‘The introduction of Saudi Arabia to our winter programme [makes it a] one of a kind itinerary,’ commented Gianni Onorato, CEO, MSC Cruises. ‘Our guests can discover the untouched beauty of this region to its fullest, and go ashore and explore plenty of undiscovered destinations.’
Mark Robinson, chief commercial and operations officer, Cruise Saudi added, ‘Jeddah benefits from its proximity to Europe and is easily reachable by plane within five hours from most major cities on the continent.
'Saudi Arabia is an ideal destination for winter holidays and has the potential for year-round cruising. The landmark partnership with MSC Cruises is a perfect starting point on our journey, and aligns with our vision to develop mainstream cruising along the Saudi coastlines with Jeddah as the key homeport that offers a wide variety of pre- and post-cruise stay options.'
Passengers will visit AlBala – a town dating back to the 7th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – before the vessel sets out for Aqaba for Petra, Jordan with snorkelling in the Aqaba Marine Park available, as well as opportunities for visiting Mamluk Castle and the Aqaba Archaeological Museum.
The vessel will then make its way to Safaga, Egypt for trips to Egypt’s Luxor and Karnak temples, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.
Voyaging to Al Wajh, Saudi Arabia which has 100km of beaches, MSC Magnifica passengers will be able to visit the abandoned old town of AlBalad comprising ancient Hejazi architecture made from Red Sea coral. It serves as a gateway to AlUla, home to the Al-Hijr (Madain Salih) UNESCO World Heritage Site, which features more than 110 tombs carved from giant rock formations, as well as ancient sites dating back to the 1st millennium BC.
The ship will then call at the old town of Yanbu, one of the Kingdom’s major Red Sea ports, which dates back 2,500 years and has some of the oldest souks. Considered the diving capital of Saudi Arabia, its coral reefs offer the chance for snorkelling and water activities. A private beach experience in Yanbu is also possible at the outset of the cruise.
Fly-cruise packages will be available owing to a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s national airline, Saudia, with Friday night flights out of most major European airports and New York.
Passengers will arrive in Jeddah the night before the start of the cruise, with the ship departing Saturday evening.
MSC Virtuosa will make its debut in Saudi Arabia during its winter 2021/2022 Arabian Gulf programme and include calls in Dammam for AlAhsa oasis.
The ship will homeport in Dubai, calling Abu Dhabi for Sir Bani Yas Island, which has beaches exclusive to MSC Cruises’ passengers for the duration of port calls.
The ship will also visit Doha, before returning to Dubai with an overnight stay in the city.
Bookings open May 1, with discount options available.