Qatar is set to operate a cruise ship connecting its capital Doha to Oman and Kuwait, which is expected to embark on its first voyage in January.
The 145 metre-long cruise ship ‘Grand Ferry’, the first of its kind to operate in the Gulf, can carry up to 870 passengers and 670 vehicles.
“We want to contribute to strengthening the relationship between the countries by carrying more people. It has not been used in the Gulf before, and it’s the first for the region,” Faisal al-Sulaiti, owner of the ship told local media.
Al-Sulaiti believes Qatar is filling a gap in the market: “There is a huge demand for this kind of service,” he said.
On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting “terrorism” and destabilising the region – allegations Doha has consistently denied.
The quartet closed its airspace for Qatari planes and shut Qatar’s only land border, forcing its residents to find alternatives routes to and from the country.
“After the blockade, residents are restricted from driving through the border to neighbouring countries,” said al-Sulaiti.
“We are giving people the flexibility to go with their own cars. They can disembark in Oman or Kuwait, and they can drive around,” he added.
The travel duration by the Grand Ferry from Qatar to Oman will take between 20 to 25 hours, and the same time to return to Doha.
The services will first be offered to Oman and later Kuwait, however, it may be extended to Iran if there is enough demand for it, according to al-Sulaiti.
The French-made cruise ship is 10 decks tall and features more than 270 cabins, and offers a wide range of facilities, including a flight deck for helicopters.
“We have a decent office inside … meeting rooms, a salon, cafes, entertainment and a children’s room,” Captain Moutsatsos told local media.
“It also has a clinic, along with a competent medical team to take care of passengers,” he added.
The management of the ship is currently discussing easing the process of obtaining visas for tourists travelling onboard visiting Kuwait and Oman.
Since the cruise season started on October 2, Doha port witnessed an exponential increase in the number of tourists visiting the country abroad the 14 cruise ships that docked in its capital.
Qatar has placed tourism among its five priorities to achieving economic diversification as part of its 2030 National Vision.