JEDDAH: The first huge international tourist cruise ship is expected to dock soon at the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah — the starting point of cruises that are scheduled to include Egypt and Jordan.
The announcement of the arrival of the ship comes a few days after the Saudi Tourism Authority launched its program for the Summer of Saudi Arabia 2021, through its portal Saudi Arabia Spirit, under the slogan of “Our Summer, Your Mood.”
It also comes after the Saudi Interior Ministry announced the launch of the Red Sea operations center, aiming to help tourist ships and yachts in Saudi territorial waters.
The center, which reinforces tourism in the Kingdom by facilitating entry to the country, was ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and is run by the Saudi Borders Guard.
The luxury ship can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers, who can enjoy days and nights on the state-of-the-art floating resort with recreational facilities and programs to ensure an exceptional experience. It also provides more than 30 entertainment activities for children, young people and adults.
According to a video report released by the Saudi Projects website, breakfast, lunch and dinner, in addition to accommodation and other services, are included in the “competitive price” of SR2,200 ($586) per person for a five-day/four-night voyage.
Last August, the tourist cruise operator Red Sea Spirit launched its first recreational cruise in Saudi Arabia on board the Silver Spirit.
The Silver Spirit offered two luxury packages at the time: A three-night return cruise from King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) to Ras Al-Abyad in Yanbu, starting from SR7,475 ($2,000); and a four-night cruise from KAEC to Ras Al-Abyad and Sindalah Island in NEOM and back, starting from SR10,465.
In April, Cruise Saudi, owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), signed a joint agreement with MSC Cruises to launch its trips in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf during the coming winter season.
The announcement came during a meeting between Fawaz Farooqui, managing director of the Cruise Saudi, and Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, in Riyadh to sign the framework agreement to mark the start of the new partnership. The two companies are aiming to host 170,000 cruise guests this winter.
Under the agreement, the MSC Magnifica will sail in the Red Sea from Jeddah on several seven-day trips from Nov. 13 through to March 26. These trips will offer passengers access to a selection of ports and destinations on the coast of the Red Sea. A weekly stopover will be included at Al-Wajh Port, which will connect passengers to AlUla, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO, said through MCS Cruises’ website: “The introduction of Saudi Arabia to our winter program is a one-of-a-kind itinerary as it also offers Egypt and Jordan in an unparalleled combination of sun, beach, tradition and culture. Our guests can discover the untouched beauty of this region to its fullest and go ashore and explore plenty of undiscovered destinations.
“Not to mention that traveling through the Red Sea by cruise ship is one of the most spectacular ways to take in the stunning coastline and enjoy the region’s unique and still untouched beauty of sea and nature,” he added.
PIF launched the Cruise Saudi to develop a cruise industry in the Kingdom and help to create more than 50,000 jobs in the tourism industry through to 2035. It will develop ports and terminals in several Saudi cities to give access to Saudi heritage and culture, including a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites that are near the coast.
As well as the new Red Sea cruises from Jeddah with MSC Magnifica, the company’s newest ship MSC Virtuosa will visit Dammam during its first season in the Gulf from its homeport in Dubai. MSC Opera will also be based in Dubai for winter 2021/22 for cruises to Oman.
Mark Robinson, chief commercial and operations officer at Cruise Saudi, told an online panel at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai earlier that the arrival of cruise ships in Saudi Arabia would also bring dividends to the entire region as more tourists visited the Gulf.
Saudi Arabia is looking to develop a thriving cruise sector to showcase its top tourist attractions for the first time.