greenhorse.jpgThe tourism chiefs of Dubai are clearly hoping that Costa Deliziosa – and other cruise ships following in her wake – are going to have a delicious effect on their business.
How else to explain the last-minute decision by Crown Prince Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to attend Deliziosa’s naming ceremony today, the first time any cruise ship has been named in an Arabian port. The smile on the face of Dubai Tourism’s Hamad bin Mejren was matched only by the obvious delight of Costa CEO Pier Luigi Foschi.
The royal presence brought its own problems, however, with a hurried change of schedule and a rapid re-drawing of plans. The elaborate festivities, taking place on the quay alongside the ship, and just down from Port Rashid’s new cruise terminal, were originally timed to begin at dusk, with a spectacular fireworks finale.
It started instead at midday and 3,000 guests, many of them passengers taking part in the ship’s inaugural voyage, sweltered in the sun during an impressive display of Italian and Arabic culture. Nessun Dorma preceded a show of equestrian excellence with veiled horsewomen, a unicorn, and a winged horse. It could have been 1001 Days rather than 1001 Nights, but the audience was spellbound nevertheless.
bottlesmash.jpgThen the ship’s godmother Mrs Tala Slim Dionisi, Lebanese-born wife of Italy’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, cut the cord to send a bottle of non-alcoholic date champagne smashing against the ship’s hull (left).
Costa, Europe’s biggest cruise line, were the first to have ships based in Dubai and after testing the water with a smaller ship, now has two of its newest and classiest vessels, the Luminosa and Deliziosa, sailing from the city during the winter. They have been joined by Royal Caribbean, whose Brilliance of the Seas was berthed along the quay during today’s ceremony. Other lines visit Dubai on a less regular basis, and by 2015, 575,000 passengers a year are expected to pass through Port Rashid, compared with 325,000 this year.
All of which is also good news for Emirates Airlines, who fly about 60 per cent of the British passengers starting and ending their cruises in Dubai.
Both Luminosa and Deliziosa have interiors created by parent company Carnival’s veteran designer, Joe Farcus, who has been responsible from some outlandishly garish confections over the years. Here, however, Costa is aiming at the top end of their market, and his designs are considerably restrained.
The sophisticated touches and the subtle pallettes are somehow at odds with the unrestrained extravagance of Dubai’s landmark – and most expensive – hotel, the Burj al Arab, where the ultra-rich come to be pampered in seven-star luxury – and where I had dinner last night.
But as Dubai struggles to come to terms with the effects of financial meltdown, it could be thousands of cruise passengers, rather than the moneyed few, who come to their rescue.