AHOY! Aroya Cruises arrives

Promising a unique Arabian experience, Cruise Saudi’s newly launched Aroya Cruises will set sail in 2024,
starting with the recently purchased Manara, which is currently undergoing a retrofit


Deliberations of a new cruise line spiked in the industry when Cruise Saudi purchased the former Genting Hong Kong ship, World Dream, earlier this year. This ship has since been renamed Manara and is currently undergoing refurbishment to be Aroya Cruise’s first ship when the cruise line goes afloat in 2024.

Aroya Cruises will be managed as a separate business unit supporting the fulfilment of Cruise Saudi’s strategic goals of welcoming 1.3 million cruise visitors by 2035 and providing 50,000 direct and indirect jobs.

With a commitment to showcasing Arabian experiences, Aroya Cruises will reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and warm hospitality, providing an immersive journey, designed and tailored to reflect its brand values of inspiration, enrichment, generosity and respect.



Saudi has something unique – and authentic – to offer to every one of its guests
– Lars Clasen



Combining the words “Arabian” & “roya” (meaning vision or dream), Aroya Cruises will offer Saudi nationals, expatriates, and regional guests a unique opportunity to explore the wonders of Saudi from the sea.

Ghassan Khan, who will lead Aroya Cruises, said: “This is an extremely exciting time. It is a privilege to bring this cruise line to launch as a core element of Saudi’s development as an international cruising destination.”

“This momentous step marks a historical milestone in Cruise Saudi’s ambitious strategy to create a premium cruise ecosystem in Saudi, in line with Vision 2030,” said Lars Clasen, CEO of Cruise Saudi. “Aroya Cruises will be operating as an autonomous brand within the Cruise Saudi portfolio, aiming to provide experiences and services specifically designed to embrace Arabian preferences.”

Travellers are attracted to countries for their unique history and authentic culture. Saudi is no exception because it is a remarkable destination with authentic hospitality at its core, Lars Clasen, CEO of Cruise Saudi, tells TTN.

“One of the popular misconceptions is the Saudi is all desert, but this is not the case and there is so much more to explore and experience. Most of which has been previously untapped by international guests.

“With six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Saudi, there are plenty of authentic experiences and three of these sites are now accessible via cruising and included on cruise itineraries.”

These sites include AlBalad – the historic area of Jeddah, Hegra in AlUla – accessible from the port of Yanbu, and the world’s largest oasis – AlAhsa, which can be accessed by the newly prepared port of Dammam.

“There are many more undiscovered treasures, from culinary discoveries to unique immersive experiences within nature – including the beautiful Red Sea coral reefs through snorkelling or diving – and vibrant modern cities and colourful traditional souks,” says Clasen.

“Together with the natural landscapes, these sites make Saudi a captivating global tourist destination. Saudi has something unique – and authentic – to offer to every one of its guests. All of which is underpinned by the combination of the warmth and vibrancy of the Saudi people.”

Cruise Saudi aims to support and develop the country’s tourism sector creating 50,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2035. As such, Saudi Arabia has room for vessels made for the mass market as well as ultra-luxury ones.

“With the development Cruise Saudi Arabia has been carrying out along the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, cruise lines will have a wider choice when stopping and homeporting in the country. This will attract more cruise operators – both local and international.

“So far, we have equipped three ports with the necessary infrastructure to welcome cruise ships and passengers: Jeddah Islamic Port and Yanbu Commercial Port along the Red Sea and King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam along the Arabian Gulf.

“It is our ambition to continue developing these ports but also create new ones, allowing for greater capacity and more destination choice for international cruise lines.

“In the luxury space, Cruise Saudi has ambitious plans to welcome more luxury, international cruise ships to Saudi.”

Cruise Saudi has partnered with leading luxury hotel group Aman to launch Aman at Sea, a first-of-its-kind luxury superyacht in 2027. Aman at Sea will feature 47 exquisite rooms and a full spectrum of luxury services and amenities including a spa, Michelin-quality restaurant experiences and 24-hour room service.

Here is an excerpt of TTN’s detailed interview with Clasen:

How ready is the tourist-facing infrastructure in terms of ports as well as land excursions? How about people infrastructure/talent development for cruise specific tasks/booking – where is that?

Jeddah Islamic Port, Yanbu Commercial Port and King Abdulaziz Port are all equipped with the necessary infrastructure to welcome passengers. Our goal is to make the arrival experience as smooth as possible. Cruise Saudi works closely with all relevant authorities in the ports to ensure an easy and comfortable experience for cruise passengers to complete the immigration and country entry process. This includes the issuing of visas and removal of biometric screening.

