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Cruises to Aqaba (Petra)

45 Reviews
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.



  • More about Aqaba (Petra)

  • Why go to Aqaba (Petra)?

  • Aqaba (Petra) Cruise Port Facilities?

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More about Aqaba (Petra)

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
We chose Magnificent Petra and we weren't disappointed. The guide was knowledgeable and best of all, left us to wander on our own. Incredible place...Read More
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kirkandmimi
Second time I have docked at Aquaba and not gone to Petra, cant see the value of spending $300-400 to see Petra when other ruins around the world are a fraction of the cost. We got a 5 euro bus trip around Aquaba andRead More
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sorocco
Jordan was my favourite port, did both Petra and Wadi rum on a private tour. We saw as much of Petra as most of the people I spoke to did on their Petra only tours. The only issue was the temperature, the Freestyle lRead More
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donnabob
Been here before so, Independantly explored Aqaba.Read More
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Crag rat

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