The Orient has had a special magic since time immemorial. During a Dubai & Orient cruise you can admire the most magnificent places in the Middle East and be enchanted by the Arabian flair. Cruisers can expect gigantic buildings, endless desert landscapes and Arabian splendor as far as the eye can see.
In this article you will get tips on ports and suggestions for exciting shore excursions.
General information for the Orient cruise
Cruise vacationers generally do not need to apply in advance for a visa for the countries visited during the cruise. For entry into the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain, a passport valid for at least 6 months is sufficient. In Qatar, one receives a visa upon entry. This is usually taken care of by the cruise line, so it is no hassle for the vacationer.
Weather & Climate around Dubai
The subtropical climate of the Persian Gulf is ideal to escape the cold winter in Europe, because the main travel season for the region is from October to April. Orient cruises are offered only during this period. From May to September it is simply too hot for European minds with up to 50 degrees.
In the winter months, the average temperature is about 30 degrees. During this time there is sun en masse and basically no rain. There is a sun guarantee, so to speak!
Money and currency during the Orient cruise
In the Orient, you don’t get too far with Euros. Therefore, you should either exchange cash in exchange offices or rather withdraw local money free of charge with a credit card. Here I can recommend the free credit card from DKB. Withdrawing or paying with a credit card is definitely less complicated, you have little to no fees, and you can’t get ripped off.
Often a currency exchange service is also offered on board the cruise ship. This allows you to change smaller amounts of Euros into the local currencies of the destination ports. Whether this service is offered for the desired currency should be asked at the reception.
Exchange rate of the various currencies (as of April 2021)
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi, people pay with Dirhams. 1 Dirham corresponds to approx. 25 cents.
This also applies to the Qatari Riyal valid in Qatar: 1 Qatari Riyal is therefore equivalent to 24 cents.
In Oman you pay with the Omani Rial. 1 Rial corresponds to approx. $2,28. If you only want to pay for a cab or make small payments in Oman, Dirhams are also accepted in my experience.
In Bahrain, payment is made in Dinars. 1 Bahrain Dinar equals approx. $2,33.
The mental arithmetic could become exhausting in the long run. In order not to lose the track and not to be too wrong, especially with larger sums, I recommend using a simple currency app. This way you always keep an eye on the exchange rates.
Language, religion and dress code
The national language in the countries bordering the Persian Gulf is Arabic. Islam is the state religion. Therefore, an appropriate choice of clothes is also appropriate among tourists. You don’t have to cover yourself, of course, but you should preferably keep your knees and shoulders covered as both a woman and a man. You can find a detailed article on the appropriate choice of clothing in the Emirates here.
Furthermore, it should be noted that public displays of intimacy are not appreciated. Holding hands or a light kiss should still be okay. However, it is better to refrain from wild kissing.
Orient Cruise Deals
Dubai Cruise with Mein Schiff
With Mein Schiff there are 7-day Orient cruises from $315 per person The cruises usually start and end in Dubai. However, some also start in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Common destination ports also include Abu Dhabi, Khasab and Muscat. Longer tours also call at Bahrain and Sir Bani Yas Island.
Orient cruise with AIDA
A 7-day Orient cruise with AIDA is available from $626 per person. Here also the ports of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Muscat and Bahrain (route with Muscat OR Bahrain) are called. Start and end destination is either Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Orient cruise offers from other shipping companies
With MSC Cruises you can book a 7-day cruise in the Orient starting at $335 per person. An unbelievable bargain!
Costa can almost compete with a price of $472 per person for a 7-day Dubai cruise. The destination ports are also the same as for AIDA and Mein Schiff. So looking around a bit and comparing prices can be well worth it.
Orient Cruise Itinerary with ports tips
A cruise through the Orient offers a vacation with exciting contrasts. Tradition meets modernity. Gigantic skyscrapers meet endless desert landscape. Barren mountains meet green oases.
In addition to the gigantic Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the magnificent Sheikh Zayid Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the historic city of Muscat, the capital of Oman, and the modern capitals of Qatar and Bahrain, Doha and Manama, await you.
Thus, there are many sights to discover and unforgettable things to experience. The highlights that await you in each port follow now.
#1 Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates and a city of superlatives. It attracts visitors with endless shopping opportunities, impressive buildings and artificial island worlds that can’t be found anywhere else.
Dubai cruise port: location and transportation
In Dubai, the cruise ships are docked at Port Rashid, which is quite far outside the city center. In the port terminal there is a tourist information office, where you can get a map of the city, as well as a currency exchange office and some souvenir stores.
