MSC Cruises’ MSC World Europa made history on January 12 when she became the first cruise ship to call and disembark guests at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam, the kingdom’s traditional cargo port on the Arabian Gulf. Saudi and cruise line officials marked the occasion with a traditional Plaque & Key Exchange Ceremony on board the ship.
Kingdom Aims to Create Major Cruise Port
The arrival of MSC Cruises’ newest ship, the 6,774-guest MSC World Europa, at Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam heralds a new beginning for the cargo port as the kingdom takes steps to establish itself as a premier regional and global cruising destination.
Representatives of the Saudi Red Sea Authority, the Saudi Ports Authority, and Cruise Saudi, a government-funded cruise development agency, were on hand to celebrate the ship’s first call at the gulf port.
Cruise Saudi CEO Lars Clasen said, “As we welcome the first cruise ship and first group of passengers to King Abdulaziz Port, we open a new and important gateway connecting Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world – via the Arabian Gulf.”
Clasen added, “By leveraging the temperate climate, high-quality infrastructure and easy access to both the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf, we provide global cruise lines the opportunity to operate year-round cruising [and] position the region as a promising player in the global industry.”
According to Cruise Saudi, the kingdom’s cruising season in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf is from November to May, and the destination this season will receive about 75 port calls by ships from five cruise lines.
MSC World Europa is sailing 7-night roundtrip voyages from three departure ports, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha, Qatar. All cruises feature calls at Sir Bani Yas Island and Dammam. Shore excursion options in Dammam include a visit to the Al Ahsa Oasis, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
World Europa First of Line’s World-Class Vessels
MSC World Europa, the cruise line’s first LNG-propelled ship, entered service in December 2022 and is the first of the line’s World-class vessels. Three additional World-class ships are on order for the line.
The 205,700-gross-ton ship offers 19 stateroom categories, seven swimming pools, and several adventure activities such as Venom Drop The Spiral, the industry’s longest dry slide at sea, spanning 11 decks. It also features the largest waterpark in the MSC fleet.
New Eatery Plus a Micro-Brewery Onboard
The ship is the first at MSC to offer guests two new food and beverage partnerships. Michelin-starred chef and author Niklas Ekstedt has collaborated with MSC Cruises to design the menu for the specialty restaurant Chef’s Garden Kitchen, which sports the industry’s first hydroponic garden at sea.
The MSC World Europa also partners with award-winning brewmaster Teo Musso, who created a range of MSC signature craft beers that are brewed at sea in the ship’s full-scale micro-brewery within the Masters of the Sea pub.
Following its inaugural season in the Middle East, MSC World Europa in mid-March will reposition to the Mediterranean to begin year-round cruises calling at the Italian ports of Genoa, Naples, and Messina, as well as Valletta in Malta, Barcelona in Spain, and Marseille in France. MSC Cruises currently operates 21 ships.