Saudi Arabia - MSC Cruises, a leading cruise brand, announced on Thursday that it will open its first office in Saudi Arabia in November and also launch a brand-new itinerary from Jeddah as a further demonstration of its commitment to support the kingdom’s plans for its tourism sector.

Details were unveiled in Riyadh by Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of the Cruise Division of the MSC Group, as he attended the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) ‘World Tourism Day’ conference.

The new office will be based in Jeddah and house the commercial, sales and marketing functions for both MSC Cruises and its sister company, Explora Journeys, a new luxury cruise brand that began operations in July this year.

MSC Cruises added that it will start its third season of Red Sea voyages from Jeddah in two months’ time with a new sailing itinerary for international and Saudi Arabia-based holidaymakers.

The 294-metre-long 16 deck MSC Orchestra can accommodate up to 2,550 passengers and will operate from Jeddah for six months and offer 20 separate seven-night sailings to Aqaba in Jordan to visit Petra and three destinations in Egypt - Sharm El-Sheikh, Sokhna Port for Cairo and Safaga for Luxor - before returning to the Saudi port.

In 2024, Explora Journeys’ second ship Explora II will sail in the Middle East in 2024 and visit Jeddah to enable its passengers to visit the city as well as Al Ula and Hegra.

Vago said: “We are honoured to have played an important role partnering with the key government bodies to stimulate the establishment of the cruise industry in Saudi Arabia. Initially starting with local cruises during the pandemic and then international passengers from 124 different countries.

“We look forward to our third season of cruises from Saudi Arabia for local and international visitors to support the Saudi Vision 2030 and we are pleased to be able to work together to establish the Kingdom as a popular cruise destination. Thanks to our global distribution, we are able to bring international passengers to Saudi Arabia to experience the richness of the country’s heritage and its ability to preserve its traditions and culture all whilst enjoying the incredible experience on board the cruise ship.”

He added: “MSC has had a presence in the Kingdom since 1996 and our shipping business here has grown exponentially and been an important contributor to the local economy. We are very pleased that on the leisure side of things cruising is growing in popularity in Saudi Arabia and as such is playing an increasingly important role for us. We are seeing more of the Kingdom’s citizens and residents attracted to the great proposition that cruising offers and as such it is important for us to have a physical presence within the country. We are very much looking forward to opening the doors of our new office that will be dedicated to selling MSC Cruises and Explora Journeys for our local customers.”

MSC Cruises has seen its passenger numbers soar by 40 per cent for Saudi Arabia voyages in a 24-month period with visitors from 124 international nationalities experiencing the kingdom when its ships are berthed in the country. The top five oversea visitor nations for cruises in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf were Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the US.

The company forecasts it will bring up to 200,000 tourists by sea to Saudi Arabia by the end of 2023, making this is significant part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to have more international visitors enjoy the unique culture of the country.

MSC Group, the parent company of MSC Cruises, is the leading privately held shipping and logistics conglomerate, and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It serves the Kingdom and the region from three main offices in Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh with 175 employees. A range of projects are currently underway to further develop MSC’s shipping business in Dammam, King Abdullah Port, Jeddah, Riyadh and Neom.

MSC Cruises is the world’s third largest cruise brand as well as the market share leader in Europe, South America, the Middle East and Southern Africa. It is also the fastest growing global cruise brand with a strong presence in the Caribbean, North America and the Far East markets.

MSC Cruises has a modern and environmentally advanced fleet of 22 vessels with a 23rd ship due to be delivered in 2025. 

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