New luxury liner arrives at Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi, October 31, 2011
Abu Dhabi has reached a new milestone in its cruise tourism development with the arrival of the luxury 'MSC Lirica' cruise ship at Mina Zayed’s temporary cruise terminal, the first to home port in the UAE capital.
The 59,000 tonnes MSC Lirica arrived recently from Genoa, Italy. The liner, her passengers and crew, were given a warm welcome with a spectacular fireworks display before disembarking to the cruise terminal where displays of henna design, falconry and calligraphy as well as traditional Yolla and Ayallah dancing awaited, a statement from the port authority said.
The liner will set sail tomorrow on the first of 19, eight-day/seven-night itineraries for the 2011/2012 season, cruising around the Arabian Gulf calling at Muscat, Al Fujairah, Khasab in Oman, and Dubai with 95 calls and rotations.
A special ceremony was staged yesterday (October 30) at the cruise terminal to officially welcome MSC Lirica ‘home’. It was attended by Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general, ADTA, Pierfrancesco Vago, CEO, MSC Cruises, with world championship star and former captain of the Italy national football team, Fabio Cannavaro, as MSC Cruises’ guest of honour.
Sheikh Sultan told guests at the ceremony that MSC Lirica would be remembered for breaking new ground in Abu Dhabi. “We hope she has set a course that many others will follow,” he said.
“Many of the guests MSC Lirica has brought here – and many more she will in the future – will see the UAE for the first time. We hope it will not be their last. Our studies show that 30 percent of cruise passengers return to the home port for longer stay and we look forward to welcoming these new arrivals back time and again. Investment in this temporary cruise terminal will prove worthwhile with ADTA coming together with Abu Dhabi Ports Company, Abu Dhabi Terminals and Tourism Development & Investment Company to ensure our valued cruise visitors receive an appropriate welcome,” he added.
The home porting of MSC Lirica follows the signing, a year ago, of a landmark agreement between ADTA and MSC Cruises, one of the world’s fastest-growing cruise operators and a market leader in the Mediterranean, South Africa and Brazil, to deploy one of its top vessels on a home port basis in Abu Dhabi.
Since then, the two partners have jointly participated in trade exhibitions, marketing and advertising campaigns globally and brought their combined influence, channels and brands to bear in promoting the Emirate.
“I am proud of what we’ve achieved so far and confident that this is just the beginning of a great new era for cruise tourism in the UAE. I look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship between us, the port and tourism authorities and one that will ensure visitors from around the world an exciting new dimension to travel in the region. It is a future we can all look forward to,” Vago said.
“Signalling our firm faith in Abu Dhabi as an innovative and highly desirable new holiday destination, we plan to bring a further ultra-modern ship, MSC Opera, to Abu Dhabi in 2012/2013. This ship, which has a larger capacity than MSC Lirica with 867 cabins, will sail 25 cruises with 125 calls and bring a further 54,000 passengers per year to the area,” Vago said.
ADTA has estimated that MSC’s decision to home port the ship in Abu Dhabi will generate up to Dh80 million (around $21.9 million) in direct economic impact on the tourism, airline, accommodation, retail, transport, F&B and attractions sectors.
Cruise tourism has been prioritised as a core pillar in Abu Dhabi’s tourism targets which aim to achieve 2.3 million hotel guests by the end of next year. It anticipates receiving around 170,000 cruise visitors before the 2011/2012 season ends next April.
The new temporary cruise terminal at Mina Zayed is capable of simultaneously accommodating 1,300 passengers and has been designed to cater for the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 cruise seasons.
The terminal spans 2,000 sq m and comprises two dedicated halls – a luggage-handling facility, and a passenger centre complete with a waiting lounge, security section, prayer rooms, offices, visitor information centre, currency exchange, and customs and immigration facilities.
In line with its long-term cruise ambitions, ADTA is championing for the development of a permanent, purpose-built cruise terminal at Mina Zayed.
“Ultimately our capacity to build the cruise tourism business will rely on a combination of good planning, first-class infrastructure, strong marketing and stakeholders,” said Al Muhairi. “We have strong hopes of the cruise business continuing to grow into the future with longer term projections for 300 calls and 600,000 passengers by 2030.” – TradeArabia News Service