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Cruises to Sir Bani Yas Island

Sir Bani Yas (Photo: Cristian Andriana/Shutterstock.com)
Sir Bani Yas (Photo: Cristian Andriana/Shutterstock.com)

About Sir Bani Yas Island

A green oasis on a desert island in the Arabian Gulf, Sir Bani Yas Island -- about 150 miles west of Abu Dhabi -- is the site of the only private beach resort for cruise ships in the region. It provides a welcome alternative to the shopping malls, grand mosques, theme parks and dune bashing at the heart of excursion programs in the Gulf's other ports of call.

Natural geological forces created the salt dome island millions of years ago, and its name originates from the Bani Yas tribe who first inhabited Abu Dhabi. A ruined Nestorian Christian monastery dating from 600 A.D. is the oldest of 42 archaeological sites on the island.

Sheikh Zayed, the late ruler of Abu Dhabi and founder of the United Arab Emirates, established a nature reserve on the island in 1971 and began work that has involved the planting of several million trees and the introduction of species including giraffe, cheetah, hyena, ostrich and oryx. It's not quite a self-contained ecosystem -- some 73,000 miles of pipeline water the trees, while feed is left out for the animals, although the cheetahs hunt the gazelle, nonetheless.

The 16-square-mile Arabian Wildlife Park occupies about half of the island and now contains more than 10,000 breeding animals and 170 species of bird, including peacocks and flamingoes.

MSC Cruises was closely involved with the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority in the creation and construction of the facilities on an island that houses a wildlife park for a collection of endemic Arabian species. The only other visitor facilities on the island are three luxury resort hotels, operated by Thai group Anantara, and a small airstrip.

The beach resort was built on an artificial spit of sand connected to the main island by a short causeway across the lagoon. It houses the only facilities -- apart from shore excursions -- for visiting cruisers. There are about 2,000 sun loungers and plenty of shade.

The main season for cruises in the Gulf runs from November to March. Cruise lines visiting Sir Bani Yas include MSC, Costa, P&O Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and occasionally, Seabourn. There is never more than one ship per day at the resort -- which is definitely a bonus for most visitors.

--updated by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic contributor

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DAY 1: Dubai

7 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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DAY 1: Genoa

25 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Genoa
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Rome, Malta ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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DAY 1: Abu Dhabi

7 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Abu Dhabi
Visiting:
Sir Bani Yas Island, Khasab ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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DAY 1: Doha

7 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Doha
Visiting:
Dubai, Abu Dhabi ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

15 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Abu Dhabi
Visiting:
Kuwait City, Al Manamah ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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18 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Sir Bani Yas Island, Muscat ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Muscat, Manama ...
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Cruise Line:
Azamara
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7 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Khasab, Fujairah ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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18 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Singapore
Visiting:
Phuket, Colombo ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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18 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Sir Bani Yas Island, Doha ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Abu Dhabi
Visiting:
Sir Bani Yas Island, Bahrain ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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17 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Sir Bani Yas Island, Muscat ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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13 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Doha, Al Manamah ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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18 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Doha, Sir Bani Yas Island ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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10 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Dubai
Visiting:
Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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35 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Athens
Visiting:
Aghios Nikolaos, Haifa ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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36 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Singapore
Visiting:
Phuket, Colombo ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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28 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Bali
Visiting:
Komodo Island, Probolinggo ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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8 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Abu Dhabi
Visiting:
Sir Bani Yas Island, Bahrain ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Abu Dhabi
Visiting:
Sir Bani Yas Island, Muscat ...
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Cruise Line:
MSC Cruises
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31 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Hong Kong
Visiting:
Hanoi, Da Nang ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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34 Night
Cruise to Sir Bani Yas Island

Leaving:
Singapore
Visiting:
Kelang, Penang ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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Why go to Sir Bani Yas Island?

Pros:

A relaxing beach day -- and the novelty of a safari drive in the Middle East

Cons:

Very limited entertainment on cooler days

Bottom Line:

A valuable addition to Middle East cruise itineraries and great timeout from busy sightseeing

Sir Bani Yas Island Cruise Port Facilities?

Ships anchor a short tender ride from the island and ferry passengers in to a jetty. Queues can build up for the last tender back and there's no shade in the waiting area on the jetty. The small jetty, within easy walking distance of the island facilities, can accommodate two tenders at a time.

The beach resort is split into four separate areas along its mile-and-a-half stretch. Visitors arrive by tender at the central Al Maha district, which houses the administrative offices, excursion sales desk, tour dispatch, medical clinic and bathrooms.

To the right, backed by the road leading to the causeway and the rest of the island, is Al Ghazelle with three bars and a covered barbecue area. The beach itself is packed with sunbeds and sun umbrellas, and the area behind it has courts for football, volleyball, basketball, tennis and other sports.

On the other side of Al Maha is Llama, the section devoted to families. It, too, has a covered barbecue and two bars, but there is also a covered area for young children to play in the shade. The water sports station on the lagoon side of the beach provides mangrove kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding and floating mats. Some cruise lines require water sports equipment to be booked in advance.

Beyond Llama, the Al Reem district is reserved for suite guests and those prepared to pay extra to rent a cabana, or sheikh bed, which comes with bottled water and a selection of snacks. Some cruise lines offer beach spa treatments, chargeable to your cruise account.

The whole beach area offers free Wi-Fi, with a strong signal.

Good to Know?

Treat Sir Bani Yas as a day off from the intense sightseeing on an Arabian Gulf cruise. Take a guided tour to see the wildlife before relaxing on the beach with a barbecued burger and a cold beer, or book a water sports activity -- there's very little else to do here other than chill.

Getting Around?

By Official Tour: Beyond the beach, access to the island is by official tour only. Visitors may not wander around at will. For example, if you want to make a private visit to one of the Anantara resorts for lunch, you will need to arrange for its staff to pick you up at the dock and get you back in time for departure.

By Shuttle: Some cruise lines offer a shuttle to the larger of the resorts, Anantara's Desert Islands Resort & Spa, as a shore excursion.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

You can charge drinks to your cruise account and activities, like kayaking or safari drives, are prebooked through the cruise line as shore excursions.

Should you arrange privately to have lunch at the Anantara Al Yamm Villa Resort (+971-2-801-4200) or the Desert Islands Resort & Spa (+971-2-801-5400), the currency is United Arab Emirates dirhams (AED). For current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.

Language?

All the safari guides and water sports instructors on the island speak English.


Sir Bani Yas Island Cruise Reviews

Jewel of the Seas
Mjk88
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Free tender dock to island. We got there early, first boat I think. Got spot on beach free sunbeds and as we had deluxe drinks package we had free drinks on beach. Food available free from ship. Amazing day for... Read More
MSC Splendida
pwjallen
Sail Date: Feb 2019
Took the safari drive and got to see Sudan cheetahs resting in the shade of an acacia tree. Good experience - groups of 6 in Toyota Land Cruisers. Nice explanation of significance of the island in the formation of... Read More
MSC Splendida
thecabbie
Sail Date: Jan 2019
A different day on a private Island with lunch.... Read More
MSC Splendida
Eastboundanddown
Sail Date: Jan 2019
We did the "safari". It was actually really good, but expensive as it was only 1.5hrs. The beach area is really nice and it's a great island... Read More
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