Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning 2022

8 2 Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is resetting priorities in preparation for a time after oil. The formation of Cruise Saudi at the beginning of 2021 may well be remembered in the cruise industry as the milestone that triggered the awakening of this future tourism giant. During my trip with Cruise Saudi, a storied tour around Al Balad, old Jeddah, provided the perfect introduction to Saudi Arabia. Many of the houses were built with old coral that was mined along the shore of the Red Sea. Architectural influences reveal Al Balad’s pilgrim and trade route heritage. Nasseef House on Suq al-Alawi is perhaps the most striking. Built in 1881 for a wealthy merchant, the house is now a cultural centre and museum. Founded in the seventh century, Al Balad became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2014 and restoration work continues as the country seeks to protect its cultural and architectural history. The clear blue water and golden sand of the uninhabited Jabal Al Lith archipelago offered a very natural call, especially for ships that are well stocked with water sports equipment. The submarine onboard Scenic Eclipse was well used here, likewise the kayaks, paddleboards and underwater scooters. Rare sightings of protected fauna will appeal to many passengers here. Boobies, dugongs (the other type of sea cow) and manta rays are regular visitors. However, the empty nests of recently departed turtles suggests that cruise guests may not be granted access to these island beaches between August and October. Once home to Lawrence of Arabia, Yanbu offered an authentic immersion into living here in both the past and the present. Local residents of ‘The pearl of the Red Sea’ welcomed us with floral tributes, sweets and music before we headed off through an indoor market and on to the mayor’s coffee shop for refreshments and a history lesson from the former teacher. A five-year plan to restore Yanbu has progressed at an impressive pace since it was started in 2020. Works include opening the only walking route from the port to the city centre in the Kingdom, a feature that will make it a popular call for cruise lines operating in the Red Sea. Few have cruised along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, but Jon Ingleton recently joined Cruise Saudi onboard Scenic Eclipse for an entirely new cruise experience in the Kingdom Entering a new era of cruising MIDDLE EAST: REPORT Scenic Eclispe using its dynamic positioning system instead of anchoring to minimise damage to the seabed in the Jaba Al Lith archipelago Right: One of the 110 desert tombs in Hegra