The 2015/16 cruise season is set to be Abu Dhabi’s busiest to date, with the new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal – which will open in the next few months – expecting to welcome 220,000 passengers from 113 ship calls. The new terminal will be located in Zayed Port and offer facilities including 24-hour immigration and customs facilities, banking facilities, tourist information, shops, restaurants, and bus and taxi stands.
MSC Cruises will be the first cruise line to make the new terminal its home, with the 2,550-passenger MSC Musica offering 16 week-long Arabian Gulf sailings out of Abu Dhabi between December 13 2015 and March 26 2016, calling at Khor al Fakkan in Sharjah, Muscat and Khasab in Oman, and Dubai in the UAE.
Meanwhile, Celebrity Cruises has announced it is to homeport in Abu Dhabi in the winter of 2016/17. Celebrity Constellation, the co-flagship of Celebrity Cruises’ 11-strong fleet, will offer guests a choice of sailings of between nine and 14 nights from November 2016 until mid-January 2017, all beginning and ending in the UAE capital.
Royal Caribbean International will return to the Arabian Gulf with 16 roundtrip sailings for its 2,000-passenger Splendour of the Seas from December 2015 to March 2016 on a seven-night itinerary that will also call at Dubai, Khasab and Muscat. It marks Royal Caribbean’s first return to Arabian waters since the line’s withdrawal following a challenging 2012/2013 season.
2014/15 cruise season most successful ever for Abu Dhabi
This winter season saw 190,000 passengers visiting Abu Dhabi aboard 94 ships, an increase of 23.3% on last year, which saw 74 ships calling at Zayed Port. Holland America Line’s MS Rotterdam was the first to visit, on October 25 2014, while Seven Seas Voyager, operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises, will close the season when it calls at Abu Dhabi on May 1 2015. Four ships celebrated their maiden call to the emirate this winter: AIDA Cruises’ AidAaura, Costa Cruises’ Costa Serena, MSC Cruises’ MSC Orchestra, and Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines’ largest and newest ship, Balmoral. The largest ship to call was Costa Serena, which can accommodated up to 4,810 passengers and crew members. The 2015/16 season is expected to see more than 100 cruises visit Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi cruise season – Gateway to the Gulf, window to the world
Abu Dhabi’s cruise season runs from October until May, with the bulk of activity between December and April. Cruise arrivals fall into two categories: cruise lines that run seasonal, winter-sun, circular tours of the Arabian Gulf, and larger international lines that include Abu Dhabi as a port of call on their worldwide voyages. The former typically include stops in Bahrain, Dubai, Fujairah and Muscat.
Abu Dhabi develops desert island and safari stopover on Sir Bani Yas Island
Abu Dhabi’s cruise offering has been further enhanced by the announcement of a cruise stopover site on Sir Bani Yas Island in the emirate’s Western Region, 240km from the UAE capital. Responding to rising demand for diverse shore excursion opportunities from cruise operators, the desert island stopover is anticipated to be ready for inclusion in operator itineraries for the 2015/16 season, allowing lines to feature Abu Dhabi as a double-stopover destination on regional Arabian cruises. When completed, the facility will be able to accommodate 2,000 to 2,500 cruise passengers on a day trip. Passengers will arrive at a dedicated jetty by tender and have access to a 900m stretch of beachfront and facilities for dining/BBQ, water sports, activities and excursions.
Chief among these will be 4×4 nature and wildlife drives in the Arabian Wildlife Park, accompanied by expert guides.
Other activities will include kayaking among the island’s mangroves, hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, diving, snorkelling, sailing and archaeological trips to the UAE’s only known Christian monastery, which dates back to the 7th century and was discovered just recently on Sir Bani Yas. Luxury cruise line Seabourn has already scheduled Sir Bani Yas in several of its 2015/16 cruises.
Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) has developed a series of recommended short, full-day and overnight trips to help cruisers make the most of their in-port experience, whatever the duration of their stay. The cultural and entertainment destinations of Saadiyat and Yas islands are on the doorstop of Zayed Port, offering such attractions as Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuit and Manarat Al Saadiyat. Other key sites, like the iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, are no more than 45 minutes from the cruise terminal. A tour of Abu Dhabi’s second city, Al Ain, one of the oldest permanently inhabited settlements on earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can be achieved in a day, as can a journey into the vast expanse of the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter), where desert activities such as camel trekking and dune bashing await. Further details can be found in our Abu Dhabi Cruise Tour Tips booklet or online at visitabudhabi.ae