The arrival of the first cruise ship, Mein Schiff 5, at the Port Sultan Qaboos in Muttrah on Friday, has kick started this year’s cruise tourism season. The German cruise ship is carrying nearly 2,600 tourists and around 1,000 crew members on board.
Smitten by love at first sight, visitors took a stroll along the Muttrah Sea Road basking in the sun, clicking away in different angles, chit chatting with the people all across, hogging a bargain at antiquities shops and tasting the roadside delicacies.
“Oman is simply fantastic, adorable and scintillating”, Christina Schetza, a lady tourist in her 30’s commented looking at the morning sun.
“I first came here some two years ago and spent some two weeks and the result? I’m here again to experience the same warmth, hospitality and the beautiful frankincense from the Muttrah Souq”, she adds.
For Heike and family, who are into family business in Frankfurt, Oman gave an amazing experience.
“Oman is a perfect destination as a holiday tourism spot and we opted for cruise tourism. The country is clean, the weather is awesome, and the government is great in keeping this country marvelous,” they opined.
Tour guides, cabs, small shops along the Sea Road, and most importantly, the shops inside the traditional Muttrah Souq are alive with walk in customers and every year, these shopkeepers look forward to the cruise season that helps them make good any business deficiencies in the other months.
“Cruise season is basically our bread and butter throughout the year and we look forward to these months when cruise ships dock at the Port. We are able to make good the lack of business during the other months”, says a vendor at the Muttrah Souq.
According to Claus and Elke, a retired couple who are on a mission to explore the world by sea, Oman is much more than a tourist destination.
“Oman is nice, clean, and warm and is different from other Arab countries for its hospitality and cleanliness”, they said, adding that “everybody is friendly, they love my kids, amazing people.”
The nearly 3-months long winter tourist season will witness nearly 310 visits of vessels sailing along the Sultanate carrying tens of thousands of tourists from different countries of the world.
The Ministry of Tourism plays a major role in the development of this type of international tourism in coordination with the government and private sectors and international companies owning and operating these cruise ships. All these ships will visit, besides Muscat, Dhofar and Musandam more than once. While Port Sultan Qaboos will see 166 vessels visit, Port of Salalah will welcome nearly 71 visits, and Khasab Port 73 visits.
Last year, Khasab Port received 134,404 tourists during the winter season. The Ministry of Tourism has a variety of programmes designed by tourism companies specifically for the international cruise tourists arriving on board ships. This includes Oman’s traditional art and culture show, music and culinary treats for the tourists at the ports.