MSC Cruises has confirmed the details of an updated sailing itinerary for MSC Bellissima’s winter season from her homeport of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia beginning on Nov. 6. According to a press release, the ship will offer seven-night cruises calling at the Saudi Arabian ports of King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) and Yanbu, then on to Aqaba in Jordan before returning to Jeddah.
MSC said that the port of Safaga in Egypt has been cancelled as many countries from where guests for the Red Sea cruises originate have the country currently listed as a high-risk destination due to the pandemic and for their return home they would have to undergo a period of quarantine.
The Bellissima will now spend an overnight stay in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia so guests can visit AlUla, one of the oldest cities in the Arabian Peninsula and home to Hegra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Guests will also be able to visit a secluded island, partake in coral reef snorkeling or a desert excursion.
MSC said that KAEC has been added to the ship’s itinerary to include a sightseeing tour of the holy city of Medina or a day on the beach.
As the Bellissima does not leave the Jeddah port until late on Saturday evenings, guests can check in and embark the ship and then go ashore in the afternoon to make the most of their day in Saudi Arabia’s second largest city. According to MSC, A City Of Culture & History tour offers a “journey through centuries of culture and traditions” including a visit to the old town of Al Balad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Medina sightseeing tours offer a glimpse into the site of Islamic pilgrimage.
The ship will remain in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia overnight to allow guests the opportunity to visit Hegra, AlUla ancient town and the Elephant Rock. The UNESCO World Heritage site Hegra is an ancient city hidden in the sands of the desert. A guided tour will allow guests to discover some of its monuments, of which there are more than 100 at the site.
AlUla is situated in a desert setting in the Hijaz mountains and where pilgrims, travelers and permanent settlers have gathered over the centuries. Surrounded by an ancient oasis, the town boasts a citadel dating back to the 10th century, 900 brick houses, 400 shops and a maze of alleyways and squares.
Elephant Rock is two monolithic rocks, the “trunk” and the “body”, which stand out against the desert backdrop and have been shaped over the centuries by the weather into the shape of an elephant.
MSC said that Yanbu is “known as the diving capital of Saudi Arabia” and snorkeling will be available at Iona Coral Reef to see various fish, the marine flora and the sunken wreck of the British ship Iona. A secluded spot on Baridi Island is also available, as well as a desert camp under the stars.
A “highlight” of the voyage, according to MSC, is a visit to the Wonders of Petra – the ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage site in the middle of the Jordanian desert, rediscovered in 1812.