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5 reasons why Qatar’s star is rising among cruise travellers

Doha, Qatar, Museum of Islamic Art
photo_camera Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. Photo: Shutterstock

Home to expansive souks, sublime palm-fringed beaches and the awe-inspiring Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar’s standing as an essential stop for cruise travellers has never been stronger

Anyone who was unfamiliar with the allure of Qatar caught a glimpse of this mightily ambitious destination’s potential when the world’s largest sporting spectacle came to town winter of 2023.

Still abuzz from hosting the FIFA World Cup, Qatar’s star is rising among cruise travellers, with its diversity of world-class museums and galleries, dazzling seven kilometre-long promenade and sprawling markets offering plenty for guests to get stuck into. So much so that Qatar Tourism believes 2024 will be a record-breaking year for the country’s cruise industry.

Now is the time to send your clients to this sunny Arabian peninsula and here’s why…

  1. Celestyal will homeport in Doha for the first time this winter

Earlier this year, Celestyal announced that its latest ship – Celestyal Journey – will begin a new seven-night Desert Daze itinerary in Doha this November, calling at Bahrain, Dubai, Khasab (Oman), Sir Bani Yas Island and Abu Dhabi.

The line has also introduced three- and four-night variations of its Arabian Gulf deployment, with the shorter alternatives offering a midweek beach cruise or a weekend city-hopping sailing.

Celestyal, Doha
The Celestyal sales team pose for a picture on Doha’s pristine waterfront

“We have heard from our customers that they want more destinations, bigger itineraries, and a chance to discover more with Celestyal,” said Lee Haslett, chief commercial officer at Celestyal.

“The Persian Gulf cruises deliver this, with a homeport in Doha, stops at marquee destinations such as Dubai, Bahrain, and Abu Dhabi, as well as more bespoke gems in Oman and the island of Sir BaniYas.”

  1. Cruise guests will get an awesome welcome

There are some port terminals you simply can’t wait to see the back of. Qatar’s Grand Cruise Terminal is certainly not one of them. Located right on the Doha Corniche, the recently redeveloped port is a destination in itself, with events, local markets and exhibitions taking place throughout the winter cruising season. There’s even a spectacular wraparound aquarium to welcome passengers into the arrival terminal.

Free Wi-Fi, currency exchanges and shuttle buses are on hand to get passengers on their way, while many of Doha’s top attractions can be reached by a single bus journey.

  1. Qatar’s atmospheric souq is a must-visit for cruise guests

Travellers keen to grasp how Qatar has evolved over the centuries need only head to the remarkable Souq Waqif. Here, the mud-daubed buildings – which date back to when Doha was merely a village – sit beneath the shimmering high rises of Qatar’s new metropolitan centre. The market, however, remains a hub of activity, with throngs of visitors coming to get a taste of the city’s unique street life culture.

Cruise guests can spend a day meandering through the shaded alleyways, perusing the hand-woven rugs, wooden furniture and glass ornaments, enjoying the traditional works on exhibit in the Souq Waqif Art Centre or even coming face to face with Qatar’s national bird at the Falcon Souq. They can even post for a photo with the falcon perched on their arm.

  1. The country is home to a slew of world-famous museums

Qatar’s quest to become the arts capital of the Arab region is no secret. Indeed, the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art and the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art are just a few of the outstanding cultural venues guests can visit during their stay, and another three major art institutions are scheduled to open by 2030.

The National Museum of Qatar, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, spans a whopping 430,500 square feet and is home to a diversity of heritage objects, manuscripts and jewellery, which tell the story of Qatar and the wider region.

National Museum of Qatar, Doha
National Museum of Qatar. Photo: Shutterstock

The Museum of Islamic Art, meanwhile, sits on its own purpose-built island jutting out into the Corniche. Permanent exhibitions include the 1,000-year-old Shahnameh Manuscript, written by Persian poet Ferdowsi, as well as one of the world’s first navigational tools, the Planispheric Astrolabe, made in 10th century Iraq. Guests who time their visit right can even enjoy a performance by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, who perform throughout the year.

  1. Qatar has an evolving, multi-cultural food scene

One of the best ways to get a deeper understanding of Qatari culture – or indeed any culture – is through the local food scene, whether it’s a wiped-clean plate at a Michelin star restaurant or in one of Doha’s trendy street food markets.

The latter is arguably one of the most exciting ways to dine in Qatar. Not only is it quick, easy and affordable, it’s a chance to dine alongside Doha’s affable locals, many of whom may have a recommendation or two. Local dishes include crispy chapatis rolled in melt-in-the-mouth meats and vegetable curries, seared shawarma tossed into a pitta and layered with sauces and pickles and, of course, falafel with their deliciously crunchy outer layer.

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