HE Maitha Al Mahrooqi, undersecretary at Oman’s Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman today (Tuesday 9 December) unveiled plans for the formation of a long-term tourism strategy which will identify the fundamental requirements to establish Oman as a vibrant tourism destination, with the cruise sector being a major component.

 

Her Excellency was speaking during the first day of the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum which takes place over 2 days at the Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton hotel, in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.

 

Executives from Costa; Crystal Cruises; Cunard; Holland America Line; MSC Cruises; Noble Caledonia; P&O Cruises; Princess Cruises; Royal Caribbean International; Seabourn; Silversea; and TUI Cruises are currently in the Sultanate, along with GCC government representatives from the ports and tourism sectors, for high level discussions to debate the future of cruising in the region.

 

“Oman is an essential part of TUI Cruises’ Middle East itineraries”, commented Tine Oelmann, Director Port Operations, Shorex and Ground Handling. “Both Muscat and Khasab offer passengers a different experience after the cityscapes of the UAE. In Oman they can find heritage, culture and nature, highlighting the diversity of this region,” she added.

 

TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 2 is currently operating its second Middle East winter cruise programme incorporating seven day butterfly cruises out of Dubai and the German brand is set to return again in 2015/16. Plans were also unveiled to deploy a 3rd ship, Mein Schiff 3 to the region for 2016/17.

 

Also returning to Oman in 2015 is UK small ship operator Noble Caledonia. Island Sky will undertake a turnaround in Muscat, including overnight stay next November, with calls also in the Omani ports of Sur and Khasab. “Oman is a rich seam to be mined,” commented Mike Deegan, Fleet Director.

 

“Noble Caledonia has been away from the Middle East for a few years now, but we are delighted with the itinerary that will take in Sur, Khasab and in 2016, Salalah. Part of our reason to be here for the Forum is to investigate more ports and islands along the Omani coastline – a fact-finding mission – to increase the experience for our passengers in the Sultanate of Oman.”

 

News from Celebrity Cruises included details for its 2016-17 deployment and plans for many more overnight port stays including double overnights, maiden calls, new Arabian Sea and India itineraries and Signature Event Sailings that take in special celebrations.  Round-trip sailings from Abu Dhabi with calls at Dubai and Muscat are among the new itineraries.

 

The Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman, took the opportunity to report an 18% increase in cruise passengers for 2014.  According to Khalid Al Zadjali, Director of Tourism Events, Oman’s Ministry of Tourism and host of the Forum: “In 2013, 115 ships called into Oman, a figure that is set to increase significantly increase over the coming three years.”

 

The Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum continues tomorrow (Wednesday 10 December) with a conference that includes tourism authorities, port and immigration officials, as well as ship agents, airlines, destination management companies and other cruise industry stakeholders.