Meeting in Riyadh, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago and Fawaz Farooqui, MD, Cruise Saudi signed the document, with Vago stating, ‘Having witnessed at first-hand the richness of the local heritage, I am impressed with Saudi Arabia’s ability to preserve its traditions and culture and make them available for the world to see.
‘I am delighted that MSC Cruises will be in a position to contribute to the kingdom’s opening to international visitors... I look forward to helping tourists from all over the world, as well as from the kingdom, discover the incredible wonders that this country has to offer, including the untouched beauty of its coastline and historical sites.’
MSC Magnifica will homeport in Jeddah, home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second-largest port in the Middle East.
It will call at three Saudi ports, including weekly calls to the port of Al Wajh, the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of AlUla, and visit a selection of other ports and destinations in the region.
MSC Virtuosa, the line’s newest vessel, will cruise the Arabian Gulf, calling Dammam with visits to another UNESCO World Heritage site, AlAhsa oasis.
The ship will call there every week from December 2021 to March 2022.
Appeal for intrepid travellers
Farooqui called out intrepid travellers as the first to explore the destination. ‘We are delighted to work with MSC Cruises and are keen to forge a long-term partnership,’ he said.
He went on to explain the benefits of tourism for local populations, while appealing for an increased number of visits by the cruise line.
‘Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer visitors, and the new collaboration will open doors for intrepid travellers from across the globe to be amongst the first to experience the rich Saudi heritage and warm hospitality.
‘We look forward to exploring opportunities to increase the number and size of vessels operating on Saudi routes in the future.
Meanwhile, through welcoming international tourists to these emerging destinations, it will create new sources of income for local communities.’
Thousands of tourists expected
The two companies expect a total of up to 170,000 individuals to explore Saudi Arabia on the two vessels in this winter season.
Flights to Jeddah via the kingdom’s flag carrier, Saudi, will be modified to ensure they fit with the two ships’ departure and arrival times.
The country will host the Formula 1 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix on December 5 in Jeddah; passengers on board MSC Magnifica will be able to follow the event.
MSC Cruises CEO Gianni Onorato had told Seatrade Cruise News earlier this week that plans were underway for cruising in the region.