Cruise guests can experience a wide variety of shorex options in Saudi; they can expect to experience the diverse culture and varied natural landscapes that make Saudi a captivating global tourist destination, combined with the warmth and vibrancy of the Saudi people’s hospitality. The country is home to many undiscovered treasures, from culinary discoveries to unique immersive experiences within nature. The ports in Jeddah, Yanbu and Dammam give passengers access to three of Saudi’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Hegra Archaeological Site AlUla, Jeddah Historic District and Al Ahsa Oasis.

Cruise Saudi is committed to working with governmental entities along with universities and educational institutes and international partners to offer training and development opportunities for young Saudis. Cruise Saudi has developed partnerships with King Abdulaziz University and Prince Mugrin University to provide students with training programmes in the cruise sector.

In collaboration with the Culinary Arts Commission, Cruise Saudi training programs include onboard training for local chefs as well as tour guides specialised in culinary arts.

Cruise Saudi in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism works together in the development and training of potential tour guides that results in employment and on-the-job training.

Cruise Saudi works with the tour guide industry on everything from educating travel agents to upskilling tour guides and operators to creating and showcasing a wide array of entertainment, nature and adventure offerings. As a result, more than 140 tour guides have been trained to boost Saudi’s tourism sector.

Investing in local talent and giving Saudis the skills needed to deliver a high-quality cruise sector is vital as the tourism industry in Saudi continues to grow. 71 per cent of our workforce are Saudis working across all departments.

Cruise Saudi aims to support and develop the tourism sector creating 50,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2035.


Tell us about the Genting vessel you recently purchased? What are the plans for her?

Cruise Saudi purchased the former Genting Hong Kong ship, World Dream, which was renamed Manara. This is currently undergoing refurbishment/renaming and will be AROYA Cruises first ship.


Does cruising provide a significant support to meet Saudi Vision 2030?

Saudi’s Vision 2030 sets out plans to develop the tourism and diversify the economy. Before Cruise Saudi was launched there was nowhere for cruise ships to stop in the country.

Over the past two years, Cruise Saudi has made ports ready for cruise ships and passengers by providing the necessary infrastructure in ports along the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf. This has led to international cruise lines being able to add Saudi to their itineraries and support the growth of tourism.

Cruising in 2019, pre-pandemic, was a $154 billion industry. The sector vast and is slowly getting back to pre-pandemic levels.

There is huge potential for Saudi’s cruise industry to continue supporting the goals of Vision 2030 with Cruise Saudi acting as a crucial pillar to support the country’s expanding tourism sector.

By acting as the bridge connecting to Saudi to the rest of the world, Cruise Saudi has established cruising as a new way to discover and experience the country’s rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality.

We just completed our third season this week which started in November 2022, where we welcomed over 300,000 cruise passengers, from more than 100 nationalities, on board of 7 cruise ships, within a total of 65 calls to Jeddah, Yanbu and Dammam.

Our ambition is for this number to continue with every sailing. By 2035, Cruise Saudi aims to have welcomed over 1.3 million cruise passenger visits per year.


What inspired you to join Cruise Saudi?

I’ve worked in the cruise and shipping industries for more than 30 years across Asia, Europe and North America. Cruising is something I’m passionate about and there is nowhere more exciting for the industry right now than Saudi.

Until Cruise Saudi was launched three years ago, Saudi was a destination that was relatively unexplored by international travellers.

My role as CEO means that I’m at the helm of one of the most pioneering organisations in the industry. Since launching in 2021, Cruise Saudi has made tremendous strides, setting up in an entirely new industry and welcoming cruise passengers to Saudi for the first time. I’m thrilled to be part of the journey.

What difference do you hope to make while you’re there?

I hope to continue building on Cruise Saudi’s successes by introducing more of the coast along the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf for cruising.

We have already welcomed several international cruise lines to Saudi, including MSC, Silversea and Viking, and by continuing to develop infrastructure at more ports, I hope to welcome many more.

My role is to keep building the network of cruise lines and work with key industry partners to promote Saudi as a world class cruise industry.

By spearheading the development of a fully integrated local cruise industry we can establish the country as a premier global cruise destination.


What is your goal as CEO of this multi-faceted organisation?

My goal is to put Saudi on the map as a tourist destination. In line with Vision 2030, we are ensuring that cruising is a key economic pillar of Saudi’s tourism industry.

We are creating a world-class cruise industry in Saudi and opening-up a new gateway for the world to discover Saudi by sea.

Saudi is an incredible country with so much to offer; from pristine beaches and bustling cities to UNESCO World Heritage Sites dating back hundreds of years. I hope that international travellers can discover and appreciate the diversity of the country.

Our ultimate goal at Cruise Saudi is to welcome 1.3 million cruise passengers annually by 2035 and position Saudi as a regional and international cruising hub.