Cruise season picks up pace in Bahrain
Manama, December 2, 2012
Bahrain's cruise season is in full swing with more than 15,000 tourists already visiting the country since last month, a report said.
Seven ships have docked at the Khalifa Bin Salman Port since November 9, when German liner TUI Cruises-operated Mein Schiff 2 arrived with 2,300 mostly German tourists, according to the report published in our sister newspaper the Gulf Daily News (GDN).
Its arrival marked the beginning of a season, which will see as many as 36 cruise ships calling at the port until March 22.
It was followed by Zegrahm's Clipper Odyssey two days later, another call by the Mein Schiff 2 on November 16 followed by the Aida Blu V on November 21, another call by the Mein Schiff 2 on November 23, another visit by the Aida Blu V on November 28 and a fourth call by the Mein Schiff 2 on Friday.
"The tourists have enjoyed themselves considerably when they have been in Bahrain, even though their time on land has been reduced by about 90 minutes due to some logistical reasons," an official told the GDN.
"They have been going around various historic sites, including the Bahrain and Arad forts, Bahrain International Circuit, Manama Suq, Bahrain National Museum and Beit Al Quran.
"We are happy at the response we have had from them and they were enthusiastic about being in Bahrain. Some of them have said they wanted to come back and spend more time here."
An official from Mathias Tourism - organisers of the inland visits - said the tourists were enthusiastic about the desert crossing, which is being organised for the first time in Bahrain.
"This involves tourists trekking across the Bahrain desert from near the Jaw Prison to the Bahrain Sailing Club, stopping at the oil wells and the Tree of Life, among other attractions on the way," he explained.
Officials earlier said around 35,000 tourists were expected to visit the country until the end of the season.
They said the arrivals would give the tourism industry a significant boost and will benefit the country's economy.
They said the Mein Schiff 2 would make 20 calls and the Aida Blu will come 13 times, while other ships including MS Astor, Fred Olsen Cruises and the Clipper Odyssey will make one call each.
There were fears that Bahrain's cruise industry could be crippled by increasing costs of insuring vessels that dock here due to the unrest, after it emerged each cruise operator could have to pay an additional $300,000 over the course of a season.
However, a raft of incentives have been introduced to offset the higher insurance premiums facing operators.
Bahrain's cruise industry, which once boasted 50 visits by major cruise liners, has been hit hard by political turmoil since February last year.
Only 29 of the scheduled 50 port calls by various liners were made to Bahrain in the 2010-2011 season, which was abruptly suspended because of protests - resulting in a loss of nearly 50,000 tourists.
Tour operators said the cancellations meant losses of at least $5 million (BD1.89m) in tourist spending alone.
Every vessel that berths in Bahrain is estimated to be worth around $300,000 to the economy, according to Seatrade Middle East. – TradeArabia News Service