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MSC Cruises’ Vago and Onorato hint at future plans in Saudi Arabia

'The region overall can give huge opportunities,' said MSC Cruises' Onorato while discussing Red Sea itineraries
MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago is looking at the development of further cruise destinations within Saudi Arabia, with the line's CEO Gianni Onorato stating that the region 'can give huge opportunities.’

Speaking on board MSC Virtuosa in Dubai ahead of the ship’s naming ceremony today, the chairman told Seatrade Cruise News, ‘The Red Sea is a beautiful area. We are there with MSC Bellissima and there is all intention — with Jeddah being a homeport — for some of the destinations to be developed in the near future. It is part of the process.’

More cargo ports to be upgraded for cruise ships

This follows the reveal by Ghassan Khan, chief strategy officer, Cruise Saudi at the 2021 International Cruise Summit in Madrid earlier this month that plans are underway by Cruise Saudi to upgrade more existing cargo ports to receive cruise ships in Duba, Alwajh and Jazan. Owing to the tense geopolitical situation in the latter territory, Khan predicts 2023 as the start date for cruise passengers to visit the country's southern region.

Infrastructure for cruise vessels currently exists at Jeddah, King Abdullah Economic City situated north of Jeddah, Yanbu and Dammam. 

Strong partnership

Continued Vago, ‘The partnership that we have in Saudi Arabia is very strong. There is an opening up to tourism and there is an intention to develop Alwajh, to actually create the capability to link AlUla, the UNESCO World Heritage site. There is partnership to ensure there is an authority that will improve the capabilities for the cruise sector to develop in the Red Sea.’

Also discussing MSC Cruises’ Red Sea itineraries from on board MSC Virtuosa, Onorato said, ‘Look at economic city [King Abdullah Economic City] ... You can have access to Medina from across the world.

‘You can visit the famous AlUla, which is really a pearl as a destination, so the region overall can give huge opportunities.’