Abu Dhabi to allow cruise ships back from September

Cruises were halted globally when the pandemic hit in March 2020

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Cruise ships will soon be able to dock in Abu Dhabi for the first time in 18 months.

Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT) said cruise operations can begin from September 1.

All arriving passengers must have been vaccinated against coronavirus in advance, officials said.

Liners were banned locally and globally because of the pandemic, as they quickly emerged as potential "super-spreader" events.

Before the onset of the virus, maritime tourism into Abu Dhabi had experienced a record-breaking year.

Ali Al Shaiba, executive director at DCT, said the move was a major boost to the sector.

"This step comes [as] part of the leading efforts to enliven the emirate’s tourism sector after the impressive results we’ve achieved in combatting the spread of the pandemic, and yet another step towards strengthening the UAE capital’s position as a world-class hub for maritime tourism," he said.

In 2019, about 500,000 cruise passengers arrived in the emirate's ports, a 46 per cent increase compared with 2018, while the number of cruise ships visiting the capital rose by 43 per cent in 2019 to reach a total of 192.

"We will continue to work closely with our partners at Abu Dhabi Ports to further boost the maritime tourism sector and attract more businesses and tourists, by providing them with unparalleled services and experiences, while exploring Abu Dhabi and its diverse offerings," he said.

Cruise industry grounded by pandemic

Cruise ships will be allowed to return in autumn. Courtesy: DCT - Abu Dhabi

During 2020, cruise ships were identified as coronavirus transmission hotspots, and passengers on several liners were forced to quarantine onboard and offshore, because of the number of cases aboard.

The British-registered Diamond Princess was the first ship to have a major outbreak onboard, and was quarantined at Yokohama in Japan in February for approximately one month. More than 700 people became infected, and 14 people died.

Cruise ships are now slowly reopening to passengers, but the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US recommends that only vaccinated people should travel.

If a certain threshold level of Covid-19 is detected onboard the ship during the voyage, the cruise is required to end immediately, with the ship returning to the port of embarkation.

In Abu Dhabi, Zayed Port and Sir Bani Yas Island are popular stops for cruises from all over the world. In February 2020 a new waterfront attraction, Marsa Mina, opened near the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal in Mina Zayed, with retail units and restaurants for newly arrived tourists.

Noura Rashed Al Dhaheri, the managing director of cruise business for Abu Dhabi Ports, said passengers will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to be allowed to visit the emirate.

“In line with Abu Dhabi’s health protocols for international arrivals, Abu Dhabi Ports is initiating several health and safety measures to protect passengers and crew, which includes daily sterilisation activities across the terminal, the requirement of PCR testing before embarkation, as well as the implementation of a comprehensive emergency response plan for handling positive cases within the terminal," she said.

“Cruise passengers visiting Abu Dhabi can be assured that every measure to safeguard their health and safety during their stay is being undertaken.”

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