Abu Dhabi has reported a 48 per cent growth in cruise tourists, with numbers increasing from 125,000 passengers in the 2013/2014 season to an expected 185,000 in the 2014/2015 season, Abu Dhabi Ports confirmed.
The authority also said that the current season has 94 confirmed vessels calls, up from 75 liners last season.
The number are significantly higher than 2006/2007 – the UAE capital’s first recognised cruise season, when Zayed Port hosted 29 cruise vessels and almost 36,000 passengers.
This season, up to 15 cruise ships from 10 cruise liners will have called at Zayed Port, most of them on a weekly basis, a statement said.
Four vessels made their maiden stop this season – Costa Serena, AIDAaura, MSC Orchestra and MS Balmoral – arriving in November, December and January and added to the number of cruise ships visiting the emirate as part of a wider tour through the Middle East, linking Abu Dhabi with places like Dubai, Bahrain, Muscat, Khorfakkan and Khasab.
The biggest cruise liners of the season in terms of passenger capacity were the Costa Serena which has a capacity for 3,700 passengers, MSC Orchestra which can carry up to 3,200 passengers, and Queen Mary 2 which can accommodate a total of 2,600 passengers.
To support the sector, Abu Dhabi Ports commissioned a new permanent cruise terminal building last year. The design was chosen in July and work started to clear the site and prepare the ground later in the year.
The construction has been split into three phases.
In the first phase – which began in January 2015 – work started on building the mezzanine floor and strengthening the building’s outer steel frame.
The construction uses the framework of an existing warehouse and is scheduled to be completed by the end of April.
The second phase, which has just begun, involves the new building’s cladding and the start of work on the cruise terminal’s façade and this will be completed in March.
The third phase, the longest period of construction, is due to start in mid-March and will focus on the interior of the building, said the statement.
Along with the interior construction, work will begin to build the nearby road access and carparks for local visitors, and new areas for taxis, buses and rental cars.
The new building will be officially launched and operational by the end of this year, in time for the next cruise season, Abu Dhabi Port confirmed.
The authority is also in the process of developing the new beach stopover for cruise tourists on Sir Bani Yas Island, off the coast of Abu Dhabi.
Capt. Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports, said: “Abu Dhabi’s cruise business has been growing continuously ever since the first cruise vessels called at Zayed Port.
“With the new cruise terminal building and the new island stopover on Sir Bani Yas Island, we will significantly enhance the visitor experience and boost Abu Dhabi’s status as a world-class cruise line destination.”