A new cruise terminal in Dubai should significantly boost cruise traffic and tourism in the Middle East.
Dubai already has a cruise terminal that regularly receives cruise ships, but the Emirate recently announced plans for a new terminal, expected to open in late 2020, that developers hope will create a “maritime hub” in the region. The development centers around a partnership between Carnival Corporation, a cruise-line conglomerate based in Miami, and Meraas, Dubai’s holding partner.
All cruise ships that now dock at Port Rashid, Dubai’s current terminal, will gradually be directed to the new harbor. Cruise lines that embark from Dubai or make calls there include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Cunard, and officials expect the new harbor to bring many more ships and tourists to Dubai. P&O Cruises has announced that its Oceana cruise ship will make Dubai its home port in 2019, and Royal Caribbean will base its liner Jewel of the Seas there.
Dubai Cruise Terminal will be built in the new Dubai Harbor, and the agreement between Meraas and Carnival states they will work together on managing the terminal, port development, and new opportunities for cruise development in the harbor and around the Arabian Gulf.
“Dubai Harbor is a new and unique addition to the city’s infrastructure, and our alignment with DP World to make Dubai Cruise Terminal the main cruise terminal in the Emirate will drive the transformation of Dubai into a fully integrated maritime tourism hub,” Abdulla Al Habbai, the group chairman of Meraas, said in a press statement.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, vice president, prime minister, and ruler of Dubai, told the media he believes millions of tourists could visit the region each year, thanks to the harbor. He emphasized that Dubai provides “exceptional tourism experiences” and that the UAE would continue to be known as a “symbol of progress and prosperity.”
Regional leaders also expect the cruise terminal to increase Dubai’s visibility as a vacation destination. Carnival hopes to expand its customer base by offering new cruises from Dubai Harbor that appeal to people from India and China. Other new tourism opportunities already under discussion in Dubai include sharia-compliant tours for families as well as flight and cruise package deals.
The new Dubai Harbor will dwarf Port Rashid in size and will accommodate several types of maritime visitors. Two cruise terminal buildings are under development, as well as a pier with room to dock three cruise ships simultaneously. The terminals will be big enough to accommodate Carnival’s newest cruise ships, XL class ships, and more than 13,000 passengers at one time. Meraas already is planning for the future, and eventually it will expand the terminal to four buildings that will allow six cruise ships to dock at the harbor at once.
The plans also include a 135-meter-high lighthouse that promises to become one of the most stunning features of the harbor. Like many new mega-projects in the Middle East, the lighthouse is intended as a unique architectural landmark that will define the harbor and the city. In addition, the site will include a luxury hotel with an observation deck that will provide panoramic views of Dubai’s skyline, the Arabian Gulf, and Ain Dubai, the largest observation wheel in the world.
Renderings of the hotel and lighthouse, which will also serve as an oversized screen for light shows and other projection events, show a circular, tiered building set on the harbor that partially surrounds an otherworldly, luminous tower.
Dubai Harbor will also house a yacht club and marina large enough to dock superyachts up to 85 meters long. The marina will include a total of 1,400 berths for yachts, which will greatly increase the Emirate’s capacity to receive luxury tourists arriving by ship.
Superyachts—defined as vessels whose hulls are longer than 24 meters—have come into fashion for the super-rich in recent years. These “floating palaces” can come with swimming pools, dance floors, theaters, and helipads, and they allow their owners and their entourages a leisurely way to travel to the world’s most exclusive ports.
Yacht builders say the market in the Middle East has been limited due to a lack of marina space capable of housing larger yachts. Patrick Coote, the sales and marketing director for yacht builder Blohm & Voss, told CNN that his company “hadn’t even scratched the surface” of the potential market for superyachts, especially in the Middle East.
Living and shopping
Other developments planned for the harbor include 20 million square feet of luxury high-rise apartments, restaurants, hotels, cafes, and a shopping mall. All structures will have a sunning waterfront location on the harbor, and many will enjoy direct beach access. In addition, a new network of roads and a monorail will connect the harbor to Jumeirah Beach Residence and Palm Jumeirah, creating a large, integrated district.