Aroya Cruises Saudi

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Aroya Cruises Saudi fleet

Review of Aroya Cruises Saudi

Aroya Cruises is a new travel brand and subsidiary company (2023-established) operated by Cruise Saudi (2021-founded cruise agency/Jeddah-based tourism business). Both companies are fully owned by Saudi Arabia's PIF/Public Investment Fund.

As of 2023, Aroya Cruises' fleet consists of only one vessel - Aroya Manara (2017-built as "MS World Dream" for Genting Cruise Lines' premium brand Dream Cruises). Dream Cruises was launched in November 2015 as a Genting Hong Kong/GHK-owned subsidiary company.

MS Manara's shipowner is PIF's subsidiary World Dream Company Inc (2023-founded).

Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) was founded in 1971 as the Kingdom's sovereign wealth fund. PIF is currently ranked one of the world's largest by AUM (assets under management) operating ~USD 620 billion in assets.

During the COVID crisis, on April 6, 2020, Carnival Corporation's shares shot up over 20%, after it was revealed that Saudi Arabia's PIF has taken ~8% stake in the world's largest cruise shipowner. A stock filing issued by Carnival Corp showed PIF purchased a total of 43,508895 million CCL shares (common stocks) representing 8.2% (as of March 25th, 2020). On Monday/April 6th, Carnival's stock closed up a little more than 20% (at US$10.21) following the announcement.

Curiously, as of 2023, the list of the world's top 20 largest investment funds (asset management companies) includes 14 USA-based funds, one Switzerland-based (UBS/4th position), two France-based (Credit Agricole/8th position, and Amundi/13th position), two Germany-based (Allianz/9th position, and Deutsche Bank/18th position) and one UK-based (Legal & General/15th position). The top 3 largest companies are BlackRock Inc (1988-founded, NYC New York-headquartered/US$9,6 trillion in AUM), The Vanguard Group Inc (1975-founded, Malvern Pennsylvania-headquartered/US$8,1 trillion in AUM), and Fidelity Investments (1946-founded, Boston Massachusetts-headquartered/US$4,3 trillion in AUM).

Aroya Cruises logo (CruiseMapper) Cruise Saudi

The name AROYA is a combination of "Arabian" and "roya" (meaning "vision" or "dream"), but could also be interpreted as a connotation for "royal".

Cruise Saudi is currently managed by Lars Clasen (CEO) who was previously employed by The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection as Managing Director.

AROYA was initially managed by Ghassan Khan (CSO/Chief Strategy Officer) who reports to Cruise Saudi's CEO.

In January 2024, Joerg Rudolph (Managing Director of Dr. Rudolph GmbH) was appointed as AROYA's President. He was previously employed by Costa Cruises as Managing Director for Germany. During his 25-year career in the industry, Joerg Rudolph worked as a senior manager for major cruise shipping companies like CCL-Carnival, RCI-Royal Caribbean International, AIDA and TUI.

Cruise Saudi's AROYA brand targets predominantly domestic but also international tourists, mainly from India. The brand aims to become Red Sea's leading and one of Asia's premium cruise shipping businesses.


AROYA plans a steady/year-on-year increase in passenger numbers and adding new Saudi coastline destinations rarely visited otherwise. The company's main goals are by the year 2035 is to increase its customers to 1,3 million (domestic and international tourists) as well as to provide ~50,000 Saudi jobs (direct and indirect).

For Saudi Arabia-related news follow this CruiseMaper news tag.

Company history and changes

Saudi Arabia's first cruise line brand - Aroya Cruises ( was officially launched on June 14, 2023. The cruise line's operations are currently managed by Ghassan Khan (Cruise Saudi's CSO/Chief Strategy Officer).

MS World Dream was officially acquired by Cruise Saudi on March 1st (2023) in a Singapore-hosted auction for USD 330 million (~EUR 310M/~GBP 275M). On the same day, the vessel's name was changed to "Manara" (in Arabic meaning "source of light") as well as the ship management company serving it - from V.Ships Leisure (part of V.Group Holdings Ltd/1984-founded, Monaco-registered, London-headquartered) to Columbia Cruise Services GmbH & Co KG.

In July 2023, AROYA signed a 3-year Gold Sponsorship deal with Al Nassr FC (Riyadh-based football club).

On August 29, 2023, Cruise Saudi signed with Gebr Heinemann SE & Co KG (1879-founded, Hamburg-based travel retail company) a deal for AROYA Cruises' shipboard retail shopping services. As of 2023, Gebr Heinemann had operations in 90+ countries and was supplying 50+ airlines operating as well as 240 cruise ships. The company's products range from perfumes and cosmetics to fashion accessories, watches, jewelry, premium brand confectionery. The deal for AROYA was signed by Lars Clasen and Kerstin Schepers (Gebr Heinemann's Cruise Business' Managing Director).

In August 2023, Cruise Saudi signed a partnership with COLUMBIA Cruise Services Ltd (2015-founded, Hamburg-based ship-management company part of COLUMBIA Group/1985-founded). By this deal, the leisure group "COLUMBIA blue" now oversees the AROYA fleet's onboard hotel management (crew management, housekeeping, guest relations, food and beverage services, deck and engine operations), the ships' technical operations are managed by COLUMBIA Cruise Services, while COLUMBIA Signature manages their hospitality services, catering and health services.

Note: Besides ship management, COLUMBIA Group provides specialized services like shipbuilding supervision, drydock refurbishments, refits and conversion projects, vessel inspections (pre-purchase and lay-up services), as well as shipboard hotel product consultancy (spaces verification, food and beverage concepts, menu cycles, galley/kitchen upgrades, sanitation inspections, hotel procedures optimization). As of 2023, COLUMBIA Group has provided newbuilding services to 280+ vessels of various types, including passenger ships.

In September 2023, Cruise Saudi signed with MJM Marine Ltd (1983-founded manufacturing and outfitting company) and DE Wave Group (2014-founded, specializing in cruise ship and superyacht interiors). Both companies were contracted for the full-scale (98%) refurbishment of World Dream/Aroya Manara scheduled for 2024.

  • MJM Group will upgrade all staterooms and will supervise the construction of new onboard venues (dining, shopping, wellness and relaxation), as well as various steelworks, upgrades to the ship's electrical and mechanical systems, and the installation of furniture, finishes, ceiling fixtures.
  • DE Wave Group will outfit Manara’s upper decks (open-deck, public and catering areas), also adding new Suites.
  • For related to the project's consultancy services were contracted SMC Design (1988-founded, London England-based) and Partner Ship Design (1991-founded, Hamburg Germany-based).

On December 4, 2023, AROYA signed a partnership with Saudi Arabia's Culinary Arts Commission (2020-established government body). Culinary Arts Commission classifies restaurants, dishes and chefs, registers Saudi and foreign dishes, writes down recipes, publicizes/promotes domestically and internationally traditional Saudi dishes and also encourages dining-related research and studies. The deal was for Aroya Manar ship's "Irth Culinary Boutique & Cafe" - the first-at-sea restaurant offering authentic Saudi cuisine with a menu based on traditional Saudi food and beverages. The restaurant's staff is certified and trained by the Culinary Arts Commission.

In July 2022, JCDC/Jeddah Central Development Company (2019-founded, PIF-owned subsidiary) signed an initial agreement with Cruise Saudi (also PIF-owned) to design the new Jeddah International Cruise Terminal & Marina. When completed, the new cruise terminal will establish Jeddah City as one of the major cruise ship and superyacht destinations in the Red Sea region.

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