ABU DHABI’S ambition to become an international cruise hub has received a significant boost, following the signing between Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and MSC Cruises, for a landmark co-operation agreement that will see the world’s fastest-growing cruise operator deploy one of its top vessels to the UAE capital on a homeport basis from October 2011.
Under the terms of the agreement, Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed Port will serve as the primary embarkation and disembarkation point for the Italian operator’s maiden regional itinerary – scheduled for the 2011-2012 season – using its luxury MSC Lirica liner.
With its ultra-modern fleet, MSC Cruises’ entry into the Arabian Gulf will see MSC Lirica – a 59,000-tonne vessel with a capacity for 2,199 guests in 784 cabins – provide 19 eight-day/seven-night cruises covering five destinations between November 2011 and March 2012.
ADTA has estimated the decision to home port MSC Lirica in Abu Dhabi will generate in excess of Dh135 million ($37 million) per season in net economic impact to, and via, the emirate’s tourism sector.
To foster continued growth in the cruise sector ADTA has commissioned a technical and operational feasibility study, in co-operation with relevant domestic and international stakeholders, towards the development of a dedicated cruise terminal capable of handling mega and boutique cruises alike.
With Arabian Gulf cruise itineraries typically running from October-May to coincide with weather-enforced lulls in Europe, Abu Dhabi’s cruise arrivals rose from 125,200 in 2008-09 to 180,000 last season. ADTA anticipates arrivals will exceed 235,000 over the course of the 2010/2011 season.
The ADTA-MSC Cruises co-operation is a major coup of the authority’s Horizons Abu Dhabi programme, an incentive-based trade engagement initiative designed to attract innovative promotional concepts to stimulate consumer demand across the emirate’s rapidly-expanding tourism offerings.
The luxurious MSC Lirica features a sophisticated and elegant décor, superb attention to detail in all areas, the finest Italian and international cuisine and a dazzling array of entertainment and activities.
Surrounding MSC Lirica’s 19 regional forays will be repositioning cruises from-and-to Genoa, Italy. On October 14, 2011, the vessel will depart Genoa for a 17-day/16-night maiden voyage to Abu Dhabi where she will begin her maiden regional season.
With regional tours departing Abu Dhabi every Sunday from October 28, 2011, MSC Lirica will travel round the Arabian Gulf peninsula to Muscat, Fujairah, Bahrain, Dubai, before completing its journey in Abu Dhabi.
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