Cruise Saudi, a 100% Public Investment Fund-owned business that seeks to develop Saudi Arabia’s cruise industry, and MSC Cruises, the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line, announced today the launch of Red Sea cruises in the coming winter 2021/22 season.
Fawaz Farooqui, Managing Director of Cruise Saudi, and Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, signed a landmark framework agreement in the Saudi capital city Riyadh to mark the beginning of the new partnership.
Under the terms of the agreement, MSC Magnifica will homeport in Jeddah, the commercial hub and one of the largest cities of Saudi Arabia, as well as the second-largest port in the Middle East with a historical centre that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Operating seven-day Red Sea cruises from November 2021 to March 2022, the vessel will visit a selection of ports and destinations in the region and three Saudi ports including weekly calls to the port of AlWajh, the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage site of AlUla.
As the Kingdom prepares to host the inaugural Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2021 on 5 December in Jeddah, MSC Magnifica guests will have the chance to follow this exciting global sports event during their trip aboard the Magnifica.
In addition to MSC Magnifica’s Red Sea sailings, MSC Cruises’ flagship MSC Virtuosa will see her winter 2021 programme in the region enriched with calls in the Arabian Gulf port of Dammam, visiting AlAhsa oasis, another UNESCO World Heritage site.
MSC Virtuosa will call at this new exciting destination every week from December 2021 to March 2022.
Speaking on the signing of the agreement, Farooqui said: “We are delighted to work with MSC Cruises and are keen to forge a long-term partnership. We look forward to exploring opportunities to increase the number and size of vessels operating on Saudi routes in the future. Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer visitors, and the new collaboration will open doors for intrepid travellers from across the globe to be amongst the first to experience the rich Saudi heritage and warm, hospitality. Meanwhile, through welcoming international tourists to these emerging destinations, it will create new sources of income for local communities.”
For his part, Vago said: “Having witnessed at first-hand the richness of the local heritage, I am impressed with Saudi Arabia’s ability to preserve its traditions and culture and make them available for the world to see. I am delighted that MSC Cruises will be in a position to contribute to the Kingdom’s opening to international visitors through becoming a premier cruise destination and I look forward to helping tourists from all over the world as well as from the Kingdom discover the incredible wonders that this country has to offer, including the untouched beauty of its coast line and historical sites.”
The two companies expect a total of up to 170,000 guests to explore Saudi Arabia’s historical, cultural and natural treasures on board the two MSC Cruises ships during the upcoming winter 2021/22 season. Saudi residents will also get the opportunity to spend their holidays in their home country and discover its wonders from the comfort that only a cruise ship can provide.
International guests will be able to reach Jeddah via direct flight connections from the most important European and international cities serviced by Saudia, the Kingdom’s flag carrier. Thanks to a dedicated partnership, for the benefit of cruise guests, flights will have their schedules modified to fit the two ships’ departure and arrival times to ensure smoother connections throughout.