Six of the best cruises departing from Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Popular voyages visit destinations including Oman, India, the Seychelles and South Africa

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The UAE cruise season is under way and Abu Dhabi is celebrating record numbers of international passengers.

More than 130,000 visitors sailed into Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal ports in January, according to the latest figures from AD Ports Group. Some 88,000 docked at Zayed Port last month, while more than 42,000 sailed into Sir Bani Yas Island, marking the capital's highest number of international cruise passengers in any month during the last five years.

In Dubai, tourism officials previously announced they were expecting just under one million to sail into the city this season.

For travellers in the Emirates, there are a wealth of cruising itineraries waiting to be explored.

Here are six of the best UAE cruises still available to book this year, with at-sea adventures to destinations including Oman, the Seychelles and Singapore.

A seven-night voyage around the Middle East on the MSC Opera

MSC Opera sails around the Middle East. Photo: MSC

Italian cruise line MSC operates several journeys from ports in the region, including a seven-night voyage around the Middle East.

Departing from Abu Dhabi and sailing on the recently upgraded MSC Opera, the itinerary includes five different ports of call. From the UAE capital’s main port, MSC Opera sails first to Sir Bani Yas Island in Al Dhafra region where travellers can access the region’s marine life and protected wildlife.

From here, the ship hits the open seas en route to Muscat, the capital of Oman where there are traditional markets, museums and more. The MSC Opera has a capacity for 2,579 passengers and comes with upgraded cabins with balconies, new play areas for children and an ornate Teatro dell'Opera, which hosts live performances nightly.

From Muscat, the ship sails to Khasab, a port city in the Omani exclave of Musandam on the northern peak of the UAE. Known as the Norway of the Middle East, Musandam features long inlets dug out of limestone with towering cliffs rising out of its clear blue waters. For the final port of call, MSC Opera docks in Dubai where excursions on offer include a visit to the gold souq, camel racing and a sightseeing tour of the city’s best-known landmarks.

From $309 per person; next sailing March 20;

Luxury sailing from Dubai to the Seychelles with Silver Sea

Sail on Silver Spirit to the Seychelles from Dubai. Photo: Silver Sea

Luxury cruise operator Silver Sea, famed for its all-inclusive excursions, is setting sail from Dubai in November.

Sailing on Silver Spirit, the voyage takes travellers on a discovery of the Middle East, sailing from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and then onwards to Doha and Bahrain. From Manama, it beelines to Saudi Arabia’s Dammam where a cultural experience includes a visit to the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture, also known as Ithra, listed in Time magazine as one of the "World's Top 100 Places to Visit".

The tour then takes in Muscat with dolphin spotting, dhow cruises, museums, mosques and markets on offer, before embarking on two days at sea to reach Mumbai.

In India’s City of Dreams there’s the option to explore landmarks such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum, formerly the Prince of Wales Museum, the colourful flower market and the Gateway of India arch. Then it's onwards towards Cochin for an overnight stay before four days at sea giving travellers the chance to sample Silver Spirit’s eight restaurants, spa and observation library.

Tropical waters and sunshine await in the Seychelles archipelago, with the vessel cruising to La Digue and Praslin islands, before arriving in Mahe on December 13.

Rates from $6,450 per guest, all-inclusive; next sailing November 24;

Five nights discovering Arabia with Costa Cruises

Costa Cruises operates a five-day voyage across Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Muscat. Randi Sokoloff / The National

For a shorter expedition, Costa Cruises offers a five-day voyage across Arabia. Sailing aboard the Costa Toscana, which has 11 restaurants, 13 swimming pools and hot tubs and 19 bars and lounges, travellers will depart from Dubai on a trip encompassing Doha, Muscat and Abu Dhabi.

From Dubai, the ship heads to Doha, Qatar’s capital where travellers can choose from myriad shore activities including a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, a sightseeing and shopping tour or a visit to Katara Cultural Village and the ancient Souq Waqif.

After a full day at sea, the ship docks at Muscat. Travellers have a day to discover the capital with excursions including 4x4 drives across Wadi Al Arbeieen, dolphin-spotting boat tours and sightseeing trips taking in some of the city's highlights including the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Mutrah Souq.

