Abu Dhabi vies with Dubai for cruising crown

Abu Dhabi is set to challenge Dubai for dominance of the region's fast-growing cruise market, announcing October 25 that MSC will become the first cruise line to call the emirate home.

Tourism authorities have confirmed that MSC Lirica, a 59,000-ton, 2,199-guest liner, will be the first ship ever to use Abu Dhabi as a home port, beginning October 2011.

It will sail 19 seven-night cruises from Abu Dhabi's Mina Zayed Port, traveling round the Arabian Gulf peninsula to Muscat, before turning round en route for the UAE's eastern emirate of Fujairah on the Indian Ocean.

It will continue heading north to Bahrain, then sail southwards to Dubai, before completing its journey in Abu Dhabi, where estimates suggest that the ship will bring in some 41,000 cruise tourists who will also explore the emirate's other attractions such as shops, restaurants and hotels.

In a sign that Abu Dhabi intends to become a big player in the cruise market, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) also revealed that it will begin a feasibility study towards the development of a dedicated cruise terminal, which would challenge Dubai's new 3,300 square meter terminal.

"A state-of-the-art cruise terminal would greatly leverage Abu Dhabi's positional and island geographies, strengthen our case to become the leading regional cruise hub over the next five years, and place Abu Dhabi's inbound hotel guest target on a firm course," said ADTA director Mubarak Al Muhairi.

Abu Dhabi's cruise arrivals have risen from 125,500 in 2008-2009 to 180,000 in 2009-2010 and are expected to exceed 235,000 this season.

Figures released earlier this year by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing suggested that arrivals will be up 30 percent in 2010, with a total of 325,000 passengers.

http://www.msccruises.com/

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