New Saudi cruise line bans alcohol, CDs and ‘magazines that violate public decency’

Sailing by: ‘Please review our Prohibited Items Policy before packing your bags,’ says Aroya Cruises (Aroya)
Sailing by: ‘Please review our Prohibited Items Policy before packing your bags,’ says Aroya Cruises (Aroya)

Passengers booking voyages on Saudi Arabia’s first cruise ship have been warned not to bring scissors, CDs or ‘magazines that violate public decency’ on board.

The vessel – which shares the name Aroya with the state-owned cruise line – is due to make its maiden voyage in December this year. Initially the ship will be sailing from its home port on the Red Sea, Jeddah, to Aqaba in Jordan and two Egyptian ports: Sharm el Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula and Ain Sokhna, south of Suez.

Passengers are expected to comply with a long list of banned “dangerous goods, articles, and substances”.

Among them, “any substances that may affect mental health or similar items”. These include “alcoholic beverages of all types”.

The Saudi venture is believed to be the first cruise line on which the consumption of alcohol is not part of the voyage experience. Aroya will have an “exclusive VIP lounge and bar” that serves nothing stronger than coffee or fruit juice.

Other cruise firms are banned from serving alcohol while in Saudi ports or coastal waters. MSC Cruises says: “On respect to the Saudi law, alcohol will not be served during the calls in Saudi Arabian ports. Alcohol will be available to our guests when the ship sails in international waters.”

Yet strong drink is only one of dozens of items that are not allowed on board Aroya. Passengers are told: “Please review our Prohibited Items Policy before packing your bags to avoid any inconvenience during your journey.”

Some banned items are obvious: guns, ammunition and swords. Others are unlikely to be in the luggage of the average cruise passenger, such as soldering irons, tear gas and paint thinner. These are, however, included in the “Sample Prohibited Items List” published by the global cruise lines’ trade association, Clia.

At the foot of the Aroya rules is the heading: “Any additional items that may impact safety procedures, cause panic, or disrupt public decency.” These include:

  • Compact discs

  • Axes

  • Handcuffs

  • Magazines that violate public decency

Among other items on the banned list are natural ivory, drones, fishing nets and “sticks of all kinds and similar items, except those used for sanitary purposes such as toothbrushes”.

Prohibited “sharp objects” include scissors and open razor blades.

Many passengers may be alarmed to see that “devices that contain non-removable batteries” are banned. Mobile phones, tablets and laptops could all breach this rule.

While British cruise fans are welcome on board Aroya, the main aim is to cater for nationals of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

Joerg Rudolph, the cruise line’s president, said: “Aroya Cruises prides itself on offering a remarkably Arabian cruise experience and adheres to the laws and regulations outlined by the Saudi government.

“As is standard with all international cruise lines our primary priority is the safety and security of all our guests and we take this very seriously.

“We look forward to welcoming the first passengers on board to experience our exceptional facilities and warm Arabian hospitality.”

The first voyage is due to sail from Jeddah on a three-night Red Sea voyage on 16 December 2024. Cabins are selling for the equivalent of £350 per person.

A regular cruise holidaymaker, Richard Salkeld, said: “Increased choice has driven competition and enabled greater access to cruise holidays for many more people than ever before.

“However, holidays can be stressful enough when considering the planning and document requirements demanded by airports, airlines, destination countries and cruise companies.

“Therefore anything which reduces consumer choice and adds further complexity, challenge or restrictions to a cruise break could also significantly limit the appeal to prospective customers.”

Thirsty passengers will be able to drink beer ashore in both Egypt and Jordan during ports of call on longer cruises.