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Not quite cruising along: Abu Dhabi and MSC

Not quite cruising along: Abu Dhabi and MSC

As Italian MSC Cruises pull out of Abu Dhabi, it would seem the capital's ambitious 'cruise hub' plans have hit a figurative ice berg.

April 9, 2012 4:55 by

The sobriety in the air as the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic close approaches, would appear to be shared by those in the UAE cruise industry too. After all, it has just emerged that Italian   MSC Cruises has ditched plans to return to Abu Dhabi next season, opting to take their ship to Durban, South Africa, instead.

The MSC Lirica had started its cruises to Muscat, Fujairah, Khasab and Dubai just a year ago; things seemed to be going well. In fact, MSC Cruises had intended on returning with a bigger ship with the capacity of 54,000 people. And yet, the company has credited the plans to scrap the plans for the cruise to a lack of supporting infrastructure: “There is no doubt that MSC Cruises’ guests enjoyed the destination. However, for the long-term success of cruising in the [GCC] region, new ports of call need to be developed, terminal facilities must be upgraded and there must be increased focus on sourcing from local and regional markets” said the company in a statement.

Abu Dhabi has had big plans of establishing the capital as a ‘cruise hub’—the Abu Dhabi tourism authority says by the year 2030 it is aiming for 300 sailings a year and 600,000 passengers. Needless to say, the MSC Cruises pull-out is a very serious blow to the industry. Something the Abu Dhabi tourism authority isn’t taking lightly:  “To realise our cruise hub ambitions, the authority has established a number of strategic priorities. These include: the establishment of a dedicated cruise terminal at Mina Zayed within three years; the development of one of Abu Dhabi’s many islands into a permanent cruise port-of-call; the enhancement of passenger and ship handling capabilities among Abu Dhabi stakeholders.”

Kipp’s terribly interested to see the progress of the cruise industry here in the Emirates-there is certainly a market for an Arabian Titanic… (with a different ending of course). Speaking of the Titanic, have you heard of the ‘memorial’ Titanic set sail this week? Apparently for $13,000 a head, one can board The Balmoral, which follows the exact route the Titanic took a hundred years ago. On April 15th the ship will reach the spot where the Titanic went down. Call Kipp a superstitious chicken, but we wouldn’t board a ship marking the sinking of the Titanic, especially if said ship is taking the exact same route. And we definitely would never shell out $13,000 for the same-you’d probably have to pay just as much to get us to even think about getting on the ship. But, as it would turn out, it seems we are alone in our fears of tempting fate. Organizers said 1,309 passengers coughed up the moolah to mark the night.

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