Cruise ships from Germany were the first to arrive at the new Dubai Cruise Terminal this week to help lead the industry's fightback against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Twin cruise liners from German company Aida arrived at the huge 120,000 square-metre construction in the heart of Dubai, built to moor some of the largest passenger vessels in the world.
Nestled between the Bluewater island development and The Palm Jumeirah, one of the emirate’s most eagerly awaited mega-projects is almost ready for action.
The 300-metre Aidaprima ocean liner – capable of carrying 3,300 passengers in luxurious comfort – and the smaller Aidavita vessel were the first two cruise ships to take part in a recent test run at the new terminal.
Before the pandemic, the cruise industry was the fastest growing in the travel sector.
Demand soared by 20.5 per cent in the last five years, taking the industry’s value close to $207 billion (Dh760.2bn) in annual global revenue, according to KPMG, with 270 vessels across more than 50 operators.
By mid-March, as international borders slammed shut to contain the coronavirus, hundreds of passengers around the world were forced to quarantine on stranded cruise ships before they could be repatriated.
As signs of life begin to return to global travel amid hopes of widespread international vaccination programmes, the cruise industry is preparing for lift-off.
Dubai Cruise Terminal’s location – close to the marina, the 250-metre Ain Dubai observation wheel and Jumeirah Beach Residences – promises a spectacular arrival for those on board.
Aida Cruises is now taking bookings for operations from Dubai between late November and mid-April 2022 and will offer seven-day trips to the Far East.
Although not yet fully open, the terminal promises to be one of the world’s busiest.
It aims to bolster Dubai’s reputation as a major tourism hub, three years on from the joint venture between developers Carnival Corporation and Shamal Holding.
A public unveiling of the project has twice been delayed owing to Covid-19.
The planned Dubai International Boat Show was first set to take place at the terminal last year, and again this year before both events were postponed. It is now scheduled for March, 2022.
Once open, the port will become the primary hub for Carnival Corporation’s transit operations in the region.