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Dubai cruise industry… from trade corridor to vibrant travel route


One of Dubai cruise terminal infrastructure

Dubai no doubt is much more than a city of innovative architecture with beautiful skyscrapers, world-class hotels, modern day shopping and classic mosques coupled with golden dunes of the desert and other incredible tourist sites.

Currently rated as one of the top cruise destinations in the Middle East, it is increasingly growing as a key winter cruise destination among tourists. With multiple onshore and offshore attractions such as, home-porting ships and a number of stopover ships in the city, it also offers plenty of opportunities for a first time visitor/ tourist to explore the city, by taking a regional or international cruise.

The Dubai cruise industry first began as a trade corridor between Arab states of the Gulf and other socio-economic-cultural hubs. It has now evolved into a vibrant travel route that showcases Arabia at its most dynamic – a place where guaranteed sunshine, majestic desert landscapes and futuristic cityscapes meet.


With the first cruise ship docked in 1996, followed by the opening of Dubai’s cruise terminal in 2001– the first in the middle east region – the city has become an increasingly appealing winter cruise destination and has established itself as the Gulf’s pioneering home port since 2006.


The industry has grown rapidly over the past 17 years. In 2001/2002, the city received 7,000 cruise passengers, while a total of 87 cruise ships docked in 2009. This number nearly doubled to 157 during the 2016/17 winter season. Over 725,000 passengers are expected in the city for the 2018/2019 season.

With year-round sunshine, an ever-evolving list of attractions and multiple international cruise lines operating regular international itineraries out of the city; Dubai has become a homeport for most international cruise lines.

Every season, between October and June, over 20 cruise lines use Dubai as their embarkation port in their longer international and repositioning voyages. During the 2018/2019 cruise seasons, the city served as a winter homeport for eight international cruise lines, while over 20 other world-class cruise lines will be calling in for overnight stay during the 2019/2020 season, including the Celebrity Cruises, who will be relocating its homeport during the season.

Most of them, it was gathered will feature the city as a turnaround port as part of their re-positioning of cruises and grand voyages between east and west, whilst several cruise lines now homeport in the city and offer roundtrip Dubai cruise itineraries around the Arabian Gulf and India during the winter cruise season.

Some of the cruise ships include, the MSC Cruises’ — MSC Splendida, which will be operating seven-night itineraries (to be replaced by MSC Bellissima in 2019/2020); the Costa Cruises which will be sailing seven-night cruises from Dubai aboard Costa Mediterranean for the coming two cruise seasons, and the P&O which will cruise roundtrip on 10-night cruises to all the major ports in the Arabian Gulf aboard Oceana, while the Pullmantur will be operating 10-night roundtrip cruises from Dubai for the first time this season.

Others include, the AIDA Cruises, the largest and most modern ship the cruise line has ever sent to the Middle East cruise market, TUI Cruises, Schiff 5 (both operating identical seven-night cruise itineraries from Dubai within the Gulf); the Royal Caribbean, which will recommence round-trip cruise itineraries from Dubai in the 2019/2020 season, offering three different round-trip itineraries around the Arabian Gulf, and the Celebrity Cruises that will relocate its homeport to Dubai starting 2019/2020 season with its Celebrity Constellation ship offering round-trip itineraries around the Arabian Gulf and India.

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