MSC Cruises pulls out of the Gulf

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emiratespalace.jpgThe Sex and the City girls may have had an exciting time when they visited Abu Dhabi for their second outing on film, but the experience is not proving as rewarding for cruise line MSC, who have announced they are withdrawing from the port – and the Arabian Gulf – after just one season.
Definitely not a case of Carrie On Cruising, then.
The company cited the limited facilities and range of destinations in the area when they disclosed that MSC Opera – the ship they planned to have in the Gulf next winter as a replacement for MSC Lirica – is to be re-deployed to South Africa.
MSC chose to base their ship in Abu Dhabi instead of Dubai – from where competitors Costa and Royal Caribbean operate. It is estimated they brought in 40,000 visitors and about £14 million in business this winter, including spending on flights, accommodation, shopping, eating, and excursions. Lirica’s ports of call were Muscat and Khasab in Oman, Dubai and Fujairah.
But while Dubai has been investing in new cruise terminal buildings, the facilities at Abu Dhabi are more rudimentary – cruise ships berth alongside what is effectively a giant car park for imported cars (below). On the plus side, it does have the spectacular Ferrari World theme park and the Yas Marina Formula One circuit, and another popular excursion combines a visit to the Grand Mosque – largest in the UAE – with afternoon tea at the equally grandiose Emirates Palace hotel (top).
abudhabi.jpgIn a statement, MSC Cruises said: “There is no doubt our guests enjoyed the destination. However, for the long term success of cruising in the region, new ports of call need to be developed, terminal facilities must be upgraded.”
It is an acknowledgment of the company’s failure to attract sufficient passengers from Europe and America that the statement continues: “There must be increased focus on sourcing from local and regional markets.”
And it is a big dent in the ambitious plans of the emirate, which had hoped to attract 300 sailings and 600,000 passengers a year by 2030.
The Tourism and Culture authority said they saw MSC’s decision as “a short-term tactical imperative largely brought about by the commercial and operational challenges currently confronting the global cruise industry.
“Abu Dhabi’s cruise tourism hub ambitions continue unabated. Growth prospects, for both fly-cruise and intra-regional cruises, remain fundamentally positive. We are confident that there will be at least one major cruise liner home-porting in Abu Dhabi in the 2013/14 season.”
Costa has confirmed that the 2,100-passenger Costa Atlantica will be operating seven-night cruises from Dubai in the 2013 season, visiting Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi and Khasab. Royal Caribbean has Serenade of the Seas replacing Brilliance of the Seas for the 14-cruise season out of Dubai – and calling at the same destinations – from December to next April.

By | 2017-06-15T15:59:51+00:00 12 April 2012|Cruise Destinations, Cruise News|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. M Amjad Ali 5 December 2012 at 10:58 am - Reply

    Abu Dhabi is the most beautiful city of UAE….it is full of many 7 star hotels.You have shared great info in your blog.I like it very much.

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