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Cruises to Aqaba (Petra)

Aqaba (Photo:Boris-B/Shutterstock)
Aqaba (Photo:Boris-B/Shutterstock)

About Aqaba (Petra)

Once a sleepy village with an industrial port, Aqaba is quickly turning into an upscale travel destination. The city of 90,000 was declared a Special Economic Zone in 2000, and while downtown still has a slightly dusty character -- you will see women in traditional veils and the occasional camel -- development and modernization are happening at a fast pace. The city now has a big modern mall and an intercontinental hotel opened on Aqaba's long and sandy North Beach strip, with more hotels currently under construction.

Aqaba may be on the precipice of rediscovery, but the city itself has long held intrigue. Located at the northern tip of the Red Sea and blessed with location, location, location, Aqaba was a prime port even in ancient times; its history dates back some 5,500 years.

It's history that makes Aqaba a much-anticipated stop on any Middle East cruise itinerary. The region's major attraction, Petra, is a 2,200-year-old city carved out of the surrounding cliffs. Despite its age, it was recently voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The other key site is Wadi Rum, an extraordinary desert and mountain region made famous by T.E. Lawrence, who helped plan the Arab Revolt among the area's red rocks. The "Lawrence of Arabia" movie was also partly filmed here.

The one- to two-hour drives to Petra and Wadi Rum will take you past looming mountains and dusty expanses of desert -- the country is 85 percent desert, after all -- yet in Aqaba proper, it's all about the sea. In addition to its beaches, the city is blessed with clear waters and is a world-acclaimed destination for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts with some 30 dive sites -- one even created by a sunken Lebanese freighter. Many of the sites are located in Aqaba Marine Park, created as a joint venture with Israel to preserve this important marine environment.

Aqaba is very close to becoming an Arab version of Miami Beach -- the climate is similar (hot in summer and warm in winter), the tourists are coming and celebrities are moving in (Jordan's King Abdullah II has a vacation palace in Aqaba). And it's got the same international vibe -- from the center of town, the borders of Israel, Egypt's Sinai and Saudi Arabia are all within a half-hour drive -- on a very clear day you can catch glimpses of them all.

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DAY 1: Dubai

18 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Abu Dhabi, Fujairah ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Athens

19 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Kusadasi, Haifa ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Athens

15 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Haifa, Cairo ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Athens

18 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Haifa, Jerusalem ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Quetzal ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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164 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Kauai, Honolulu ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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21 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Rome
Visiting:
Athens, Kusadasi ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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117 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Antigua, St. Lucia ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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12 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Panama City
Visiting:
Panama Canal, Puntarenas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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22 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Abu Dhabi, Aqaba ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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15 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Cartagena, Panama Canal ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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20 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Istanbul
Visiting:
Dikili, Kusadasi ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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20 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Kusadasi, Rhodes ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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19 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Salalah, Safaga ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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37 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Singapore
Visiting:
Kelang, Penang ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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17 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Jerusalem, Suez Canal ...
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Cruise Line:
Azamara
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10 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Limassol, Haifa ...
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Cruise Line:
Silversea Cruises
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22 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Muscat, Salalah ...
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Cruise Line:
Costa Cruises
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113 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Barcelona
Visiting:
Malaga, Casablanca ...
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Cruise Line:
Costa Cruises
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111 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Cartagena, Panama Canal ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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126 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Venice
Visiting:
Dubrovnik, Catania ...
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Cruise Line:
Costa Cruises
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86 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Honolulu, Kauai ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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16 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Panama City
Visiting:
Puerto Limon, Panama Canal ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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38 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Singapore
Visiting:
Kelang, Langkawi ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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56 Night
Cruise to Aqaba (Petra)

Leaving:
Sydney
Visiting:
Brisbane, Airlie Beach ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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Why go to Aqaba (Petra)?

Pros:

Offers access to Jordan's two major sights: the rock-hewn city of Petra and the Wadi Rum desert

Cons:

Con Has a high level of security, which may unsettle some passengers

Bottom Line:

A vibrant city where Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia meet

Aqaba (Petra) Cruise Port Facilities?

It's a 10-minute walk or a quick shuttle ride to actually get out of the port area, which is a maze of ships, industrial building and railroad tracks. At the gate, cabs are waiting to take you into town, or you can walk another 15 - 20 minutes to reach Aqaba Castle. The tourist office is located just behind the castle on Prince Mohammed St. (open daily from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.).

Good to Know?

A popular scam at bars and pubs is the undisclosed cover charge, so ask up front about extra costs. We have friends who didn't and were charged $64 for four drinks (way above the going rates here).

Getting Around?

Cab fare to the city center should be about $5, but drivers will try to get $10. Likewise, the two-hour ride to Petra should cost about $60 one-way and the hour-long drive to Wadi Rum about $40, but drivers will try to wangle a higher rate. Regardless of destination, always negotiate a price before you get into a cab.

Since Petra is best explored with a guide, we recommend you go the private driver/guide route if you're not taking a ship tour. Your cruise line will likely have suggestions. One firm offering such a service is Travel in Style, which will send a driver to meet you at the pier. Rates are $370 per person for two to three guests and $250 per person for four to six guests, for travel in a mini-coach. If you prefer to ride in style in a Mercedes, the price is $490 per person for two to three guests and $350 per person for four to six guests. The tour includes guide services and lunch.

If you go to Wadi Rum on your own, be aware that the best way to explore the area is on a 4 x 4 or camel tour. See more below.

Visas
Aqaba has been designated a Special Economic Zone, created for free trade. So although you're required to have a visa to travel in Jordan, it's free for those who arrive by sea. Your ship will take care of visa arrangements for you.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The Jordanian dinar is worth about $1.41 U.S. (check XE.com for the most accurate exchange rate before your trip.) Money can be exchanged at banks, hotels and currency exchange offices, and you will find ATM's at banks around town. Most shops and restaurants accept credit cards, but fewer take traveler's checks -- better to change your traveler's checks into dinar. U.S. dollars are also accepted at markets and some shops

Language?

Arabic is the official language, but most people involved in the tourist trade speak English.

Where You're Docked?

You'll dock in the main port area about three miles south of the city center. The port is mixed use -- there will be tankers docked near your cruise ship.


Aqaba (Petra) Cruise Reviews

MSC Orchestra
Crag rat
Sail Date: Oct 2019
Been here before so, Independantly explored Aqaba.... Read More
Spectrum of the Seas
Susannah
Sail Date: Apr 2019
We had a private tour it was the best. Got to do Petra and Wadi Rum which was the highlight... Read More
Celebrity Constellation
mkesolo
Sail Date: Nov 2018
One of our main reasons for booking this cruise was the opportunity to visit Petra from Aqaba. We booked an outside excursion with Memphis Tours, which was recommended by other Cruise Critic users. We paid a deposit... Read More
Sapphire Princess
Cruiseyme
Sail Date: Oct 2018
Unfortunately didn't get to Petra due to flash flooding and lives lost. Sort of ruined the trip alas. Aquaba was a bit of a let down as a result and resembled more of a building site. Still a bit better than Dubai... Read More
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