Khimji Ramdas Shipping LLC has commenced their Cruise Winter Season 2010/2011 with Ocean Village with 1482 passengers on 31st October. Regular calls of Costa and AIDA has started in November. We have induced more shipping lines to call Oman and hence the projected growth in passenger traffic into Omani ports would be around 25% this season. The last vessel for the season will be Dawn Princes on 19th June 2011. This is the first year for us to stretch the winter cruise season from October to June.
We will be attending to 77 ships and expect to receive around 165,000 passengers at Port Sultan Qaboos, Muscat alone this season. Overall, we are scheduled to attend 101 ships at all Omani ports including Salalah, Sur, and Khasab with anticipated passenger numbers around 200,000 for this winter season 2010/2011.
The world renowned, brand new cruise vessel, Queen Elizabeth came out of Fincantieri Monfalcone Ship yard from Italy on 1st October 2010 and the official naming ceremony was in Southampton on the 9th October. The vessel was scheduled to call Muscat on the 30th March, 2011, but as per indications given to us, Queen Elizabeth will not be in a position to make her maiden call into Muscat port, owing to the fact that the port has already confirmed the berth to two other large vessels on the same date. Present port facility can accommodate only two large vessels and it is really unfortunate that Oman is on the brink of losing the distinction of hosting a prestigious cruise ship.
Khimji Ramdas Shipping is a pioneer in Cruise industry and has invested considerable efforts in promoting cruise traffic through Omani Ports. The cruise traffic has developed considerably over the last ten years and more carriers are now showing interest in calling Omani ports. The ports in Oman are more favored locations in the Arabian Gulf Cruise because of the authentic Arab heritage, hospitality, hygiene, architecture and user-friendly regulations from ports, Royal Oman Police and government authorities.
Khimji Ramdas Shipping represents Costa Crociere, AIDA Cruises, Carnival UK, Ocean Village, Cunard, P&O Cruises, Princess Cruises, All Leisure Group and V.Ships managed vessels such as Silver Seas Cruise Vessels, at all Omani ports and has earned a market leaders status now. We have developed special team of experts to handle cruise vessel, ferry and naval ships.
Since the main operations on these three trades are handling passengers, special care was given whilst tailor-making the training program for our ground handling team. We have purchased assets for vessel operations as well as passenger transfers. This was done for reducing dependency on vendors, for giving the cost benefit to the tourists and for providing a dependable service. Our principals have expressed the highest satisfaction for all their port calls in Oman.
Khimji’s House of Travel takes care of all travel related services and hence the group is now capable of offering all cruise related services under one umbrella. They have specialists in inbound and outbound tours and have a special section to develop cruise holidays. The air port office of Khimji Ramdas assists smooth transfer of passengers and ships crew from the airport to the respective sea port.
Recently, considerable interest is also seen among Omani nationals and expatriates living in Oman in cruise holidays. The Arabian Gulf Voyages are the ideal opportunity to experience cruises at most economic rates. Initially the travelers were more concerned about the cruise call locations, but now they have realized that the ship is the destination. The domestic tourist can avoid expenditure on flying to a boarding location in Europe or Far East by joining a cruise in the Middle East. The volume of tourists on cruise vessels are increasing as it gives a complete holiday with superior facilities on board at very economic rates.
Costa Crociere, European arm of Carnival PLC have scheduled 33 port calls to Muscat and AIDA Cruises have scheduled 23 port calls to Muscat during this winter season with Aida Diva. Costa Crociere are deploying CS Costa Deliziosa and CS Costa Luminosa to the region with ships having a capacity of 2800 passengers.
We feel that the time has come for improving the facilities in Muscat, Salalah, Sur and Khasab as we witness higher interest from cruise operators for this region. Currently there are no cruise terminals in Salalah, Sur and Khasab. More cruise operators will consider calling these ports if facilities are available.
We have requested the port authorities of Muscat to urgently consider development of the port in two stages. The immediate requirement is to dredge the channel and turning basin to accommodate at least three large vessels of 400 meters at a time. This should be done on priority so that the facility will be available for 2011 winter season. Many large vessels are expected during 2011/2012 winter season and hence priority will have to be given for making this facility available during the next season.
The second phase should be focused for development of a state of the art cruise terminal to attract passenger exchange through Muscat. The geographical location of Muscat is ideal for passenger exchange. The regional cruise can begin from Muscat and terminate in Muscat. The passengers will get an opportunity to spend some additional days in Muscat either while embarking the vessel or while disembarking through Muscat. The new cruise terminal should have facilities for fast turn round of large number of passengers.
Passenger exchange through Muscat will give tremendous boost to the new air port traffic, hotel reservations, tour operators, restaurants, curio shops, taxies and every business connected with tourism. Currently the tourists come to Oman on a cruise vessel in the morning and leave in the evening after a short tour in the region. If will be more advantageous to the tourism industry when the tourists stays back in the country for at least three days. This can be achieved only by attracting cruise line operators for passenger exchange through Muscat.