Qatar prepares to welcome its first mega cruise ship
Note: This article has been corrected to reflect the Fantasia will dock at Doha Port, not Hamad Port.
Qatar will welcome its first mega cruise ship tomorrow, when the 333m-long MSC Fantasia docks at Doha Port.
With 3,000 passengers and 1,300 crew, it’s the largest passenger ship ever to sail into Qatar.
Previously, QTA said the vessel was so big that it would not be able to dock at the Doha Port off the Corniche, which is set to be redeveloped into a dedicated cruise terminal and tourism destination.
In July, it announced that the Fantasia would sail into the new Hamad Port near Mesaieed, which is primarily used for commercial shipments.
The port became fully operational last month.
The MSC Fantasia measures the equivalent of three football fields in length, and has tennis and basketball courts, a mini-golf course, an aqua park complex and a cinema on board.
You can see a virtual tour of the ship here.
Busiest cruise season so far
Some 32 cruise ships carrying an estimated 50,000 tourists are expected to dock at Qatar’s ports this cruise season, which runs until April 2017.
That’s triple the number of ships that stopped in Qatar during the last season. At that time, some 4,000 tourist visas were issued to cruise passengers.
The big cruise push is part of a larger effort to make Qatar an attractive destination for international tourists.
“It is our absolute pleasure to welcome the MSC Fantasia on its maiden call into Doha,” Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), said in a statement.
“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.”
Cruise ship passengers are now eligible for free 96-hour transit visas.
These were only recently made available, but to Qatar Airways passengers transiting through Hamad International Airport.
Qatar is working to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, and aims to increase the overall number of visitors to Qatar to seven million by 2030.
Other ships making their maiden calls to Qatar this season include Azamara Journey, Crystal Esprit, Thomson Celebration and Silver Whisper.