DUBAI // A 12-tiered luxury resort has sailed into Dubai as part of its maiden world voyage, boosting the Emirate’s plan of featuring as a key destination for cruise liners.
About as long as three football fields, the Queen Elizabeth is the world’s latest cruise liner and can ferry almost 2,100 passengers. The ship docked at Port Rashid today and leaves tomorrow after some 900 passengers climb onboard. They will join the approximately 800 passengers, mainly retirees, already aboard for the full 103-day cruise.
“We would never have seen all the places that we’ve visited particularly in the Middle East,” said Valerie Judd, an Australian tourist on her first world voyage. “The best thing is that you don’t have to pack and get weighed down with suitcases at every halt.”
To provide a homey atmosphere, the ship has an entertainment television channel that celebrates birthdays and anniversaries. Mrs Judd said her husband will be able to celebrate his 79th birthday in Petra, Jordan, next month.
Other young couples with children took the shorter segments of the tour. It was the first cruise for a couple from Holland travelling with their 17-month son and his grandparents, who worried that getting back to normal life would be difficult after being accustomed to such lavish food and entertainment.
“The journey has been just spectacular, it’s a completely new way of seeing the world for us,” said Laurens Tappel, 41, a stock exchange trader taking a two-month break from work. “We’ve been enjoying seeing different places and seeing the opera and the theatre on board. Our son simply enjoys running down the hallways and the playzone area.”
The ship’s decor matches the food and entertainment. Sparkling chandeliers, detailed wood-panelled on staircases and banisters and mosaic work decorate the luxurious interiors. Eight restaurants and bars, a casino, two swimming pools, a spa, a salon, a library with 6,000 books and a theatre fitted with private boxes are spread over the 294-metre-long ship. The theatre doubles as a movie house.
A personal butler service is available for passengers booked into premium suites and penthouses, which feature private verandas and exclusive dining areas.
One such restaurant, with gleaming crystal and silverware, had a table with just enough space for one plate and cutlery surrounded by mementos such as dolls, statues, clocks and stuffed kuala bears.
“This is their home away from home,” said Dragana Prodanovic, an onboard cruise consultant for the Cunard Line, which owns the ship. “Many of our passengers want the same suite, the same butler. This is their own little world and we make them comfortable in it.”
Dubai, Sydney and Hong Kong are only cities that feature as overnight stops for the vessel, which will end its journey next month in Southampton in the UK.
“Cruising is catching on in this part of the world,” said Faiza De Souza, a general manager for Pan World Travel and Tourism, who was on board to assess the ship for potential clients. “It’s good value for money because the entertainment and food are included in the price. We have Arab clients interested in luxury travel over the last two years.”
Some 40 ports are included in the ship’s global itinerary, with other trips ranging from two-day cruises in the Mediterranean to two weeks skimming the shores of the Baltic Sea or 23 nights across the Caribbean.
As many as 120 ships called at Dubai last year, bringing in 325,000 passengers. The emirate is expecting to attract 135 cruise ships and 375,000 passengers this year, according to the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
The cruise industry is also playing a vital role for the tourism industry.
“Dubai is developing into a key transit point,” said Ashok Kumar, a director at the sales agency Cruise Master, which is representing the Cunard Line. “It’s good for hotels and tourism because passengers come here before and after their cruise.”