Sharjah is set to host American luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises in December 2016, ahead of the Seatrade Forum.
Three other well known cruise ships are also scheduled to make their maiden calls to the emirate the same month.
US-based luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises will be in Sharjah on December 11 and 12, while the company’s Director of Nautical Port Ops will also be visiting the emirate ahead of the Seatrade Forum.
Voted “Best Midsize Cruise Ship Line” by Condé Nast Traveler magazine, Crystal Cruises will embark on a two-day itinerary on the emirate’s east coast, going to Kalba via Mleiha, and then to Khorfakkan, where the Oceanic Hotel Sharjah will be sponsoring the overnight stay.
The cruise line was established in 1988 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the large Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK).
The other three cruise ships which are scheduled to make their maiden calls to the emirate in the last month of 2016.
The first of the cruise ships will be the TUI Mein Schiff 3, arriving in Sharjah on December 10 and carrying mostly German nationals. With a total capacity of approximately 3,700 passengers, Mein Schiff 3 was launched on November 8, 2013, and then handed over to TUI Cruises on May 22, 2014.
Second on the list is Thomson Celebration, a cruise ship owned by Holland America Line, under long-term charter to the UK-based Thomson Cruises.
The Thomson Celebration (boasting a capacity of about 1,300 passengers) will be arriving on December 16, carrying passengers mostly from the UK – with some from other European countries.
Arriving on December 21 and carrying passengers of various European nationalities, MSC Fantasia boasts a maximum capacity of 3,900 passengers.
The cruise liner is an Italian Fantasia-class cruise ship owned and operated by MSC Cruises.
The MSC Fantasia was delivered to MSC Cruises on December 11, 2008, and has since been the flagship of the company.
His Excellency Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), said: “The cruise industry in Sharjah remains a cornerstone of our industry. The Authority is strategically working to attract more than 28 cruise trips with 72,000 tourists to Khorfakkan Port through the 2016-17 season. This makes cruise tourism is an elemental part of the emirate’s tourism development strategy, Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021, which aims to attract more than 10 million tourists to the emirate by the year 2021.”
H.E. Al Midfa added: “The Authority has been helping cruise lines cater to the different interests of the visitors and, at the same time, allowing them to fully experiencing the culture of Sharjah by regularly organising cultural events such as traditional dance performances at the ports and operating a heritage village during cruise calls.”
Sharjah is part of the Cruise Arabia Alliance, which includes Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Oman, Doha, and Bahrain.
The Alliance aims to develop the region as a destination for major cruise liners. GCC countries received more than a million visits from cruise passengers by the end of the 2015-2016 cruise season, as per some estimates.
Globally, the cruise market has been steadily gathering steam; the industry has nearly doubled in the last decade, going from 12 million passengers in 2006 to 22.9 million in 2016 – a 90.8 per cent increase.