Discover Qatar, the destination management subsidiary of Qatar Airways, has announced the launch of its very first expedition cruise series, which is aimed at offering a luxury experience around Qatar’s coastline. The cruises, which are designed for seasoned and adventurous travellers, provide an opportunity to observe the largest gathering of the world’s largest living fish – the Whale Shark – in the Al Shaheen marine zone.
Whale Sharks, which are often referred to as ‘gentle giants’, are estimated to have existed for 60 million years. They can live up to 100 years and grow up to 12 metres in length – about the size of a large school bus. Between the summer months of April and September, during their annual migration to the region, Whale Sharks are found feeding in groups of hundreds in the Al Shaheen marine zone within the Arabian Gulf, which lies 80 kilometres off the northern coast of Qatar.
The Discover Qatar expedition cruise will give passengers access to the Al Shaheen restricted marine zone to witness the Whale Shark gathering, as well as a coastal exploration adventure. From observing Whale Sharks, snorkelling in coral reefs, exploring mangroves to gliding through the turquoise waters of Khor Al Adaid channel, a team of expert guides, marine biologists, naturalists and ornithologists will lead guests to identify local wildlife and offer a cultural perspective on the sites explored.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said, “Qatar is a unique setting for expedition cruises and I am hugely excited to launch our first product in this area to show off our country’s beauty to the world. Qatar, with its abundance of rugged, untouched nature, surrounded by crystal waters and a unique biodiverse ecosystem, offers exciting adventures that allow visitors to connect with nature and visit areas of Qatar that are only accessible by the sea. Also, our guests will have the unparalleled opportunity to observe the biggest gathering of the world’s largest fish – the Whale Sharks.”
Discover Qatar offers customers an eight-night, nine-day expedition cruise package onboard a luxury expedition ship on a full-board basis. Guests will be offered five-star services, elegant accommodation, sight-seeing discoveries and exploration adventures. Customers will also have the opportunity to extend their travel to a ten-night, eleven-day package, including a three nights stay in Doha, to explore the city’s cultural heritage and traditions, visit must-see attractions and landmarks, as well enjoy the colourful commerce and culinary offers within Souq Waqif’s vibrant alleyways.
Discover Qatar has partnered with PONANT, the world’s leader in luxury expeditions cruising, to offer this cruise series. Guests will travel onboard ‘Le Champlain’, one of PONANT’s new explorer-class cruise ships. This ship has 92 staterooms and suites equipped with high-end amenities, a 24-hour butler service, two restaurants and a luxury-level spa. It also has an infinity pool and an underwater lounge with large observation windows below the waterline. A hydraulic platform will ease disembarking and embarking when guests participate in expeditions.
Cruise season will start in April 2021 and will run seven consecutive weekly departures. Prices start from USD 5,295 per person.