MSC Cruises and Saudia, the national airline of Saudi Arabia, have confirmed the details of an agreement for 36,800 seats from Europe and North America to support its new Red Sea winter sailing program. According to a press release, this will take nearly 20,000 new tourists this winter to Saudi Arabia, in line with the country’s vision to welcome international visitors.
The agreement was ratified in person at Saudia’s headquarters in Jeddah by MSC Cruises’ CEO Gianni Onorato, Saudi Arabian Airlines Corporation’s Director General Ibrahim Al-Omar and Cruise Saudi’s Managing Director Fawaz Farooqui on Nov. 9.
“We are proud to partner with Saudia, the kingdom’s national flag carrier, and work toward the same common objectives in support of the further development of tourism in Saudi Arabia by bringing many thousands of international guests to discover this remarkable country, with more to come in future sailing seasons,” MSC Cruises’ CEO Gianni Onorato said.
According to the press release, a “Fly and Cruise” package allows MSC guests to begin their holiday from a wide range of major international airports and fly into Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where the cruise line’s guests will join the MSC Bellissima for seven-night sailings between November 2021 and March 2022.
“Through this extensive flight program, we are able to make our new cruise offering even more accessible to holidaymakers from Europe and North America and deliver best-in-class experiences. Additionally, data demonstrates that a large percentage of tourists who visit a country for the first time while on a cruise holiday often return for a longer land stay with their families to further explore that country’s culture and other attractions,” Onorato explained.
The Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines Corporation, Ibrahim Al-Omar, said that Saudia’s global route network is “complementary to the flourishing Saudi cruise industry.”
“The airline looks forward to this collaboration with MSC Cruises, to showcase the breadth of leisure offerings available in Saudi Arabia,” he noted.
Fawaz Farooqui, the managing director of Cruise Saudi, said that the organization was “delighted” to see Saudia and MSC Cruises partnering to serve 20,000 “Fly and Cruise” guests to Saudi Arabia for the winter season.
“This close cooperation between our national carrier and the world’s third largest cruise line is exactly the kind of partnership which will help Saudi Arabia to become a world-class cruise destination, which is what Cruise Saudi is working to create in line with Vision 2030,” Farooqui noted.
MSC Cruises began sailing in July from the port of Jeddah after signing a five-year preferential berthing deal with Cruise Saudi. The cruise line said that its main source markets for its European guests to sail from Saudi Arabia during the upcoming winter are Italy, Germany, France and Spain.
The seven-night cruises depart the port of Jeddah at 11 p.m. every Saturday night and Saudia has adjusted its flight schedule for Friday night flights from Milan, Rome, Frankfurt, Munich, Paris and Madrid with Saturday morning arrivals in the Saudi Arabian city. MSC said that this provides opportunities to “enjoy the city or transfer from the airport to the seaport.”
The airline has also adjusted its flight schedule to make it easier for guests from the U.S., the UK, Switzerland and Austria to join the ship.
A similar range of “conveniently timed return flights” are available for Saturday morning journeys home, according to the press release.
The 4,500-passenger Bellissima’s seven-night Saudi Arabia and Red Sea cruises for winter 2021-2022 start from its homeport of Jeddah. The ship departs for King Abdullah Economic City, then on to Yanbu for an overnight stay to allow guests to visit AlUla, spends a day at sea before arriving at Aqaba in Jordan for trips to Petra, and then a further day at sea before returning to Jeddah.