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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, is fast becoming a major cruise ship port and the arrival this week of MSC Lirica for a season of weeklong cruises has been recognized as an important milestone for the city.

Arriving from Genoa, Italy, the 59,000-ton ship was welcomed with a spectacular fireworks display, traditional Yolla and Ayallah dancing and displays of henna, falconry and calligraphy adorning her resting place at Mina Zayad terminal.

Numerous dignatories, including MSC Cruises’ guest of honour, Fabio Cannavaro, the former captain of the Italy national football team, attended the welcome ceremony.

Sheikh Sultan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) told guests that MSC Lirica would be remembered for breaking new ground in Abu Dhabi.

“We hope she has set a course that many others will follow,” he said.

And Pierfrancesco Vago, Chief executive officer of MSC Cruises, describing Abu Dhabi as an innovative and highly desirable holiday destination, spoke of plans to bring another ship, MSC Opera, to the city in 2012/2013.