MSC Cruises has signed a five-year agreement with Cruise Saudi for preferential berthing rights at the port of Jeddah.
According to the cruise line’s press release, this is a “further sign of its long-term commitment to support the development of the local tourism sector by operating cruises in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.”
The announcement was made in Jeddah as one of the company’s most modern ships, the MSC Bellissima, celebrated the opening of the city’s new passenger terminal with a commemorative event onboard.
The new cruise terminal will welcome guests onboard for MSC Bellissima’s inaugural season in the Red Sea with three- and four-night cruises from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to both Egypt and Jordan until the end of October.
The event onboard the MSC Bellissima was hosted by Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises and Fawaz Farooqui, managing director of Cruise Saudi, for local dignitaries, senior officials from the Saudi Tourism Authority, Cruise Saudi, the Saudi Ports Authority – Mawani as well as members of the Saudi Arabian media and travel community.
The Master of the ship Captain Roberto Leotta, who will helm the MSC Bellissima in the months ahead, exchanged crests with Fawaz Farooqui in a traditional maritime ceremony to celebrate a vessel’s maiden port call.
MSC said that those onboard for the event were given guided ship tours, treated to a special show by MSC Cruises’ entertainment team and also enjoyed fine dining in a range of the ship’s specialty restaurants.
“This is a very special, historic day for all of us. The largest and most modern cruise ship to operate in the Red Sea has set sail from Jeddah’s new terminal to mark a new beginning for cruising in Saudi Arabia and, more broadly, for its growing tourism industry,” said Vago.
“We can now allow our global guest base to come and experience our unique itineraries in this beautiful country with its historic UNESCO World Heritage sites and pristine shores. And with the new agreement in place, together with Cruise Saudi we will work in unison to develop this very special aspect of Saudi Arabia’s determined and sustainable growth in tourism which mirrors exactly our own strategy and ambition … And we will work together in attracting guests from all corners of the world as well as local markets for a Red Sea and Arabian Gulf holiday like no other onboard our modern and environmentally high performing vessels,” he added.
Chief Operations and Commercial Officer for Cruise Saudi, Mark Robinson, said that the event marked a great milestone for Cruise Saudi and for the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia, “in line with Vision 2030.”
“The creation of Cruise Saudi, tasked with launching the cruise industry in Saudi Arabia, happened just six months ago at FII in Riyadh. Yet in these few months we have been able to work with international partners such as the Cruise Division of MSC Group and national bodies such as the Saudi Ports Authority, MAWANI, the Red Sea Gateway Terminal, the Saudi Tourism Authority, the Ministries of Transport, Culture, Health and Tourism, Saudi Customs and Immigration, the Saudi Border Guard, Jeddah Chambers of Commerce and many more such organizations to build Saudi Arabia’s first cruise terminal at Jeddah Islamic Port, and to mobilize the infrastructure, manpower and systems required to host global cruise lines for Saudi Arabia’s first full summer and winter cruise seasons,” Robinson said.
He added: “The remit of Cruise Saudi; to create 50,000 jobs by 2025, to facilitate the building of an additional five ports, with Jeddah as a homeport, and to welcome 1.5 million annual passenger visits by 2028; is an ambitious one, which will play a major part in strengthening the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia. It is a vision that we would not be able to accomplish were it not for our trusted business partners such as MSC.”