Cruises to Dubai

209 Reviews
Dubai (Photo:Rastislav Sedlak SK/Shutterstock)

About Cruising to Dubai

On busy Sheikh Zayed Road, the highway running through the sprawling metropolis of Dubai that connects the old city with its modern eye-catching skylines, a Ferrari whizzes past at 75 miles per hour. It's a police car, a sign that Dubai -- a city often compared to Las Vegas -- has flash to spare.

The second-largest and most developed of the seven United Arab Emirates, Dubai has a well-deserved reputation as an oasis for cosmopolitan luxury travelers with money to burn. Yes, Dubai is a working port city on the Arabian Gulf, a hugely successful aviation hub with links between the west and Asia and, geographically speaking, only hours by car from places that, for most North Americans, are tucked away in the encyclopedia as distant and forbidden lands: Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

But the city's most distinctive feature is its pursuit of all things over the top, from self-styled "seven star" luxury hotels and shopping malls with ski resorts to man-made islands built in the shape of palm trees and continents -- and the fact that the skyline is now pierced by nearly 150 gleaming skyscrapers.

As late as the 1950s, however, Dubai was a small-time trading and fishing port. (Pearl diving was a major industry until cultured versions came into vogue.) It's possible -- although it does take some work -- to find remnants of this uniquely Emirati history. A few savvy entrepreneurs are beginning to develop cultural tourism that highlights the emirate's Bedouin roots, as well as the melting pot that Dubai has become.

Yet still, it's the modern trappings you'll notice first, from the ultrasophisticated Emirates airplanes that you no doubt arrived on to sleek Dubai International Airport to the fact that everyone speaks English. (You won't need to trot out Arabic here -- though attempting "shukran," for "thank you," is always appreciated.)

Although North Americans are somewhat scarce, Dubai has long been discovered by the elite from Europe, Australia and Asia, who are magnetically drawn by its resorts, gorgeous beaches, sophisticated nightlife and duty-free shopping. New attractions are opening all the time, adding a cultural layer to the more frivolous activities.

That being said, Dubai -- and the United Arab Emirates, in general -- is Muslim, and morality laws are alive and well. Public displays of affection are discouraged (no kissing your partner), and gay travelers have to be discreet, as homosexuality is illegal, although this should not present a problem if you're arriving by cruise ship as you won't be checking into a hotel).

Alcohol is only served at hotels and restaurants with licenses, although nowadays, there are a great many of these, and many common prescription drugs are illegal. (Bring copies of your prescriptions from your doctor.) Although beachwear is appropriate at resorts, shorts and tank tops should not be worn around town; even some malls have a dress code. Pack long-sleeved tops, capris or long pants, and long skirts and dresses if you plan to visit mosques or do a lot of walking around.

Despite its conservative stance on these cultural issues, Dubai remains a major port of embarkation (as well as port of call) for cruise travelers on popular Middle East cruise itineraries through the Arabian Gulf or around the Arabian Peninsula to the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Even if your cruise doesn't begin or end there, you're likely to have an overnight.

The "season" runs from October through May and is particularly popular with European lines, such as Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, P&O Cruises and AIDA Cruises. Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises also have a presence here all winter long. If you're looking for a view into the modern Middle East -- and want a guarantee that you'll have sunny, warm weather on your vacation -- Dubai is perhaps your best place to start.

  • More about Dubai

  • Why Cruise to Dubai?

  • Dubai Cruise Port Facilities?

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More about Dubai

Why Cruise to Dubai?

Pros:

A high-energy, futuristic city with impressive shopping, cultural and dining options and desert adventures

Cons:

In October and April, the searing heat and dusty conditions can make sightseeing outdoors uncomfortable

Bottom Line:

You'll need that overnight stay, as there's so much to see here

Dubai Cruise Port Facilities?

Dubai has embraced cruise travelers, and Port Rashid is expanding at a rapid pace; there are now three distinct terminals. The Port of Dubai facility offers a coffee bar, a deli/lunch operation, souvenir shops and free Wi-Fi. There's a currency exchange office, an ATM, a post office and a concierge who can set you up with day tours. Several major shopping malls also offer free shuttles from the port.

Other than the cruise terminal, the port facility also handles cargo shipping, so there's nothing to do in the immediate vicinity apart from visiting the Queen Elizabeth 2 (classic cruise liner), now a smart hotel and exhibition; the ship is permanently moored at Port Rashid and is a 10-minute taxi ride from the cruise terminals.

Good to Know?

Although Dubai looks freewheeling on the surface, the United Arab Emirates is still a strict Muslim country. Women should cover their shoulders and knees, even while sightseeing; coverings are a necessity for visits to mosques or other religious sites, and malls have a conservative dress code.

Displays of affection in public between couples are forbidden. Also avoid photographing Arabs or Emiratis in their native dress without asking permission. Take note that e-cigarettes are illegal, and the minimum age for consuming alcohol is 21. Having said all that, you'll quickly discover Arab hospitality, and you will, no doubt, be struck by how clean and orderly Dubai is.

Getting Around?

By Taxi: Metered taxis line up at the port. They're your best bet for day visits to Jumeirah, an upscale area of hotels, shops, restaurants and beaches, or to Bar Dubai, where most of the historic sites are located. Fares to both places are reasonable. You can use your Uber account in Dubai, too.

By Bus: A hop-on, hop-off bus leaves right from the port; some cruise lines even sell tickets for this onboard. Free shopping shuttles head to Dubai's major malls from the port, as well.

By Metro: Dubai is a sprawling city, but many of its downtown sights are easily accessible by Metro (alas, not from the port). Tickets are sold based on how many zones you'll cross. "Ladies cars" are available for women traveling together or with children.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The currency is the UAE dirham (dh); check xe.com or oanda.com for current exchange rates. Dollars are generally not accepted, except in the souks (markets), where vendors are happy to take your cash. Taxis take currency only (no credit cards), so exchange money at the airport, or use an ATM.

Language?

Arabic is the main language, but everyone speaks English, and all signage is in English as well as Arabic. As a result of its expansion boom, Dubai has opened its gates to supplement its workforce, and immigrant workers outnumber Emiratis. (However, these expats, who make up the majority of the population, cannot become citizens and, as such, have fewer rights.) You'll encounter Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Russians and a plethora of other nationalities -- all of whom speak passable English.


Dubai Cruise Reviews
Would have liked more time in this city. Beautiful. Don't miss the tour of the Burj Al Arab or the visit to Burg Khalifa. Dubai Mall is worth looking around and take time to see the aquarium, you don't even have to gRead More
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S Cowleard
We loved Dubai. We came a couple days early and stayed an extra day. We purchased a TripAdvisor tour to go sand dune bashing, camel riding, and a show. We also visited the Dubai mall. It was packed with people and eRead More
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shayv01
Dubai was the mid-point of our back-to-back cruises, so we had a full day there. We decided to visit the Miracle Garden, even though it was some distance from the port. The shuttle from the port went to the Dubai MaRead More
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Sussex Duo
Absolutely astounding! Beautiful architecture, pristine cleanliness - even vehicles are required to be kept clean! No graffiti, no begging, no homelessness! Guide had extensive knowledge on Dubai and UAE in general. Read More
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catahoochie

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