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MSC signs five-year deal with Cruise Saudi as MSC Bellissima sails from Jeddah’s new cruise terminal

MSC Cruises' Vago with Cruise Saudi's Farooqui during the plaque exchange
MSC Bellissima has sailed from Jeddah’s new cruise terminal, with MSC Cruises signing an agreement with Cruise Saudi for preferential berthing rights at Jeddah Islamic Port to 2027.

The line’s executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago and Fawaz Farooqui, MD, Cruise Saudi hosted celebrations aboard the vessel to mark the terminal’s opening. 

‘This is a very special, historic day for all of us,’ said Vago, ‘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.’

He went on to add, ‘We can now allow our global guest base to come and experience our unique itineraries in this beautiful country with its historic UNESCO World Heritage sites and pristine shores. And with the new agreement in place, together with Cruise Saudi we will work in unison to develop this very special aspect of Saudi Arabia’s determined and sustainable growth in tourism which mirrors exactly our own strategy and ambition.

‘We will work together in attracting guests from all corners of the world as well as local markets for a Red Sea and Arabian Gulf holiday like no other on board our modern and environmentally high performing vessels.’ 

Celebrations at the port

Local dignitaries also attended the event, alongside senior officials from the Saudi Tourism Authority, Cruise Saudi, the Saudi Ports Authority – MAWANI, as well as members of the Saudi Arabian media and travel community. 

Master of the ship Capt. Roberto Leotta, who will be at the helm of MSC Bellissima in the months ahead, exchanged crests with Farooqui to commemorate the vessel’s maiden port call.  

Those on board the ship for the festivities were given guided tours, presented with a show by MSC Cruises’ entertainment team and dined in the ship’s specialty restaurants.

‘Ambitious’ remit from Cruise Saudi

‘This event marks a great milestone for Cruise Saudi, and indeed for the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia, in line with Vision 2030,’ explained Cruise Saudi’s chief operations & commercial officer Mark Robinson. ‘The creation of Cruise Saudi, tasked with launching the cruise industry in Saudi Arabia, happened just six months ago at FII in Riyadh. Yet in these few months we have been able to work with international partners such as the Cruise Division of MSC Group and national bodies such as the Saudi Ports Authority, MAWANI, the Red Sea Gateway Terminal, the Saudi Tourism Authority, the Ministries of Transport, Culture, Health and Tourism, Saudi Customs and Immigration, the Saudi Border Guard, Jeddah Chambers of Commerce and many more such organisations to build Saudi Arabia’s first cruise terminal at Jeddah Islamic Port, and to mobilise the infrastructure, manpower and systems required to host global cruise lines for Saudi Arabia’s first full summer and winter cruise seasons. 

He went on to describe the remit of Cruise Saudi as an ‘ambitious’ one that would aim to create 50,000 jobs by 2025, result in the building of a further five ports, with Jeddah as a homeport, and welcome 1.5m annual passenger visits by 2028.

MSC Cruises in the Red Sea 

MSC Bellissima’s inaugural season in the Red Sea entails three- and four-night cruises from Jeddah calling Safaga for Luxor, Egypt or Aqaba for Petra, Jordan before returning to Jeddah

Sister ship MSC Virtuosa will also make its debut in Saudi during winter 2021/22 with calls in the port of Dammam, with MSC Magnifica also sailing the waters of Arabia later this year.

Launched in 2019, MSC Bellissima spearheaded the Meraviglia-Plus class of ships in the MSC Cruises fleet.