With new passenger attractions announced and more ships sailing into port, the city is on track to meet its one-million cruise visitor target by 2020
Dubai has forged a formidable reputation as a global cruise hub of note in recent years, thanks to its world-class ports infrastructure and a fast-expanding destination offering that appeals to visitors from across the globe.
According to Cruise Arabia and Africa, the number of cruise passengers to Dubai almost doubled from 320,000 in the 2013/2014 cruise season to 625,000 in the 2016/2017 season, representing a 95% increase in just three years. The figure nudged up to 725,000 cruise tourists during the 2017/2018 season, according to Dubai Tourism, thanks to 150 ship calls involving more than 20 world-leading cruise lines, up 15% on the previous year.
Around 825,000 cruise tourists are anticipated for the 2018/2019 season, putting the city well on track to meet its 2020 cruise visitor target of one million passengers.
Dubai’s suitability for homeporting for international cruise lines and its credentials as an ideal pre- and post-cruise stopover were championed at the recent Seatrade Cruise Global 2019 event in Florida (April 2019).
Dubai Tourism attended the event where 10 international cruise lines confirmed they would make Dubai their winter homeport during the 2020/2021 season. This will result in more than 10 cruise ships sailing out of Dubai every week on round-trip international itineraries, offering diverse cruise choices for all budgets and demographics across boutique, ultra-luxury and mega ships.
Dubai Tourism’s cruise strategy is part of its ultimate vision to position the emirate as the world’s leading tourism destination and commercial hub.
Speaking at the Seatrade event, Hamad Bin Mejren, Senior Vice President, Dubai Tourism, said the city was primed as a “year-round ‘must-visit’ destination for cruise tourists”.
“We are committed to actively working with our robust network of local, regional and global partners to continue to highlight Dubai’s ease of accessibility – be it with the introduction of a six-month multi-entry UAE visa exclusively for the crew of cruise ships free of cost, a low-cost multi-entry UAE visit visa exclusively for cruise tourists, visa on arrival for over 50 nationalities, and simplified immigration and cruise-specific visa procedures on our online portals,” he explained.
“This works in conjunction with Dubai’s efficient cruise terminal operations and continual enhancements, reinforcing the emirate’s reputation as one of the world’s leading cruise destinations.”
A mega-ship magnet
Dubai’s cruise ambitions reached new heights this month (May) when innovative cruise ship, Spectrum of the Seas, docked at Port Rashid, marking its Arabian Gulf debut and bringing almost 4,000 travellers to the emirate in a single day.
Weighing 168,666 gross tonnes, the Royal Caribbean ship is the largest and most advanced cruise ship to port in Dubai to date. If offers many ‘first-at-sea’ activities such as the Sky Pad, a virtual reality bungee trampoline; the RipCord by iFly sky-diving simulator; and the North Star observation pod that offers guests astonishing panoramic views more than 300 feet above sea level.
Additional world-class facilities including a music hall and SeaPlex – the industry’s largest indoor sports and entertainment complex with bumper cars, roller skating and basketball.
Jamal Alfalasi, director of Dubai Cruise Tourism (DCT), said the arrival of Spectrum of the Seas, strengthened Dubai’s position as “the established cruise hub of the region”.
In a further boost to Dubai’s cruise tourism industry, the historic Mina Rashid area where the port and Hamdan Bin Mohammad Cruise Terminal are located, is to undergo an AED25 billion (US$6.81 billion) transformation.
A joint venture between DP World-owned P&O Marinas and Emaar will develop an extensive waterfront area spreading from Bur Dubai to Deira and featuring ‘The Dubai Mall by the Sea’, which is billed as a ‘shopping and entertainment destination of the future’.
Attractions will also include a floating yacht club and Dubai’s longest swimming pool.
The area is already home to the famous QE2 ocean liner, which is now a 13-deck floating hotel and a permanent tourist attraction.
Major enhancements to the Mina Rashid district will bring renewed focus on the cruise terminal and“strengthen Dubai’s position as a global city and the premier cruise hub in the Middle East”, according to Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem, Chairman and CEO of DP World.
It will also create “another strong economic catalyst”, he added.