DUBAI // The luxury cruise liner Queen Elizabeth is to stop at Dubai's Port Rashid on its maiden voyage next year, boosting the emirate's goal of placing itself squarely on the world map for cruise passengers. The new vessel, which will carry more than 2,000 passengers, will dock in Dubai in March next year, followed by a visit by the Queen Mary 2 the following month, the Cunard Line said. The ship features a theatre, spa, games deck and range of restaurants and lounges.
Accommodation on the ship's maiden voyage sold out in less than half an hour, Cunard said. The decision comes as a further boost for the dedicated cruise ship terminal at Port Rashid, which opened in February. Cruise vessels brought 26,580 tourists to Dubai between April 6 and June 14, according to statistics released by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). "Globally the Middle East is being seen as a popular stopping-off point," said John Podaras, the associated director of TRI Hospitality Consulting.
"Dubai is exotic, it's Arabic. Ships may throw in a desert camp experience. This is exactly what the market needs and I think Dubai has got it right. They have positioned themselves correctly." Mr Podaras said the Emirate was seen as an attractive spot for shopping, with easy access to other Gulf attractions. Dubai's cruise terminal also offered a comprehensive package to travellers with easy handling of documentation, as well as buses offering pick-up services from the terminal, he said.
The Emirate has proved popular with a younger generation, with many in the 30-45 age bracket now opting for cruises. Analysts said Dubai's draw lies in providing a window to visit neighbouring areas. After docking in Dubai, passengers often visited cities such as Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Muscat and Bahrain. "The notion that you will only see grey-haired retired people with big bank balances on ship cruises is changing," said Ashok Kumar, the business development director of the sales agency Cruise Master, which represents the Cunard Line.
"The younger generation doesn't have time for the 100-plus-day cruises, but enjoys the shorter stops, like the 12-day segment from Singapore to Dubai, and 19-days from Dubai to Southampton." Cruise ships to Dubai are attracting tourists from around the world, in particular Europe, Japan, China and Taiwan. The DTCM expects to host 120 ships with more than 325,000 passengers this year, a 40 per cent gain in passengers over last year.