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Riding on a new visa policy and the upgrade of facilities at the different terminals, cruise tourism in the country is set for a big push.
Cruise passengers can now avail of multiple entry visas which means they will not require a separate visa every time they re-enter the UAE after sailing to a neighboring port in a different country during a 30-day period. The new law came into force from August last year.
Cruise terminals across the UAE have seen major upgrades and the number of cruise passengers is on the rise. Dubai recently inaugurated the imposing 28,000-square-meter Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal at the Mina Rashid (or Port Rashid). The new terminal can facilitate 14,000 cruise passengers daily. The facelift has allowed Mina Rashid to handle up to seven cruise vessels at one time.
The cruise season lasts from September to June and in this period, around 381,000 cruise passengers are set to arrive in Dubai with 110 ships calling on the cruise terminals. In the next season between September 2015 and June 2016, the number of ships is expected to jump to 128 and the passengers to 410,000.
Mina Zayed (or Zayed Port) in Abu Dhabi also expects the numbers to prop up. This season, passenger numbers are expected to rise to 220,000 from 189,000 last season as the number of ships calling at the cruise terminal move up to 93 from 75. A new cruise terminal at the same port is expected to open next year.
Favorable trade winds for cruise tourism have also hit Khor Fakkan Port in Sharjah. In the current season, more than 36 international cruise ships are set to dock at the emirate, bringing in more than 80,000 tourists.
• Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal functional at Port Rashid
• Zayed Port is set to inaugurate a new cruise terminal next year
• More than 30 ships are expected to dock at Khor Fakkan Port
Source: S. Dhar, Special to Properties
The writer is a freelancer