are dedicated toward the rich and financially capable.”
Ibtisam Abid, a 36-year-old from Jeddah, said that she was thrilled to see a cruise in Saudi, being a sea lover. “However, I think it should be for everyone. The prices are a bit expensive so not everyone will be able to enjoy it but it’s an initiative that will attract more people to see how beautiful the Red Sea really is.”
Comments on Twitter were torn between supporting the initiative and dismissing it for being unaffordable.
Tweeter Fahad Hajji said: “The cheapest ticket is SR6,000. That means I need to spend SR24,000 to take my family on this cruise for three days. Don’t you think that’s too expensive for a normal citizen?”
Naif Al-Oufi tweeted: “We’re excited to try the cruise experience for the first time. It will be an exceptional experience for domestic tourism.”
The Silver Spirit arrived at the port of King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) on Wednesday, where Red Sea Spirit organized a welcome celebration in the presence of media representatives.
The operator is affiliated with the Red Sea Cruise Co., which is owned by the Public Investment Fund.
Ghassan Khan, the chief strategy officer at Red Sea Cruise Co., said: “Recreational cruises provide a distinct tourism offering that combines luxury and the exploration of new destinations. In Saudi Arabia, there are exceptional opportunities to discover treasures along the Red Sea coast, where the islands, beaches and nature are unspoiled and unexplored. Travelers will also have opportunities to enjoy on-shore activities as part of their itineraries which meet the aspirations of all segments of society.”
The Silver Spirit offers eight luxury restaurants serving an array of international cuisine, as well as Arabian classics.
Aboard the ship, passengers can explore a lavish retreat from everyday life. Guests can relax in the massive swimming pool and spa during the day and enjoy musical performances in the theater in the evenings.
The safety of guests and crew remains a top priority. The ship’s capacity will be kept at 75 percent to ensure social distancing between passengers, with 450 passengers aboard during the launch. Its full capacity is 608 passengers.
In coordination with the Ministry of Health, a COVID-19 Rapid Test will be carried before passengers board the ship. The rapid blood test results come out in 10 minutes, and it is the fastest way to ensure the safety of guests and cabin crew.
Stringent cleaning measures are in place throughout the ship and an onboard medical team is available at all times.
The cruises are organized in line with the Saudi summer season campaign Break Free.
Visit Saudi, the official identity for promoting tourism in the Kingdom, set up the Break Free campaign in cooperation between several entities, including the Ministry of Culture, the Public Investment Fund, the Saudi Tourism Authority, the General Entertainment Authority, the Saudi Ports Authority.