With a capacity for 1,230 passengers, the MS Balmoral is the biggest cruise liner of the UK-based shipping line Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. Named after a favourite Royal residence in the Highlands of Scotland, the ship arrived from Muscat, Oman, in the early morning hours and stayed for a full day before heading towards Dubai.
After the AIDAAura, Costa Serena and MSC Orchestra, the MS Balmoral is the fourth “maiden caller” of the current cruise season which is the busiest yet, with a total of 94 ships visiting the emirate.
Compared to last season in which 75 ships called at Zayed Port, this marks an increase of 25.3%.
“Each season we welcome new, first time cruise visitors to Abu Dhabi which makes us incredibly proud and demonstrates the heightened confidence, interest and client demand from cruise operators around the world”, says Abdulkareem Al Masabi, VP-Operations, Abu Dhabi Ports.
A recent survey by the Cruise Lines International Association, the worlds’ largest cruise trade association, asked its members which they thought were the exciting new destinations, the Middle East was listed as being firmly in that category.
At the moment, the majority of the ships and cruise passengers visiting Abu Dhabi come from Europe, with the first place going to German, followed by Italy and then the UK.
However, the Cruise Arabia promotional initiative is working to broaden this. At the end of last year the Cruise Arabia partners Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman were joined by new member Qatar, increasing the appeal to cruise line operators. Moving forward Cruise Arabia is working to attract tourists from both the traditional markets in Europe and America, but also from the new emerging cruise markets in China and India.
“The development of cruise tourism is a main pillar of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, and Abu Dhabi Ports is committed to supporting the growth of this valuable industry and to ensuring our cruise visitors are fully catered for. Each season we welcome new cruise ships to our port for their ‘first time visit’. These maiden calls demonstrate a steady positive increase in the number of vessels that call here throughout the season”, Abdulkareem Al Masabi concludes.