Cruising to Qatar Expected to Be More Popular Than Ever in 2023

Qatar's role in the popularity of cruising in the Persian Gulf is on the increase, as shown by the 200,000 cruise visitors the country expects this year.

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The 2022-2023 cruise season in Qatar is set to be a major success, with over 50 cruise ships and 200,000 visitors expected from now until April 2023. Qatar Tourism announced the return of the cruise season and forecasted a surge in visitors to the country. 

This season, Qatar will welcome passengers at the Grand Cruise Terminal, a newly designed building that pays homage to classic Arabian architecture. The Doha Port recently served as a home base for major international cruise ships during the World Cup football in Qatar, including the MSC World Europa and MSC Poesia.

Popularity of Cruising in the Persian Gulf

Cruising has become increasingly popular in the Persian Gulf in recent years. The region’s warm climate, year-round sunshine, and rich cultural heritage make it a prime tourist destination. 

Qatar’s cruise sector, in particular, has grown tremendously over the last decade and now plays an essential role in the country’s tourism strategy. Qatar is seeing continued and increasing preference as a destination for both regular cruise calls and cruises with turnaround calls, with at least 50 cruise ships scheduled to visit the country in the coming months, bringing more than 200,000 cruise passengers to the gulf region. 

Head of Tourism Product Support at Qatar Tourism Maryam Saoud said: “Qatar’s cruise sector has grown tremendously in recent years and now contributes an important pillar to our tourism strategy. We’re seeing continued, increasing preference for Qatar as a destination for both regular cruise calls and cruises with turnaround calls.”

MSC World Europa Cruise Ship in Qatar
Photo Credit: Captured Blinks / Shutterstock

Qatar’s role in the increase in cruise tourism in the Persian Gulf is sgnificant. Together with Dubai, Doha has been steadily growing into a must-visit destination in the Gulf region. 

The port is ideally situated within walking distance of iconic landmarks, including the National Museum of Qatar, Souq Waqif, Downtown Doha, and the Doha Corniche, where visitors can take in stunning views of the city’s skyline.

“Doha Port is being developed to become one of the main tourist attractions in the region. We look forward to another successful tourism season that will contribute to strengthening the cruise industry and maintaining Qatar’s position as a leading tourism hub in the region.”

Besides Qatar, cruises in the Persian Gulf typically sail to destinations such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, and Oman. Some cruises also visit ports in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, many voyages to the Persian Gulf also include stops in other parts of the Middle East, such as Egypt and Jordan, as well as continuing to ports in India and Southeast Asia.

Cruise Ships as Hotel Ships

During the World Cup football tournament in Qatar in 2022, two MSC cruise ships, the MSC World Europa and the MSC Poesia, were used as hotel ships to accommodate thousands of international fans.

The MSC World Europa, MSC Cruises’ flagship, was particularly popular among visitors and provided MSC with considerable free advertising amongst millions of viewers of the tournament. Using these cruise ships as hotel ships was a unique and innovative way to accommodate the many international visitors who came to Qatar for the tournament.

MSC Cruises has played a pivotal role in the development of cruising in the middle east and is currently the market leader in the region. But it’s more than just MSC that is operating in the area. AIDA, Costa Cruises, TUI Cruises, Silversea, and Azamara will all be sailing to Qatar in the coming months. 

On January 12th, the MSC World Europa made history as the first cruise ship to dock at King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. This call, traditionally used for cargo on the Arabian Gulf, marks a significant milestone for the cruise industry in the region.

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