Sharjah’s picturesque East Coast is getting ready to welcome thousands of cruise passengers aboard some of the biggest and celebrated luxury cruise liners in the next few months.

The first of such cruise liners, Costa Classica arrived in the Khor Fakkan port on Friday (November 25) with 1700 passengers onboard, heralding the arrival of new season of luxury cruise liners and thousands of international tourists to Sharjah’s East Coast.

On its arrival in Khor Fakkan port, Costa Classica passengers were taken on guided tours of the East Coast with stops in Fujairah, Dibba, at Bitnah Fort, Al Baddiyah Mosque and Friday Market.

The latest and largest flagship of Costa Favalosa with 3,800 passengers will make its maiden call at Khor Fakkan port on December 19.  Between November and May 2012, two major cruise liner operators, Costa Cruises and Seabourn will bring an estimate volume of nearly 67,000 international cruise passengers to Sharjah’s East Coast, celebrated for its golden beaches, blue waters and breathtaking landscape.

With the addition of Costa Favolosa, Costa will make some 58 port calls in the UAE in the winter of 2011-12 and expects to serve some 233,000 passengers.  From December 16, 2011 to April 6, 2012, the Costa Favolosa planning to sail in the serene waters of the Arabian Gulf on 7-night cruises with stopovers in Sharjah (Khor Fakkan), Dubai , Abu Dhabi, and Muscat and Khasab, Oman etc.

Sharjah, which has been attracting an extraordinary number of European tourists in recent years, is looking forward to receiving more international visitors as major cruise liners target the region.  Last year more than 1.5 million tourists visited Sharjah. The number is expected to be significantly higher this year.  Thanks to its strategic location overlooking both the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Gulf Coast and the natural splendour of the East Coast, Sharjah makes for an ideal destination for luxury cruise liners.

Sharjah is unique in that it has ports on both the coasts.     The emirate is home to three of the finest deep water harbours in the country, the other two being Khalid Port and Hamriyah. The location of the ports of Sharjah offers strategic advantage to ships calling at the ports.

The cruise tourism sector in the Middle East is seeing a steady increase in passengers as the sector gains traction in the region.  Countries in the region are increasingly investing to support cruise tourism facilities and services.  The Gulf is also witnessing a rise in cruise ships, with Costa Cruises, the first major line to introduce Gulf itineraries, upping capacity by 16 per cent this winter season. The UAE is eyeing a major slice of this market as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai all attracting big players of the industry.