Dubai reinforcing its position as popular cruise destination

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Dubai is reinforcing its position as a destination of choice for cruise tourism by welcoming newly renovated luxury liner, Mariner of the Seas on its maiden call to the emirate.

The liner, a member of Royal Caribbean International’s cruise line fleet, arrived at Port Rashid on Tuesday to a traditional welcome ceremony, organised by Dubai Cruise Tourism, a department of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

“Dubai is increasingly consolidating its position as a destination of choice for cruise tourism,” said Ahmad Belhoul, CEO of strategy and tourism sector development at DTCM. “In 2012 we received 105 ship calls carrying almost 408,000 visitors and expect this figure to increase to more than 420,000 from 110 ship calls this year. This will continue to increase in 2014 and 2015 with an annual growth rate that is in line with the projected global cruise tourist growth of 3 per cent and we are looking forward to receiving over 450,000 passengers in 2015.”

Discussing the reasons behind Dubai’s steep increase in popularity as a cruise destination, Belhoul accredited the sector’s growth to the combination of meticulous planning, judicious infrastructure development and targeted investment, combined with Dubai’s global appeal as a tourism destination. Dubai Cruise Tourism currently operates three facilities on a pier stretch of 1900 meters that can accommodate up to six cruise ships simultaneously, making it the most advanced and largest cruise tourism facility in the Middle East.

“Dubai is currently the homeport for four luxury cruise lines and features in the itineraries of no less than 20 of the world’s leading cruise lines. Since Royal Caribbean International first started its operations in the Middle East, choosing Dubai as its homeport in the region, we have developed a highly successful working relationship and so are very pleased to be able to welcome the beautiful Mariner of the Seas on its journey to the Far East,” said Belhoul. “We look forward to continuing to work together and foresee many more prosperous cruise seasons in the future.”

Lakshmi Durai, executive director of Royal Caribbean International Middle East, said: “Mariner of the Seas is one of the biggest cruise ships to arrive in Dubai yet from our fleet and belongs to the Voyager class of ships that revolutionised the cruise industry by introducing the active cruise vacation, through debuting innovations such as the first onboard ice-skating rink and rock-climbing wall.”

When asked whether the recent economic downturn had affected Royal Caribbean International’s operations, Durai revealed that the company had to cut down on their prices since their yield was down but that the company had recovered fairly quickly.

“We didn’t have to compromise much and we are having a fabulous year so far,” Durai told Khaleej Times.

Durai also revealed that the company would be adding two new ships, under the Quantum series, to its fleet in the coming years.