MSC Adds Lirica to UAE Lineup

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MSC Cruises announced that the MSC Lirica will be in the United Arab Emirates for the 2018-2019 winter season, featuring newly extended cruises of 11 nights and 14 nights.

The MSC Lirica will be making her debut in the UAE in November 2018, offering longer itineraries, two overnight stays in Dubai, as well as cruises to India for the very first time.

Gianni Onorato, MSC Cruises’ CEO, added: “This will be our seventh season in the UAE and we have seen strong demand for our quality product offering from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. A strong Fly&Cruise programme means that guests from all around the world are able to enjoy this popular cruise region. Our modern ships and distinctive, quality cruise experience are an appealing way for holidaymakers to explore the rich and diverse experiences that the UAE can offer.

“Introducing India to MSC Cruises’ Winter 18/19 itineraries demonstrates how our significant investment plan is enabling us to expand our global footprint and establish a presence in a high-potential market, one that we expect to grow considerably over the coming years.”

Cruises will call into India from Dubai, with more calls at Abu Dhabi, Muscat and then crossing the Arabian Sea to Mumbai. The voyage also stops in Goa and Mangalore.

There is also an 11-night voyage calling at Sir Bani Yas, a private beach island.

The MSC Lirica will be offering ten cruises starting from either Dubai or Abu Dhabi with fly-cruise packages.

The MSC Splendida will also be based in the UAE for the winter 2018-2019 season offering seven-night cruises with two embarkation ports – Dubai on Saturday and Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

MSC Cruises to open private island in Persian Gulf

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MSC plans to open Sir Bani Yas Island Beach Oasis in December.

Rick Sasso, president of MSC Cruises USA, said a new private island that MSC plans to open in December off the coast of Abu Dhabi is a sign of the company’s global reach.

The island, called Sir Bani Yas Island Beach Oasis, includes about 1.5 miles of beachfront on a barrier island. It will offer horseback riding, water sports, and a dhow tour around the island, among other attractions. “It’s not just a beach with cabanas,” Sasso said.

A bridge from the beach oasis to the main island of Sir Bani Yas will provide access to a nature reserve with dozens of indigenous species. “It will be a huge attraction because it’s unique to the region,” Sasso said.

“We’re thinking very globally now,” said Sasso, noting that MSC has a “pause” between ship deliveries that has allowed it to focus on some off-ship projects.

A bridge from the beach oasis to the main island of Sir Bani Yas will provide access to a nature reserve with dozens of indigenous species.

A bridge from the beach oasis to the main island of Sir Bani Yas will provide access to a nature reserve with dozens of indigenous species.

MSC has 11 ships on order. The next to be delivered is MSC Maraviglia, due a year from now.

“We’ve got to start putting in some stronger anchors beyond the Mediterranean,” Sasso said. “South America was one of those, for the past 10 years. China has opened up as of two months ago. And North America is now getting a swarm of attention with the Divina here year-round and the Seaside coming.”

Sir Bani Yas is the second private island announced by MSC in recent months. It previously disclosed plans for a large private island with extensive facilities in Bimini for use by its ships deployed in the Caribbean.

The island off the southwest coast of Abu Dhabi will initially host passengers from the MSC Fantasia. MSC has been working with the Abu Dhabi Port Authority for about two years to bring the project to fruition.

MSC Cruises and Etihad sign feeder flights deal

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.”