On day five, the ship arrives in Abu Dhabi, where passengers can visit Saadiyat Island and take part in a walking tour around Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, illuminated by the light and shadows of sundown.

Rates from €309 ($327) per person, next sailing March 4;

Dubai to Singapore on an Exotic Eastern Spices cruise with Oceania

Travellers looking to push the boat out can book to travel on Oceania Cruises' Exotic Eastern Spices route.

Setting sail from Dubai, the 20-day journey transports passengers from the dune-filled landscapes of the UAE to the ancient lands of Indochina, passing through India and Sri Lanka on the way.

Travelling on Nautica — a Regatta-class ship with restaurants, swimming pools, a running track and a wellness centre — passengers will visit Fujairah, the only emirate located on the Gulf of Oman.

After two days at sea, passengers arrive in Mumbai, where excursions to Gharapuri Island and its seventh-century rock-cut temples of the Elephanta Caves await. Two days later, Nautica will continue sailing, docking in Goa, then Mangalore and wrapping up the tour of India in Cochin.

A day in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo brings excursions such as Buddhist-guided meditation and a visit to a tea plantation and also marks the midway point of the journey.

Following three days of sailing, the ship docks in Myanmar for three days, before carrying on to Thailand’s largest island Phuket, which has plenty of tropical palms, beaches and marine life. The last port of call is Singapore, with the ship docking on December 28.

From $4,399 per guest, including eight excursions, $800 onboard credit and a beverage package, next sailing December 8;

Seven nights Arabia-intensive cruise with Azamara

Discover Arabia on a cruise with Azamara.  Photo: Azamara

Azamara offers a seven-day cruise of the region. Beginning in Dubai, the first day of the voyage is spent exploring the city and giving travellers a chance to get settled into Azamara’s luxury cabins.

Next, it’s onwards to Abu Dhabi with the chance to explore the UAE's capital with high tea at Emirates Palace, a trip to Yas Island and guided tours of Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Next, the ship visits Sir Bani Yas Island, which offers nature drives across the protected reserve and snorkelling adventures.

Day five is spent sailing to Doha. Travellers can try out onboard culinary demonstrations from professional chefs, live entertainment at the Cabaret Lounge and treatments at The Sanctum Spa.

The ship will dock overnight in Qatar's capital. Excursions on offer in Doha include kayaking through Al Thakira Mangrove Forest, a visit to the Mall of Qatar and a desert safari. Finally, the ship sails back to Dubai where activities on offer for passengers include a helicopter tour of the city and a private safari tour to a Bedouin camp in Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

Rates from $929 per person, next sailing November 13;

A 22-day voyage from Dubai to Cape Town with Regent Seven Seas

Sail from Dubai to Cape Town aboard the Seven Seas Mariner. Photo: Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas sails from Dubai to South Africa’s Cape Town, with a host of wide-ranging ports of call over 22 days.

Offeringultra-luxury all-inclusive packages, all passengers have unlimited shore excursions, beverages, dining, Wi-Fi and laundry services. Travellers who book a penthouse suite will also be able to make use of private butler service. On this trip, passengers will be travelling on the Seven Seas Mariner, the world’s first all-suite, all-balcony cruise liner.

The itinerary begins in Abu Dhabi, where guests can take a shore excursion to Al Ain, and carries onto Oman's Salalah before docking in the Seychelles for three days of tropical escapism. Passengers will also get the chance to visit Madagascar, home to some of the world’s most unusual wildlife, before heading to the French Comoros islands and then sailing through the Mozambique Channel.

From Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, the vessel will head towards Richard’s Bay, one of South Africa’s largest harbours, and the gateway to Zululand, once the mightiest of the sub-Saharan African Kingdoms. Docking in Mossel Bay, halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, passengers can explore beaches in a destination that receives at least 300 days of sunshine a year.

Finally, the ship will sail into South Africa’s Cape Town, where museums, mountains and more await. Guests can add an optional four-day post-cruise exploration to the trip, which is an ideal way to round off the voyage and encompasses game drives, the Cape Winelands and the expansive Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

Fares from $13,449, all-inclusive, next sailing April 16;

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Updated: March 02, 2023, 9:17 AM