MSC Cruises has signed a long-term agreement with Abu Dhabi Ports for preferential berthing rights at both the Zayed Port and Sir Bani Yas Island. Port Zayed is the main cruise passenger gateway to Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, and Sir Bani Yas is a beach oasis located 170 kilometres/110 miles off the UAE coast. The contract was signed at the line’s Geneva, Switzerland headquarters by its CEO Gianni Onorato and Noura Rashid Al Dhaheri, Director of Cruise Business, Abu Dhabi Ports.
Gianni Onorato, CEO of MSC Cruises, said: “This new agreement with Abu Dhabi Ports for preferential berthing rights demonstrates another long-term commitment from MSC Cruises to the Gulf and it will further consolidate our position as the largest passenger cruise operator in the region. “Abu Dhabi is a very important embarkation port and popular destination for ashore visits during winter cruises and we are currently serving the city and Sir Bani Yas Island with both MSC Bellissima, the most modern and one of the most environmentally-advanced cruise ships to sail in the Gulf, and MSC Lirica.
“MSC Lirica will return to Abu Dhabi and the Gulf in winter 2020-21 to be joined by the highly-innovative MSC Seaview, a ship especially designed to operate in warmer weathers. Looking further ahead, we will deploy our biggest ship to the Gulf region for winter 2021-22 with MSC Virtuosa, a 331-metre-long vessel which can accommodate 6,334 guests and is due to be launched later this year.”
MSC Seaview, which has the cruise industry’s highest ratio of open space per passenger, will make her maiden call to Abu Dhabi on 6 December, 2020 and to Sir Bani Yas Island the following day.
She will operate 14 cruises between December 2020 and March 2021 from Abu Dhabi to Sir Bani Yas Island; Manama in Bahrain; Doha in Qatar and Dubai in the UAE. MSC Lirica will offer 21 cruises between November 2020 and April 2021 from Abu Dhabi with calls to Sir Bani Yas; Muscat in Oman and Dubai. Abu Dhabi’s Cruise Terminal has reported significant growth over the last 12 months, posting a 47 per cent rise in visitor numbers and a 45 per cent rise in vessel calls year-on-year. The terminal’s bumper year was due in part to MSC Cruises’ commitment earlier this season to include 17 new calls at Zayed Port.
The terminal marked one of its busiest days of the 2019/20 winter season in December, when it welcomed more than 8,000 visitors as part of a triple call to Abu Dhabi, which included the maiden call of MSC Bellissima.
Noura Rashid Al Dhaheri, Director of Cruise Business, Abu Dhabi Ports, said: “Our continued partnership with MSC Cruises is testament to our already strong relationship, and reflects the quality of services we provide to the world’s leading cruise operators at Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal and Sir Bani Yas Island. Our success in substantially boosting passenger volumes year-on-year demonstrates our commitment to develop a world-class cruise destination.
“With continued investment in infrastructure, and enhanced operations and services to serve the cruise liners arriving in Abu Dhabi, we have cemented our position as the leading destination in the Gulf region. Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal is emerging as the ultimate point of disembarkation for international cruises.
“We are determined to further develop our offerings and strengthen our unique selling proposition by developing flexible and smart solutions to ensure all our guests enjoy the finest in-port experiences.”
Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, Acting Executive Director of Tourism and Marketing at Abu Dhabi government’s Department of Culture and Tourism, added: “This historic deal will play a significant role in positioning Abu Dhabi as a top destination for cruises in the region. MSC Cruises was one of the key players in helping us attract over 500,000 cruise visitors to the capital last year, and we have no doubt in the successes it will bring over the coming years. From our perspective, we remain committed to providing MSC Cruises and all travellers with exceptional services and extraordinary experiences during their visit to the UAE capital.