“This will be the first of many calls for MSC Fantasia throughout the 2016/2017 cruise season and the start of another exciting journey for Qatar’s cruise tourism industry,” said Hassan al-Ibrahim, chief tourism development officer, QTA.
He noted that the entry of cruise ships in Qatar forms part of QTA’s efforts to entice more visitors from overseas, aimed at further boosting the country’s tourism industry.
MSC Fantasia passengers are scheduled to visit the Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, Msheireb Museums, and Katara – the Cultural Village in two shifts, from 9am to 1pm and from 2pm to 5pm.
Al-Ibrahim said Qatar is set to build tourism infrastructures next year, particularly the redevelopment of the Doha Port into a permanent cruise terminal.
“Qatar’s cruise tourism industry continues to grow from strength to strength, thanks to the support and collaboration from stakeholders across the value chain,” the QTA senior official stressed.
The 2016/2017 cruise season in the country, starting from October to April, is expected to receive 32 ships carrying more than 50,000 visitors. This figure translates to a 1,000% increase in the number of cruise passengers in Qatar compared to last season.
QTA saw the arrival of The World, the largest private residential ship on the planet; and another luxury ship, Azamara Journey to Qatar recently, taking hundreds of passengers to various tourist destinations.
“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 CEO Gianni Onorato said in a statement.
He cited the growing demand for new winter cruise destinations, a reason to continuously support the development of the cruise industry in this region.
Onorato believes that the addition of Doha to the mega ship’s itineraries will further enrich their offering.
“It will also help our guests discover the rich culture and heritage of Qatar as well as the wide range of modern leisure activities that Doha has to offer,” he added.
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, said Capt Abdulla al-Khanji, CEO, Qatar Ports Management Company, Mwani Qatar.
“Along with our partners at the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and QTA, we are making great strides towards ensuring that Qatar becomes a key port of call on all cruise itineraries that cover this region,” he said.
Doha Ports has also assured passengers with smooth and easy disembarkation, and “a seamless tourist experience.”
QTA and the Ministry of Interior have confirmed that cruise passengers 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.
Long and short of it
MSC Fantasia is 333m long and 66m high. It is one of MSC Cruises’ most modern ships and measures the equivalent of three football fields.
MSC Fantasia also 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.