By Andy Sambidge
Tented facility to launch later in October as UAE capital eyes bigger slice of cruise industry
Abu Dhabi has built a new tented cruise terminal at Mina Zayed capable of accommodating 1,300 passengers which will start operating later this month, tourism officials said on Wednesday.
The facility, on the site of the former ADTA visitor information centre, will cater for the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 cruise seasons while a permanent terminal will be built for the longer-term.
The temporary terminal, put up by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), working in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC) and Abu Dhabi Terminals (ADT), spans 2,000 sq m and comprises two dedicated halls - one a luggage-handling facility, the other a passenger centre.
The tented structure comes with a waiting lounge, security section, prayer rooms, offices, visitor information centre, currency exchange as well as customs and immigration facilities.
The new terminal will open with a welcome ceremony for the 59,000 tonne MSC Lirica liner which will use Abu Dhabi as its home port from the end of October as it embarks on 19 cruises around the Arabian Gulf.
The MSC Lirica has a capacity for 2,199 guests in 784 cabins.
According to ADTA, the arrival of MSC Lirica - the first liner to homeport in the UAE capital - is expected to bring a significant boost to Abu Dhabi's cruise traffic.
ADTA said it has prioritised cruise tourism as one of its five 2011/2012 strategy pillars.
"Cruise shipping has enjoyed strong recession-proof growth for many years," said Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general, ADTA.
"The market obviously ranges between low cost volume cruise business and very high end exclusive cruises - Abu Dhabi is targeting the higher end segment."
In line with its long-term cruise ambitions, ADTA is planning to construct a permanent, purpose-built cruise terminal at Mina Zayed.
"Ultimately our capacity to build the cruise tourism business will rely on a combination of good planning, good infrastructure, strong marketing and industry co-operation," added Al Muhairi.
"With this in mind, we now have government approval for the concept of a world-class cruise terminal which is required if we are to fulfill our ambition of becoming a home port of choice."
Three possible sites have been identified in the Mina Zayed vicinity and technical feasibility studies into these have been commissioned.
"We have strong hopes of the cruise business continuing to grow into the future with longer term projects for 300 calls and 600,000 passengers by 2030," said Al Muhairi.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.