By Andy Sambidge
Royal Caribbean Int'l says it will use Dubai as its host port; will also sail to Oman and Abu Dhabi
The world's largest cruise line company on Sunday announced plans to return to the Gulf in winter 2015-16 after pulling out of the region last year.
Royal Caribbean International said it will operate 16 roundtrip sailings from December 2015 through to March 2016.
The company's Splendour of the Seas ship is scheduled to dock in Dubai followed by calls to Muscat and Khasab, as well as Abu Dhabi.
In a statement, Helen Beck, the company's regional director, said: "Following on from positive and collaborative discussions with our key partners in the region, we are pleased to announce our return to cruising in the Arabian Gulf... I'm sure the season will be very successful."
The company said Splendour of the Seas will add more than 32,000 guests in her first four-month season to the region's growing cruise sector, with sales starting on April 10.
Hamad M Bin Mejren, executive director of business tourism for the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), said: "We are absolutely delighted to welcome Royal Caribbean International back to the Gulf with Dubai as its home port for the 2015-16 season."
The announcement comes as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Oman and Ras Al-Khaimah are all embarking on port expansion plans that would enable the region to grow its share of the lucrative cruise market.
In December, tourism chiefs in Oman, Abu Dhabi and Dubai also announced a new partnership to promote cruise tourism in the Gulf region.
The Ministry of Tourism Oman (Oman Tourism), Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) have teamed up in a bid to increase the number of cruise tourists and to raise awareness of the Gulf as a cruise destination.
Bin Mejren added: "We already have world-class infrastructure, continuous investment from the government and an unrivalled destination offering. With the further development of our cruise industry, Dubai can truly become a global cruise destination."
Khalid Al Zadjali, director of tourism events at the Oman Ministry of Tourism, also hailed the return of Royal Caribbean to the region, saying it expects to host more cruise ships in the future.
Royal Caribbean sails 21 of the world's cruise ships to the Caribbean, Europe, Alaska, South America, the Far East and Australia and New Zealand.