Skift Take

Having snatched headlines with its glamorous hotel projects, Saudi Arabia wants to do the same with its new cruise ship.

Saudi Arabia is working on its own major commercial cruise line brand designed for those with “Arabian preferences.” AROYA Cruises sets sail next year with a single ship, formerly known as World Dream, the last remaining ship of the struggling Dream Cruises company.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the new owner of the ship – now known as Manara – for $300 million at an auction in December last year. It comes under the management of PIF’s cruise company, Cruise Saudi, and acts as a showcase for its cruise liner brand AROYA.

As is the way with Saudi Arabia and its ambitious ventures, it is throwing everything at this ship. Originally designed for “Asian preferences,” a lot is being done to make the ship more “Arabian” in feel and programming, by “honoring Arabian culture through the brand values of inspiration, enrichment, generosity and respect,” AROYA Cruises explained at launch.

A Total Overhaul Needed for ‘Arabian’ Preferences

This week, AROYA Cruises announced it would refurbish 98% of “guest-facing venues” in the ship, a vast overhaul. Global maritime outfitting firm MJM Marine is entrusted to transform all cabins and suites, the interiors, steelworks and upgrade all the onboard electrical.

MJM Maritime largely operates at the top end of the industry, indicating the AROYA offering will be a luxurious one. MJM has worked on the Queen Mary 2, Virgin Voyages’ Valiant Lady and Scarlet Lady, and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection.

AROYA Cruises, with sovereign wealth fund money at its disposal, is also calling upon a second outfitter for its maiden ship. De Wave Group will work on the ship’s public areas, catering areas and its “new super suites,” as AROYA Cruises calls them.

“The creation of a premium cruise experience starts from the design phase and by working with two of the cruise sector’s most well-regarded outfitters, we’re demonstrating our commitment to making Aroya Cruises an exceptional product,” said CEO Lars Clasen.

Gutting the Old Restaurants and Bars

Cruise Saudi doesn’t provide many details as to what this 98% refurbishment entails, but the remaining 2% left untouched is unlikely to be the ship’s many bars and lounges from when it was World Dream.

The original plans for World Dream stated the 3,500-guest ship had more than 20 restaurants, including a “Bar City”’” with three bars, one specifically for champagne, and a wine vault. The ship also originally had karaoke, a waterpark, mini golf and five retail outlets.

As it approaches its launch next year, AROYA Cruises has announced its main retail partner: Germany-based firm Gebr. Heinemann.

Kerstin Schepers, MD for the Cruise Business at Gebr. Heinemann added: “We are very excited to be on board the AROYA Cruises. On its first ship we want to inspire travelers with our impressive employees and our spectacular assortment. We promise unforgettable shopping experiences to the guests.”

Gebr. Heinemann will operate all retail spaces on the ship. In the announcement of the deal, the company said it would work with brands across perfume, cosmetics, confectionaries, fashion, watches and jewelry, to support AROYA Cruises.

The retailer did not mention alcohol, where it makes most of its money in other parts of the world.

In 2022, Gebr. Heinemann had a group turnover of 3.8 billion euros, 52% of which came from sales of liquor, tobacco, tobacco, and confectionaries. The cruise industry is the smallest component of the Gebr. Heinemann business, accounted for five percent of its turnover last year.

At the start of this year, the Saudi government quashed “false reports” that the dry Kingdom would sell alcohol in duty-free stores.


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Tags: asia monthly, cruises

Photo credit: World Dream, set to become Manara under AROYA Cruises

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