The Middle East's exotic aura attracts history buffs and adventure seekers looking to expand their cultural horizons. Egypt's pyramids and Jordan's lost city of Petra are must-see landmarks, while souks (markets), breathtaking mosques and desert safaris also make for great exploring. Arabian Gulf cruises to the United Arab Emirates and Oman provide a look at the modern-day Middle East, with the world's biggest buildings and malls.
Dubai and Oman -- and, increasingly, Abu Dhabi -- are well established as winter sun or long-haul stopover destinations. So it's no surprise that cruising in the Arabian Gulf should be enjoying new-found popularity. Certainly, there was a time during the last decade when fledgling cruise programs here fizzled out due to the unsettled political situation across the broader Middle East, but the whole region is now enjoying a revival in confidence and a tourism boom. Recognizing the benefits of warm, sunny winters, gorgeous beaches, an ancient and fascinating culture, a continual stream of new tourist attractions and shopping opportunities galore, cruise lines such as P&O Cruises, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Costa and MSC now offer regular winter seasons in the Arabian Gulf, operating from Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Other lines -- among them Silversea, Seabourn and Azamara Club Cruises -- offer a handful of Gulf itineraries, while many a world voyage passes through en route to or from India. German and Spanish lines, like AIDA, TUI and Pullmantur have ships based here, too. Passengers have discovered that, somehow, cruising this region makes you feel like a VIP. You'll fly on a top-notch airline to cities that are exotic and flashy. There, you'll find shopping that is out of this world, first-rate cultural attractions and limitless sports and outdoor activities. This is a world that's not afraid of glamor and everything gleams in the year-round sunshine. But best of all, cruising brings an affordable element to a region that can be on the expensive side. Seven nights on a ship is a way to enjoy all the best aspects of the Gulf without having to worry about the prices associated with living the high life ashore. Intrigued? Then let us further convince you with eight reasons you should consider a cruise to the Arabian Gulf.