2016 will be a hugely exciting year in Abu Dhabi, with three landmark hotels, the new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, museums, festivals, theme park attractions and the long-awaited Louvre Abu Dhabi all scheduled to open.
The 2015/16 cruise season is set to be Abu Dhabi’s busiest to date, with the new state-of-the-art Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal – opening 13 December 2015 – expecting to welcome 220,000 passengers from 113 ship calls. The new terminal will be located in Zayed Port and offer a wide range of facilities, including 24-hour immigration and customs facilities, banking facilities, tourist information, shops, restaurants, and bus and taxi stands.
MSC Cruises will be the first cruise line to make the new terminal its home, with the 2,550-passenger MSC Musica offering 16 weeklong Arabian Gulf sailings out of Abu Dhabi between 13 December 2015 and 26 March 2016, calling at Khor al Fakkan in Sharjah, Muscat and Khasab in Oman, and Dubai in the UAE.
Celebrity Cruises is already set to follow suit, with plans confirmed to homeport its flagship Celebrity Constellation in Abu Dhabi from November 2016 until mid-January 2017. The cruise lines’ decision to homeport in Abu Dhabi will help anchor the emirate as one of the world’s leading winter-sun cruise destinations.
2016 will also see cruise ships stop at Sir Bani Yas Island in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region. One of the largest natural islands in the UAE, Sir Bani Yas features three luxury Anantara resorts and the Arabian Wildlife Park, home to more than 13,000 free-roaming animals, including endangered Arabian oryx, gazelles, giraffes and even cheetahs. Cruise lines Seabourn and Noble Caledonia have already begun calling at the island. Temporary facilities currently allow cruise guests to enjoy game drives and other activities, such as archery, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking.
Permanent facilities, including wooden boardwalks, barbecue facilities, hammocks, beach cabanas and a visitors’ centre, are expected to be completed in late 2016, making Abu Dhabi a double-stopover destination in the Gulf.