(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Dubbed the Norway of Arabia', Khasab is rapidly turning into an attractive cruise destination for the Middle Eastern cruise operators with 52,240 passengers revelling in the region's rugged, glacier-like coastline, towering mountains and glittering fjords in the four month period from January to April 2014.
The last winter season (October-April) came to an end with Europa 2 being the last cruise ship to dock at the Port of Khasab on April 27, with 414 tourists on board. Said al Shihi, acting supervisor of Khasab port, said that a total of 45 port calls were made by cruise liners during the winter season whilst the number of tourists stood at 68,278, which was an increase of 17 per cent over the last season.
A Manthira Murthy, assistant unit manager, Khasab, Khimji Ramdas Shipping, told Muscat Daily that the cruise traffic has been growing rapidly for the last couple of years. ''The port saw 29 cruise calls this year (till April) with around 52,240 passengers on board. Going by the current bookings, there will be another 19 port calls by cruise ships between October and December this year,'' he said.
He, however, added in terms of number of port calls, 2013 was the best year when 51 cruise vessels docked at the port, while 2012 witnessed 46 port calls. However, passengers handled were more in 2012 (62,305) than in 2013 (60,136).
''For Khimji Ramdas Shipping, the 2013-14 (October-April) season was exceptional with 20 vessels docking and handling of 42,114 passengers,'' said Murthy.
MC Jose, CEO, projects and logistics, Khimji Ramdas, said that he anticipates the next year to be even better. ''Khasab was always an attractive destination and with cruise operators looking for an extra stopover in the region, it filled the space perfectly.''
He added that more facilities and infrastructure were needed at the port to further attract and improve visitor turnout. ''With the increase in number of passengers disembarking for sightseeing, there is an urgent need for more security outside the port. People crowd the place and unregistered boat owners ferry tourists. Apart from these, there is also a need to have a postbox and a few kiosks selling SIM and phone recharge cards,'' Murthy added.
Meanwhile, the cruise season has ended for Salalah and Muscat as well, with Seven Seas Voyager being the last ship to dock at Port Sultan Qaboos (PSQ) on April 29, while for Port of Salalah, Europa 2 and Seven Seas Voyager sailing for the last time during the season on May 1.
In 2013, the Port of Salalah received 25,397 passengers onboard 34 cruise ships, while in 2014 it has seen 21 port calls with 19,125 passengers. In 2012, the port received 33 cruise vessels and handled 28,159 passengers. For PSQ in 2012, it received 111 cruise calls and handled 183,449 passengers. In 2013, the port received 115 cruise vessels, while from January-April 2014, 68 cruise ships called at the port. &