A five-year preferential berthing rights deal at the port of Jeddah as been clinched by MSC Cruises.
The agreement is seen as a further sign of a long-term commitment to support the development of the local tourism sector by operating cruises in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
The announcement was made in Jeddah as MSC Bellissima marked the opening of the city’s new passenger terminal with a commemorative event on board.
The new cruise terminal will handle passengers on an inaugural season in the Red Sea with three- and four-night cruises from Jeddah to both Egypt and Jordan until the end of October.
The ship will sail 21 Red Sea cruises from Jeddah to Safaga for Luxor, Egypt or Aqaba for Petra, Jordan before returning to the Saudi homeport.
The summer sailings will add to MSC Cruises’ previously announced winter 2021-22 Red Sea voyages from Jeddah starting in November.
Sister ship MSC Virtuosa launched this year will also make its debut in Saudi Arabia during winter 2021-22 with calls in the port of Dammam.
MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago said: “This is a very special, historic day for all of us. The largest and most modern cruise ship to operate in the Red Sea has set sail from Jeddah’s new terminal to mark a new beginning for cruising in Saudi Arabia and, more broadly, for its growing tourism industry.
“We can now allow our global guest base to come and experience our unique itineraries in this beautiful country with its historic UNESCO World Heritage sites and pristine shores.
“And with the new agreement in place, together with Cruise Saudi we will work in unison to develop this very special aspect of Saudi Arabia’s determined and sustainable growth in tourism which mirrors exactly our own strategy and ambition.
“We will work together in attracting guests from all corners of the world as well as local markets for a Red Sea and Arabian Gulf holiday like no other on board our modern and environmentally high performing vessels.”
Mark Robinson, chief operations and commercial officer of Cruise Saudi added: “The remit of Cruise Saudi; to create 50,000 jobs by 2025, to facilitate the building of an additional five ports, with Jeddah as a homeport, and to welcome 1.5 million annual passenger visits by 2028; is an ambitious one, which will play a major part in strengthening the tourism industry in Saudi Arabia.
“It is a vision that we would not be able to accomplish were it not for our trusted business partners such as MSC.”