Cruise Arabia alliance to promote gulf destinations

Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai and Oman signed an MoU at ITB last month to jointly promote the Arabian Gulf
as a cruise ship destination globally

An official Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by (from left to right): Saleh Mohammed Al Geziry, Director General for Tourism at DCT Abu Dhabi; Sara Ahmed Buhiji, Chief Executive Officer of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority; Azzan bin Qassim bin Mohammed Al Busaidi, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Heritage & Tourism of the Sultanate of Oman; and Issam Kazim, Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM)

The maritime and tourism authorities of Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai and Oman have formalised the Cruise Arabia alliance – a strategic regional partnership that will promote the Arabian Gulf as a cruise ship destination globally.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the stakeholders at the Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin (ITB Berlin) travel trade convention last month.

Key objectives of the Cruise Arabia alliance include collaboration to enhance the cruise experience for passengers, attract more cruise liners to the region, improve infrastructure at ports and drive economic growth in the regional cruise tourism sector.

The partners will also work together on enhancing the regional cruise ecosystem, improving key stakeholder relations, and conducting joint marketing efforts both regionally and internationally, said a statement from Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism.



Saleh Mohammed Al Geziry, Director General for Tourism at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), said: “We are collectively committed to championing cruise tourism, reflecting our firm belief in the power of partnerships.

“With the emirate’s state-of-the-art ‘Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal’ and the region’s only dedicated cruise stopover beach on Sir Bani Yas Island, cruise tourism is an important pillar in our tourism strategy and an additional platform to welcome visitors to explore Abu Dhabi’s array of unique attractions and experiences.

* Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal welcomed over 700,000 visitors during the 2022- 23 season Dubai Harbour Cruise
* Terminal saw a 40% in- crease in ship calls since its debut season

“With the invaluable support of our partners, we are dedicated to advancing the UAE’s tourism industry, while preserving Abu Dhabi’s legacy and promoting its diverse cultural heritage.”

Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal welcomed over 700,000 visitors during the 2022-23 season. Significant developments in the cruise sector include the upgraded jetty at Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach, which doubled the passenger capacity and enhanced the disembarkation experience.

Abu Dhabi has also been recognised as the World’s Best Cruise Destination and Cruise Terminal in 2023, a testament to its global standing in the cruise industry. The cruise terminal, launched in 2015, features a range of passenger amenities and the capability to accommodate up to three mega vessels simultaneously.



Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), said: “The Cruise Arabia alliance will further reinforce Dubai’s position as the cruise hub of the region, aligned with the Dubai Economic Agenda, D33, launched by our visionary leadership, to further consolidate Dubai’s status as one of the top three global cities for business and leisure.

“The growth of our cruise tourism has been largely shaped by the continuous support of our stakeholders and partners, and this alliance will result in more cruise operators seeking to anchor in Dubai, capitalising on its strategic location and promoting the city’s diverse offerings, world-class infrastructure and superior air and sea connectivity.

“Dubai and its regional partners have already made significant strides in developing their cruise tourism segments, and collaboration will further elevate the regional offering and make it more appealing to cruise lines and passengers.”

Dubai is home to two world-class cruise ports, Mina Rashid (Port Rashid) and Dubai Harbour, which can accommodate a combined nine mega-cruise vessels at any one time. Boasting modern terminal facilities that can handle the biggest ships, Dubai is an ideal base for cruise tourists seeking to explore the city, the UAE and the wider region.

Dubai’s 2023-2024 winter cruise season was launched on October 28, with the arrival of the luxury liner Mein Schiff 2, which docked at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal at Mina Rashid.

A globally acclaimed cruise destination offering easy access to the historic Dubai Creek, Mina Rashid can handle seven mega-cruise vessels or 25,000 passengers simultaneously, while the port’s Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal is capable of handling 14,000 passengers a day. Mina Rashid is also home to Port Rashid Marina, which offers a range of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. 

Inaugurated in 2021, Dubai Harbour is a world-class maritime destination strategically located at the intersection of the iconic Palm Jumeirah and Bluewaters Island. It boasts the region’s largest marina and most advanced cruise facility, with two terminals on a 910m-long quay. It has been purpose-built to provide comprehensive amenities and easy access to and from the sea, allowing thousands of international passengers to explore some of the world’s most outstanding tourist attractions.

Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal welcomed 300,000 passengers in the 2022-2023 cruise season, roughly four times the numbers from its debut season, with a 40% increase in ship calls.



Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism was represented by Azzan Qassim Al Busaidi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism for Tourism.

As reported by Oman News Agency, the number of visitors to Oman onboard cruise ships stood at more than 321,000 during 2023.

The Ministry of Heritage and Tourism of Oman seeks to allocate 11 seaports in Oman for cruise ships and yachts of various sizes. The Ministry has recently finalized preparations for a special study on marine tourism sector in Oman and it will be the first integrated study of its kind aimed to bolster the growth of cruise ship and yacht visits, maximize economic benefits and generate new employment opportunities.



Bahrain was represented by Sara Ahmed Buhiji, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority (BTEA).

Bahrain is growing its cruise sector with at least 5 new cruise ships this cruising season, including: Windstar Cruises, Ponant Le Bougainville, Norwegian Dawn, MSC Cruises, and Aida Cruises.

During the 2023-24 cruise season (October through April 2024), approximately 47 ships were scheduled to visit Bahrain.

The newly formalised Cruise Arabia alliance will support BTEA’s efforts in establishing partnerships with prominent cruise ship companies and providing strong incentives to incorporate Bahrain into their upcoming cruise itineraries.