Zayed Port is cruising into a promising future
In order to support this growth, last year Abu Dhabi Ports commissioned a new permanent cruise terminal building. The design was chosen by HH Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor, Vice Chairman of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi, in July. Shortly afterwards, in the autumn, work started to clear the site and prepare the ground.
The construction has been split into three phases which are being carried out in parallel. At the beginning of January this year, work started to build the mezzanine floor and to strengthen the building’s outer steel frame. The construction uses the framework of an existing warehouse in the interests of sustainability and this essential structural work will be completed by the end of April.
The second phase, which has just begun, involves the new building’s cladding and the start of work on the cruise terminal’s façade and this will be completed in March.
The interior construction will coincide with the work to build the nearby road access and carparks for local visitors, as well as new dedicated areas for taxis, buses and rental cars for cruise tourists. The new building will be officially launched and operational at the end of this year, in time for the next exciting cruise season.
Abu Dhabi Ports is also in the process of developing another infrastructure project to support the growing cruise industry. The new beach stopover for cruise tourists on Sir Bani Yas Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi, will be the very first of its kind in the region.
“Abu Dhabi’s cruise business has been growing continuously ever since the first cruise vessels called at Zayed Port. With the new cruise terminal building and the new island stopover on Sir Bani Yas Island, we will significantly enhance the visitor experience and boost Abu Dhabi’s status as a world-class cruise line destination,” says Capt. Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports.
In comparison, during 2006/2007 – the UAE capital’s first recognised cruise season – Zayed Port hosted just 29 cruise vessels and almost 36,000 passengers, clearly demonstrating how much the interest from passengers, cruise line operators and travel agents has increased since then.
This season, 15 cruise ships from ten cruise liners will have called at Zayed Port, most of them on a weekly basis. The list of recurrent visits is headed by Mein Schiff 2 and AIDAdiva, followed by Costa NeoRiviera, and Costa Serena
With the Costa Serena, AIDAaura, MSC Orchestra and MS Balmoral, Zayed Port saw four new vessels visiting the Emirate for the first time. The four “maiden callers” arrived in November, December and January and added to the increasing number of cruise ships visiting the Emirate as part of a tour through the Middle East, linking Abu Dhabi with places like Dubai, Bahrain, Muscat, Khorfakkan and Khasab
The fact that Queen Mary 2, the famous flagship of the prestigious Cunard Line, and its sister ship Queen Elizabeth are repeat visitors and have for the first time both called at Zayed Port in the same season, underlines Abu Dhabi’s rising status on the world map of cruise tourism.
“This is also supported by the fact that cruise line operators have been sending newer, bigger and more advanced vessels to the Middle East, including Abu
Dhabi, over the past years. Next season, we are expecting the AIDAprima, one of the next generation of 3,250 passenger ‘club ships’ for AIDA Cruises. The AIDAprima is the newest and largest ship ever built for the German cruise line,” adds Al Shamisi.
The growing attraction of the Middle East to cruise tourists is especially visible in Europe and the United Kingdom. A recent survey of the last quarter of 2014 revealed that 57% of the cruise tourists visiting Abu Dhabi were Germans, followed by Italians (12%), with a total of 108 nationalities welcomed at Zayed Port.
Tourists from Europe and the United Kingdom also appreciate the Gulf region’s rich cultural heritage, especially in places like Abu Dhabi. The Emirate offers an exceptional treasure trove of old monuments, ancient buildings and oases that give insights into the region’s history, while displaying authentic Arabic culture. One of the many examples is the UNESCO World Heritage site in the heartland of Al Ain.
In addition, Abu Dhabi provides numerous sports and leisure activities, ranging from watersports, to golf and shopping tours, to desert safaris, including camel riding, falcon displays and henna artistry.
Until today, the most popular sight-seeing destinations and activities for cruise tourists coming to Abu Dhabi have been the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque,
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and the various desert safaris, including visits of traditional Arabian themed villages where visitors are invited to experience aspects of traditional Emirati life.
Alongside its cultural heritage sites, beaches, desert tours and visitor attractions, Abu Dhabi has been famous for its one-of-a-kind tourist sites like Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Emirates Palace.
Moving forward, the Emirate will also be offering a wide range of attractions in the arts sector, with places like the Louvre Abu Dhabi which will open later this year, Zayed National Museum (due to open in 2016), and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (due to open in 2017).