Majestic Princess caps Abu Dhabi’s longest cruise season
Abu Dhabi’s longest-ever passenger cruise season drew to a close yesterday as the 143,000 tonne Majestic Princess docked in Abu Dhabi.
Streaming out of the capital’s recently completed glass-fronted cruise terminal building, scores of white-haired Europeans made their way past Duty Free to lines of waiting buses and taxis, pausing only to check their iPads or take photographs of the terminal’s huge brass camel statue.
The arrival of a cruise ship this month marks a new first for Abu Dhabi Ports, the company which operates Abu Dhabi’s shiny new cruise terminal, which usually welcomes ships during the cooler months of the year between October and May.
“This is the first time that we have received a ship in Ramadan and this far into the summer,” said the cruise terminal manager, Noura Al Dhaheri, making her way between small groups of passengers as she crossed the huge terminal.
According to Ms Al Dhaheri, the arrival of Majestic Princess’ 2,400 passengers in Abu Dhabi brings the total number of cruise visitors to the capital this season to 340,000 – up from 230,000 a season earlier.
The dramatic increase is part of a plan by the Abu Dhabi authorities to push up the number of cruise ship visitors to the city from just 35,366 during the 2006-07 season to 450,000 by 2020 and 808,000 by 2025.
To that end Abu Dhabi Ports opened its 7,500 square metre terminal building in 2015 and the company plans to open a second linked terminal of the same size in time for the 2018-19 season, when Pullmantur and P&O are expected to begin operations through Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi Ports also opened a second cruise terminal on Sir Bani Yas island last year.
Cruising around the world is becoming bigger and bigger business as a generation of affluent baby boomers starts to retire in the West, while new markets such as China continue to open up and advances in technology mean ships can carry an increasing number of passengers, reducing costs per head.
Worldwide, the cruise industry is expected to show an annual passenger compound growth rate of 6.5 per cent from 1990 to 2019.
But Ms Al Dhaheri points out that the arrival of Majestic Princess so late into the cruise season is a one-off necessitated by the fact that the operator Princess Cruises is moving the newly launched boat from Europe, where it was built, to its new home port of Shanghai.
The ship is travelling from Barcelona in Spain and has gone through Europe to Aqaba in Jordan and Dubai. After Abu Dhabi it will go on to India and then eventually end up in China.
“On such a long trip they need to deploy and stop for provisions so Abu Dhabi is part of the route,” Ms Al Dhaheri said. “And we have been promoting Abu Dhabi as a destination alongside Dubai to encourage cruise liners to stop in the UAE.”
Nonetheless, Abu Dhabi Ports said three cruise companies – Celebrity Constellation, MSC Fantasia and Aida Cruises – have been using Port Zayed as their starting and finishing point before heading off around the GCC to ports including Dubai, Muscat and Doha.
Ms Al Dhaheri declined to comment on whether this week’s surprise decision by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt to break diplomatic ties with Qatar and cut off air, sea and land routes between the countries would have an effect on business.
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Updated: June 6, 2017 04:00 AM