Cruise Saudi’s six-month long winter season which began in November last year came to successful close last week.
About a third of the 30,000-plus passengers sailing in the winter season were international guests, representing more than 80 nationalities, Cruise Saudi said, in a press statement.
The winter season itinerary saw the region come together to develop three-, four-, or seven-night itineraries including ports of call in Jordan as well as around the Saudi coastline for the first time.
Two of Saudi’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites were also available to visit as part of 14 different tour programs available, Hegra in AlUla and Historic Jeddah, the Gateway to Makkah.
Cruise Saudi has activated a total of three cruise ports – in Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City and Yanbu – and ensured they are equipped with the necessary infrastructure and facilities to welcome cruise lines and passengers, the group said.
A fourth port in Dammam on the Arabian Gulf is also ready to receive cruise ships soon.
Cruise ships from four international cruise lines – MSC Cruises, Scenic Group, Viking and Silversea – were welcomed and conducted more than 70 safety and security incident free sailings in total around Saudi waters, with above average NPS scores.
This included both MSC Bellissima and Scenic Eclipse home porting in Jeddah throughout the summer and winter seasons.
Cruise Saudi CEO, Lars Clasen, commented on the milestone saying: “The successes achieved in such a short span of time, from developing the necessary infrastructure for the cruise industry to partnering with government entities and international cruise lines and welcoming passengers from all across the world, have left us humbled. Cruise Saudi’s aim is to catalyze the development of the local cruise industry by promoting Saudi as a premier cruising destination and establishing the sector as a new pillar to Saudi’s growing tourism industry in line with the Saudi leadership’s transformation blueprint – and this is just the beginning for us.”
In line with Vision 2030, Cruise Saudi said it is committed to providing training and development opportunities to equip young Saudis with the necessary skills to operate the cruise industry, and a total of 58 students have participated in specialized programs thus far.
Onboard hospitality training programs were conducted in collaboration with King Abdulaziz University and Prince Mugrin University as well as the Culinary Arts Commission to nurture local chefs on board, as well as culinary tour guides to introduce tourists to the authentic Saudi taste. A tour guide training program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Saudi Tourist Guide Association, was also launched to create the first generation of cruise-specific tour guides.
Cruise Saudi aims to welcome 1.3 million cruise passengers annually by 2035 as part of Saudi’s goal to attract 100 million local and international visits by 2030. Its ultimate goal is to establish the Red Sea and Saudi as a cruising hub, echoing the history of the region as a maritime hub.