February 23, 2010 / 9:57 PM / 9 years ago

Dubai opens cruise ship terminal, names Costa liner

* New terminal aims to boost cruise visitors to Dubai

* Costa Cruises to operate new liner from Dubai

DUBAI, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Dubai opened a new cruise ship terminal on Tuesday with the naming of an Italian ocean liner that will operate cruises from this Gulf Arab tourism hub.

“Six-seven years ago, we had 10,000 (cruise ship) travelers . In 2009, this figure rose to 263,000 sea passengers, and we expect an increase in the coming years,” Hamad bin Mejren, executive director of business tourism at the Dubai Department of Tourism, told Reuters.

The number of cruise ship passengers visiting Dubai, also a regional trade and business centre, is expected to rise 35 percent in 2010, he said.

The terminal, which can accommodate four cruise ships, hosted the naming of the Italian vessel Costa Deliziosa on Tuesday, in what organisers said was the first naming of a cruise liner in the region.

The Costa Deliziosa, with a capacity for 2,800 passengers, is the latest vessel of the Italian cruise company Costa, a unit of Carnival (CCL.L) (CCL.N), the world’s largest cruise operator.

The liner, whose interior design combines traditional Arabic and modern Italian styles, will offer cruises from Dubai.

Costa Deliziosa was moored at the terminal in Port Rashid near Queen Elizabeth 2, which is waiting to be refurbished. Dubai bought the QE2 ocean liner in 2007 for $100 million to convert it into a luxury hotel.

Istithmar World, the investment arm of debt-laden conglomerate Dubai World [DBWLD.UL], said last month it had scrapped plans to move the QE2 to South Africa, and the vessel has been named among Dubai’s assets and high-profile holdings possibly up for sale. (Reporting by Warda al-Jawahiry; Writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Toni Reinhold)

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