MSC Fantasia’s first call at Doha Port on Wednesday, marked the first ever arrival of a mega cruise ship in Qatar and welcomed over 3,000 passengers and over 1,300 crew members on its maiden call to Qatar, and is scheduled to make a total of six calls to Doha throughout the 2016/2017 cruise season.
This cruise season, which began in October 2016 and continues until April 2017, is expected to bring an estimated 50,000 visitors to Qatar. Compared to last season, this marks an increase of over 1,000% in the number of cruise passengers visiting the country.
Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), said:
Qatar’s cruise tourism industry continues to grow from strength to strength, thanks to the support and collaboration from stakeholders across the value chain. This year, we have focused on creating a supportive framework to allow the industry to flourish in the coming years, including measures to facilitate and streamline the entry of cruise passengers to Qatar. Next year, we will see further infrastructural development as the country embarks on the redevelopment of Doha Port into a permanent cruise terminal.’
‘It is our absolute pleasure to welcome the MSC Fantasia on its maiden call at Doha Port. This will be the first of many calls for MSC Fantasia, and marks the start of another exciting journey for Qatar’s cruise tourism industry.’
Gianni Onorato MSC Cruises’ CEO commented:
We are delighted that MSC Fantasia will be the first mega cruise ship to call at Doha Port as part of her maiden voyage in the Middle East. MSC Cruises is committed to support the developing cruise industry in this region and we are seeing a growing demand from our guests as they seek new and exciting winter cruise destinations. The addition of Doha to our itineraries will further enrich our offering to help guests discover the rich culture and heritage of Qatar as well as the wide range of modern leisure activities that Doha has to offer.’
Captain Abdulla Al Khanji, CEO of Qatar Ports Management Company, Mwani Qatar, said:
MSC Fantasia’s maiden voyage to Qatar is the fruit of years of close collaboration between key members of Qatar’s developing cruise tourism industry. Along with our partners at the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Tourism Authority, we are making great strides towards ensuring that Qatar becomes a key port of call on all cruise itineraries that cover this region. We hope that the new measures put in place to facilitate the docking of such mega ships and smooth disembarkation of large groups of passengers, provide a seamless tourist experience for everyone on board.’
At 333 metres in length and 66 metres high, MSC Fantasia is one of MSC Cruises’ most modern ships and measures the equivalent of three football fields The on-board experience is designed to meet the needs of a wide range of guests and boasts a diverse choice of sports and entertainment facilities; from tennis and basketball courts, a mini-golf course, a jogging track and gym to an aqua park complex, Formula 1 simulator and 4D cinema.
In addition, MSC Fantasia features the MSC Yacht Club, designed for the most discerning guests who desire exclusivity and privacy but with a world of choice. It is the only ship of its kind in the region offering this kind of experience. The MSC Yacht Club is an innovative ‘ship within a ship’ design concept, as it offers an entirely self-contained area on the foredecks of the ship providing sweeping sea views with a range of private facilities including a pool, solarium and a dedicated restaurant. Offering the highest level of customised service with a special personal touch to help guests enjoy a stress-free holiday, MSC Yacht Club guests benefit from around the clock service with a concierge and trained butlers to satisfy every need.
Through extensive collaboration between the Ministry of Interior, Mwani and QTA, Qatar has introduced new measures to facilitate cruise passengers’ entry to Qatar. As part of the new operating procedure, a passenger manifest containing passport details of all passengers and crew will be shared with immigration officials 48 hours in advance of the ship’s arrival in Qatar. This will allow immigration officials to process all relevant information and clear passengers for entry before the ship berths.
In addition, QTA and the Ministry of Interior have confirmed that cruise passengers, due to the short duration of the stay, are now eligible for the free 96-hour transit visas, which will further ease their entry into the country.
Other ships making their maiden calls to Qatar this season include Azamara Journey, Crystal Esprit, Thomson Celebration and Silver Whisper.
For a 360 virtual tour of the MSC Fantasia, click here.