One of the world's largest cruise ships is set to make the first of its 14 visits to Bahrain on December 14, ending months of speculation about whether the cruise tourism industry would take off after being suspended following the unrest. "This is a truly great moment for the entire industry in Bahrain after what happened in Bahrain in February and March," said Mathias Tourism managing director Richard Mathias, whose company promotes Bahrain to the cruise industry worldwide and handles onshore trips in Bahrain. "We are happy the AIDA BLU is coming when some of the other large companies have taken Bahrain off their plans for the time being." Bahrain tourism and travel agency chiefs are set to meet tomorrow to finalise plans for the cruise season.
About 32,000 tourists are expected to visit Bahrain throughout the season, which runs until March. Each trip will have up to 2,300 passengers on board, who will spend a day in Bahrain and visit its various tourist attractions. "We will have all the usual attractions as part of the tourists' on-shore itinerary," said Mathias. "All relevant details will be discussed at Thursday's meeting." Mathias said tourists would be welcomed in the traditional Bahraini way in the presence of traditional bands and unique activities. Bahrain's cruise season between November 2009 and April 2010 saw 50 port calls by major cruise liners. However, only 29 took place between last November and February after anti-government protests erupted. Costa Cruises, which had scheduled 30 visits, skipped Bahrain and opted for Khasab in Oman instead.
Tour operators said the cancellations meant losses of at least $5 million in tourist spending alone. Before the unrest, tourism officials said Bahrain could be set for a $21 million windfall as a result of its booming cruise ship industry. Every vessel that berths in the country could be worth around $300,000 to the economy, according to the company Seatrade Middle East.