MSC Cruises has signed a deal with Etihad Airways to supply flights from across Europe to feed its winter sailings in the Arabian Gulf.
The Italian line will use the UAE carrier for fly-cruise packages from the UK as well as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
The company is running a series of 16 seven-night cruises on MSC Musica in the region from December 13 featuring Abu Dhabi, Khor al Fakkan, Muscat, Khasab and Dubai.
MSC Cruises has brought more than 100,000 passengers from 115 nationalities to the Emirate between 2011 and 2015.
Abu Dhabi’s overall cruise season last winter attracted a record 200,407 passengers and 94 ship calls.
MSC Cruises chief executive, Gianni Onorato (pictured), said: “Through our partnership and also together with Abu Dhabi Ports Company and Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority we will work to develop Abu Dhabi as an ideal winter cruise destination to further strengthen our offer in the region.”
Etihad Airways president and chief executive, James Hogan, said: “Abu Dhabi is being developed into a leading international cruise destination, with record passenger numbers and ship calls reported during the recent 2014/15 season.
“Future projections are even stronger, as the new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal opens at the end of this year, and world-class cultural attractions such as Abu Dhabi’s Louvre and Guggenheim museums enhance the local tourism offering.
“Our partnership with MSC Cruises, as well as Abu Dhabi Ports Company and Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, for ‘fly and cruise’ will expand source markets for cruises in the UAE and regionally, bringing in more travellers from destinations across Europe.”