Travel Unpacked: UAE's cruise season begins and Emirates shines light on Diwali

The National rounds up the most interesting tourism news you might have missed

Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal welcomed 300,000 passengers in the last cruise season. Photo: Dubai Media Office
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Dubai and Abu Dhabi welcomed the first cruise liners this week as sailing season commences.

In Saudi Arabia, voco has opened one of the largest hotels in Makkah, while Qatar Airways has resumed flights to Ras Al Khaimah.

Here's a round-up of recent travel and tourism news – in case you missed it.

The UAE marks the start of cruise season

Dubai's Mina Rashid welcomed the first luxury cruise liner of the new season on October 28, with the arrival of Mein Schiff 2. The city anticipates visits by up to 150 cruise ships this year, attracting major operators including MSC Cruises, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Celebrity Cruises.

Mina Rashid was recognised as the Middle East's Leading Cruise Port at the World Travel Awards 2023, while Dubai Harbour ranked as the World's Best New Cruise Development during the Annual World Cruise Awards 2021.

“Dubai has become a major port of embarkation and a popular call for cruise lines in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf, and we expect to record another strong season, with 28 per cent more visitors forecasted in comparison to 2022 to 2023,” said Hamza Mustafa, chief operating officer for DP World.

Zayed Port also welcomed its first ship, with Crystal Symphony docking at Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal on Wednesday. The terminal expects 126 calls this season, while Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach is set to host 63 calls, including nine maiden voyages to the emirate.

Last season, Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal recorded more than 600,000 visitors, with over 82,000 starting their journey from the capital.

Emirates shines a light on Diwali

Dubai's main airline will mark the Hindu festival of light, as Emirates rolls out Diwali delicacies on-board and in select lounges between Thursday and next Wednesday.

Customers travelling to and from Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Cochin, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kolkata and Mumbai will be served Diwali sweets, traditional dishes and themed drinks.

Premium economy and economy class passengers will get motichoor laddu, deep-fried flour balls simmered in cardamom and saffron. First and business class travellers will also be offered a pista roll – ground cashew nut with spices, pistachios and silver leaf.

A thali set and kulfi falooda is available in Dubai's First Class Lounge, while kachori, samosas, angoori rabdi and rasgullas are on offer in the Business Class Lounge. Sweets are also available in the Emirates lounges of Cape Town and Johannesburg, where there is a large Indian diaspora.

A special collection of Yash Raj films are also available to watch on-board to mark the occasion.

The My Emirates Winter Pass returns

Emirates Airline has brought back its My Emirates Winter Pass, which is available until March 31. The campaign lets customers use their boarding pass to access exclusive discounts at restaurants, luxury spas, shops, private pools and beaches across the UAE.

This includes Burj Khalifa, Aquaventure water parks, IMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubai Parks & Resorts, City Sightseeing and more.

If you check-in online and download your mobile boarding pass to the Emirates app or wallet, simply screenshot it to present at participating venues, otherwise it will disappear from the apps once you land.

Qatar Airways resumes flights to Ras Al Khaimah

An Airbus A320 flying in from Doha's Hamad International Airport touched down at Ras Al Khaimah International Airport on Wednesday, marking the resumption of services between Qatar and the northern emirate.

The return of the one-hour flight comes as part of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority's strategy to enhance global connectivity to the emirate, offering greater choice, flexibility and opportunities for international travellers coming to the UAE.

“This partnership marks an important step in driving Ras Al Khaimah’s continued growth as a destination of the future,” said Raki Phillips, chief executive of RAKTDA. “We look forward to working together to drive sustainable growth, in line with our ambition to attract three million visitors annually by 2030 and increase tourism’s contribution to Ras Al Khaimah’s GDP.”

Voco Makkah opens more than 4,000 rooms in the hotel city

IHG Hotels & Resorts has debuted the voco hotels brand in Saudi Arabia's holy city with the official opening of voco Makkah. The brand claims the 4,321-room, four-star property, which is within walking distance of the holy mosque, is the largest in the area, offering rooms for between two and four guests.

“We’re very pleased to increase our presence in the kingdom while catering to the needs of guests travelling to Makkah during the Hajj or Umrah seasons,” said Haitham Mattar, managing director for India, Middle East and Africa at IHG Hotels & Resorts.

“Religious tourism remains the bedrock of the kingdom’s tourism growth, with a goal of attracting 30 million pilgrims to the kingdom by 2030.”

The hotel is also home to four restaurants, a mini shopping mall, a barber shop and separate praying areas for men and women.

South-east Asia's first hotel using repurposed buses is unveiled

Singapore's Changi Village will soon be home to a resort hotel made up entirely of retired public buses. The Bus Collective has transformed the fleet of 20 into elegant, eco-conscious luxury suites with marble tops, rain showers and bathtubs.

“By introducing The Bus Collective, we are redefining luxury hospitality, and pioneering an eco-conscious approach to tourism in Singapore,” said Micker Sia, managing director of WTS Travel.

“This visionary project showcases the powerful synergy between nature, tourism and environmentalism for the greater good of our community. Through innovative thinking and resourceful execution, we are breathing new life into retired buses, transforming them into an unparalleled experience for our guests.”

Room rates begin from 398 Singaporean dollars ($295) including breakfast.

Updated: November 06, 2023, 11:14 AM