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The MSC Fantasia

More than 3,000 tourists are expected to visit Qatar today after two cruise ships dock at Doha Port.

This is the first time officials will welcome two vessels simultaneously. They are the MSC Fantasia and the Crystal Esprit.

Authorities did not say when the ships would dock, but according to CruiseMapper, the MSC Fantasia will be in Doha from 8am to 6pm, before moving onto Bahrain.

Frederik/Red Horn Photography

The Museum of Islamic Art is a popular tourist attraction

Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) officials said the occasion gives the country a chance to show how well-prepared it is to handle large groups of tourists.

In a statement, Hassan Al Ibrahim, QTA’s Chief Tourism Development Officer, said:

“This is one of many firsts that the cruise industry in Qatar is witnessing this season, thanks to it being the largest one to date and the first in which Qatar will receive as many as 50,000 cruise visitors.

Expect crowds

The MSC Fantasia is the largest passenger ship ever to sail into Qatar, and made its maiden voyage here earlier this month.

Hundreds of the ship’s 3,000 passenger and 1,300 crew members could be seen hanging out on the Corniche, visiting the Museum of Islamic Art and checking out Souq Waqif during that visit.

The vessel is scheduled to return to Qatar four more times this cruise season.

The 100m long Crystal Esprit, a 62-passenger luxury yacht, also made its maiden call to Qatar earlier this month.


The MSC Fantasia


The MSC Fantasia

Note: This article has been corrected to reflect the Fantasia will dock at Doha Port, not Hamad Port.

Qatar will welcome its first mega cruise ship tomorrow, when the 333m-long MSC Fantasia docks at Doha Port.

With 3,000 passengers and 1,300 crew, it’s the largest passenger ship ever to sail into Qatar.

Previously, QTA said the vessel was so big that it would not be able to dock at the Doha Port off the Corniche, which is set to be redeveloped into a dedicated cruise terminal and tourism destination.

In July, it announced that the Fantasia would sail into the new Hamad Port near Mesaieed, which is primarily used for commercial shipments.

The port became fully operational last month.

The MSC Fantasia


The MSC Fantasia

However, plans have since changed, the authority said, and the boat will be accommodated at the old port.

The MSC Fantasia measures the equivalent of three football fields in length, and has tennis and basketball courts, a mini-golf course, an aqua park complex and a cinema on board.

You can see a virtual tour of the ship here.

Busiest cruise season so far

Some 32 cruise ships carrying an estimated 50,000 tourists are expected to dock at Qatar’s ports this cruise season, which runs until April 2017.

That’s triple the number of ships that stopped in Qatar during the last season. At that time, some 4,000 tourist visas were issued to cruise passengers.

Passengers on the cruise ship Azamara Journey dock in Doha


Passengers on the cruise ship Azamara Journey dock in Doha

The big cruise push is part of a larger effort to make Qatar an attractive destination for international tourists.

“It is our absolute pleasure to welcome the MSC Fantasia on its maiden call into Doha,” Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), said in a statement.

“This will be the first of many calls for MSC Fantasia, and marks the start of another exciting journey for Qatar’s cruise tourism industry.”

Cruise ship passengers are now eligible for free 96-hour transit visas.

These were only recently made available, but to Qatar Airways passengers transiting through Hamad International Airport.

Qatar is working to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, and aims to increase the overall number of visitors to Qatar to seven million by 2030.

Other ships making their maiden calls to Qatar this season include Azamara Journey, Crystal Esprit, Thomson Celebration and Silver Whisper.


The World


The World

Qatar’s cruise season has officially kicked off after the world’s largest privately owned residential yacht docked at Doha Port yesterday.

According to the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), people from 45 countries live on board The World, some of them year-round.

The ship sails across the world and stays in most ports for several days, though will be in Qatar for just two before heading to Muscat.

In a statement today, QTA added that cruise ship passengers will now be able to follow a new, quicker immigration procedure:

“Cruise passengers can now disembark within minutes of arriving and immediately begin enjoying their on-shore excursions.”

Cruise season

The World is one of 32 cruise ships that are expected to dock at Qatar’s ports from October of this year to April 2017.

That’s triple the number of ships that stopped in Qatar during the last season. At that time, some 4,000 tourist visas were issued to cruise passengers.

But how many tourists will enter Qatar during the upcoming season remains unclear.

QTA previously told Doha News that the 32 ships will carry 50,000 passengers. But not all of them will choose to disembark.

Some of this season’s mega-ships are also expected to dock in Qatar’s new, much larger Hamad Port.

And by the middle of next year, the Doha Port off of the Corniche will officially begin its redevelopment into a cruise terminal and tourism destination.