Skift Take

The brand is being built up to almost exclusively serve the Saudi and Gulf markets.

Saudi Arabia’s spare-no-expense cruise brand Aroya is set to launch this December, promising cigar lounges, jacuzzis, 28 dining options, 20 venues for entertainment, a retail area, and wellness and spa facilities.

All sounds like fun. But there will be no alcohol. And the brand is being built up to almost exclusively serve the Saudi and Gulf markets, with no plans to add features that would appeal to a more global audience.

“Everywhere Aroya will operate will be for the Saudis and Saudi families,” said Turky Kari, Aroya’s spokesperson at Arabian Travel Market (ATM), Dubai’s largest travel trade show. “Regardless of Red Sea or the Med, we’re targeting Arabian markets.”

He added: “Expats are welcome to join, but everything we offer will be remarkably Arabian. Our programming, our food and beverage, are all to match the desires of the local markets. But expats in Saudi or overseas are more than welcome.”

The creation of Aroya Cruises is one initiative of Saudi Vision 2030, the plan to turn the country into a diverse, progressive and internationally appealing destination.

Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is the new owner of Aroya’s ship – it paid $300 million for it at an auction last December. Aroya comes under the management of PIF’s cruise company, Cruise Saudi.

Aroya’s first cruises in December will last three nights, departing from Jeddah, spending a day at sea and then a private island along the Red Sea coast. Next January, a seven-night cruise along Jeddah, Ain Sokhna in Egypt, Sharm el Sheik and Aqaba in Jordan will also be available.

Later down the line, Aroya will start cruising across the Gulf region and then the Mediterranean.

Kari explained: “Another season will go to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Bahrain, leaving from Mammam. Later on, we’ll go to the East Med, leaving from Istanbul.”

Even in the Mediterranean, Aroya will be following Saudi laws, again meaning no booze.

“We will follow the Saudi laws and regulations. Wherever we are, we will follow the Saudi regulations. We are sticking to the regulations of Saudis.”

Bars Ripped Out

The ship the brand is using did once have bars – many of them.

It is a retrofit of the old World Dream ship, which was designed for the Asian market from Star Cruises.

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.

Expansion Plans

Aroya’s operating company Cruise Saudi plans to welcome 1.3 million cruise passengers annually by 2035. Kari said that Aroya is currently building two more ships – this time new-builds – which will be across the world and help make Aroya a global player in cruises.

“We want three ships by 2035. We have to study the market very well. The plan is to build the next two [ourselves]. We bought the first ship, but not the next. The three ships will all be in different places globally.”

“Neom, Red Sea Global, we want those partnerships.”

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Tags: aroya cruises, cruise saudi, middle east report, Saudi Vision 2030, Tourism news

Photo credit: A render of the Aroya ship. Supplied.

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