Watch: How Dubai cruise is welcoming over 300,000 visitors during holiday season

The region’s largest dedicated terminal has around 120 staff members on ground for tourist arrivals


Nasreen Abdulla

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KT photo by Neeraj Murali
KT photo by Neeraj Murali

Published: Fri 23 Dec 2022, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 23 Dec 2022, 4:54 PM

Young mother Dina had come from Germany to Dubai with her 10-month-old baby boy to go on the cruise ship, AIDAcosma, that is docked in the city. Dina was accompanied by her mother and sister - the family was on a ‘girls trip’. “Every year we do a trip just the three of us but this is the first time we are holidaying with a baby,” she said. “Tomorrow, my sister and I will go for a desert safari while my mother babysits.”

Dina and her family are part of the hundreds of thousands of people who are coming to the city to go on a cruise. With 46 ship calls, the Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal (DHCT) is at the forefront of scripting a spectacular comeback of cruise tourism in the region as well as globally.

This year, the terminal, located at the intersection of Palm Jumeirah and Bluewaters, is expecting to serve over 300,000 visitors, a four-fold increase from last year’s 70,000 tourists.

KT photo by Neeraj Murali
KT photo by Neeraj Murali

“For a city like Dubai, the cruise industry plays a crucial role in the overall tourism strategy,” said Abdulla Binhabtoor, Chief Portfolio Management Officer, Shamal Holdings, owner and curator of Dubai Harbour.

“The cruise industry supports the national economy through significant passenger spending across multiple verticals, including leisure attractions, food and beverage, and entertainment, contributing to job creation and sector growth.”

Khaleej Times went behind the scenes at DHCT to check out what goes into running the operation that welcomes, on an average, 21,000 people every weekend.

Arrival of a ship

Inaugurated in November 2021, the DHCT is the largest standalone cruise terminal in the eastern hemisphere. It has been steadily expanding in its capacity, with the terminal now ready to host massive ships that can accommodate up to 5,500 passengers.

On an average day, the terminal has around 120 staff members on ground for a ship’s arrival. While team KT was visiting, the ship AIDAcosma arrived at the terminal.

With a capacity of 5,500 passengers, the liner has an impressive 20 passenger decks and 2,600 state rooms. There are 17 restaurants, a fun park with water slides, a spa, a theatrium, a gym, a disco and a club for youngsters in the ship that has become a firm favourite among couples and families with children.

With two ships homeporting – Costa Toscana and AIDAcosma – Abdulla says there comes an additional set of challenges. “We usually receive around 10-20 food containers per week, meaning we have to ensure the seamless movement of those on and off the ship,” he said. The team at DHCT also handle 35,000 pieces of luggage during an average weekend.

Smooth running

Once the ship arrives, the quiet terminal is a flung into a flurry of activity that sees border control, airlines and immigration working alongside the DHCT to ensure a seamless travel experience.

Visitors can get through security, customs and immigration before heading off to explore the city. A wide array of tour operators and tourist buses are stationed outside the terminal to whisk away those who arrive to their location of choice.

“Most of the younger tourists prefer the modern attractions like Dubai Mall or Burj Khalifa,” said a tourist operator on the ground.

“The older visitors like to go to the Deira Souk or the Shindagha area to learn more about the history and culture of the city.”

Christian had arrived from Luxemburg with his wife on the cruise. “I came to Dubai 10 years ago with my parents,” he said.

“We had taken a cruise back then too and I really enjoyed it. So now I am back with my wife to explore the city and maybe recreate some of those memories.”


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