A super cruise ship has departed Saudi Arabia for the first time, setting sail for regional waters as part of the kingdom’s aim to boost its tourist industry and diversify its economy away from oil.
According to the reports, the MSC Bellissima was the first cruise ship to leave Saudi seas, sailing from Jeddah’s Islamic Port on the Red Sea coast to Egypt’s Port Safaga and Jordan’s Aqaba before returning to Jeddah.
Mr. Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, the Geneva-based operator of the MSC Bellissima, said in a statement that, “The largest and most modern cruise ship to operate in the Red Sea has set sail from Jeddah’s new terminal to mark a new beginning for cruising in Saudi Arabia and, more broadly, for its growing tourism industry.”
During the inauguration of the first cruise ship terminal at Jeddah Islamic Port, Cruise Saudi, a company owned entirely by the kingdom’s sovereign investment fund, the Public Investment Fund, and MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, signed an agreement for preferential berthing rights at the port of Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia opened up its tourism industry in 2019, making it easier for foreigners to apply for tourist visas. The tourist industry is being developed as part of the country’s Vision 2030 goal to increase the non-oil sector’s contribution to GDP, attract foreign investment, and create jobs.
Recently, Mark Robinson, chief operations and commercial officer of Cruise Saudi stated, “The remit of Cruise Saudi [is] to create 50,000 jobs by 2025, to facilitate the building of an additional five ports, with Jeddah as a homeport, and to welcome 1.5 million annual passenger visits by 2028.”
The MSC Bellissima was delivered in 2019 and has a deck surface area of 450,000 square meters. Further, it has a magnificent spa, Broadway-style theatres, bowling alleys, and Formula One simulators, in addition to a large selection of hotel options.
As per the reports, “MSC Cruises intends to launch winter itineraries in the Red Sea, which will run from November to January on board MSC Magnifica. They will also start in Jeddah, before taking in the Saudi port of Al Wajh, a gateway to Al Ula.”
Other stops in Saudi include Ar Ras Al Abyad, Dammam and Yanbu Al Bahr before the cruise heads to Aqaba and Port Safaga, where it will travel up the temple valley of Luxor in Egypt.