You are not allowed to move freely on foot in the port terminal. However, there are plenty of cabs waiting outside. These are metered, air conditioned and relatively inexpensive. That’s why you can drive with a clear conscience all the way to the city center, 13 km away, to the Burj Khalifa.
Alternatively, you can be taken to a nearby metro station. Al Ras or Al Ghubaiba are the closest to the port. Dubai has an excellent metro system. This allows you to get from A to B quickly and easily. There are only two metro lines, but they take you to all the important places. A one-way ticket costs between 75 cents and $2, depending on how many zones you cross. Tickets can be obtained on the spot from vending machines.
It’s pretty much impossible to walk in Dubai. The distances are simply too great. Cabs are definitely a cheap way to get around here. The colorful cabs are cheaper than the fancy black ones. The cabs with pink roof are designed for women and children. However, one man may also participate. For a distance of about 13 kilometers (from Port Rashid to Burj Khalifa) you pay about $10.
Sights and attractions in Dubai
The Burj Khalifa is unmissable in Dubai. From the observation deck of the unique skyscraper, located at a height of over 400 meters, you can enjoy the breathtaking view of the city. Right next door is the Dubai Mall, where you can browse 12,000 stores and catch a glimpse of the impressive Dubai Aquarium. In the evening, the grandiose fountain show in front of the Dubai Mall attracts all eyes.
15 km further southwest, you can relax on Dubai’s wide sandy beaches with a view of the Burj al Arab, or have an exclusive afternoon tea at a luxury hotel. In the evening, stroll through the nearby Madinat Jumeirah souk. The market enchants with its buildings and gardens in Arabic style.
Another 10 km to the southwest is Dubai Marina. The district is characterized by the many futuristic skyscrapers and yachts. From there, you can take a speedy boat ride to the man-made island of Palm Jumeirah.
On the other hand, you can explore the endless expanses of the desert on an exciting desert safari. A wild jeep ride over the sand dunes and a delicious barbecue in a Bedouin camp are included.
The northeastern district of Al Fahidi on Dubai Creek is also more traditional and original. This district is characterized by its narrow streets and sand-colored houses. A special experience is the crossing of the Dubai Creek on a traditional wooden boat, the Abra. After a short drive, Dubai’s famous gold and spice souk awaits visitors on the other shore.
If you want to visit as many sights in Dubai as possible despite your short stay, you can take a relaxing panoramic ride on the Hop-on Hop-off bus.
You can be more sporty on a guided bike tour. The route leads to the Burj Khalifa, then to the beach including a swim stop and on the way back to the ship past the Jumeirah Mosque.
Families with children can visit the Aquaventure water park at the Atlantis Hotel on Palm Jumeirah. Here swimming fun is guaranteed for young and old.
Particularly exclusive experiences with breathtaking views offer helicopter flights or sightseeing flights by seaplane over the desert metropolis. An unforgettable experience for sure!
Find and book excursions in Dubai
|Geführte Tour im Burj Al Arab mit Hoteltransfer||3 Stunden||ab 83€|
|Dubai Marina, Atlantis, Palm & Burj Al Arab per Schnellboot||1,5 Stunden||32€|
|Burj Khalifa Ticket für die 124. & 125. Etage||ca. 1 Stunde||ab 43€|
|Burj Khalifa: 124. Etage & Mittag-/Abendessen im Burj Club||5 Stunden||80€|
|Wüsten-Safari, Quadfahrt, Kamelritt & Al Khayma Camp||4-7 Stunden||ab 32€|
|Dubai Marina: Yacht-Tour mit Frühstück oder BBQ||2-3 Stunden||38€|
|Atlantis Aquaventure & The Lost Chambers Aquarium||1 Tag gültig||92€|
#2 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and also the richest of the seven emirates. The city is spread over a large main island and several smaller islands in the Persian Gulf. Abu Dhabi is just over 150 km from Dubai and the list of attractions continues to grow, much like Dubai.
Abu Dhabi cruise port: location and transportation
Port Zayed in the northeast of the city serves as a port for cruise ships but also container ships. It is just over 10 km from the city center. In the port terminal you can find a tourist information, ATMs and some typical souvenir stores. In addition, you get free access to the Internet here.
It is not allowed to move freely walking on the port area. However, free shuttle buses are available and run hourly between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. between the port and a mall in the city center. Take a closer look at the information boards at the cruise terminal.
Of course, there are plenty of cabs waiting at the terminal to take you into the city. Cab prices in Abu Dhabi are just as reasonable as in Dubai. You pay about 44 cents per kilometer here. Since the distances in Abu Dhabi are sometimes very long, it is advisable to use cabs. They are increasingly located in central places such as shopping malls and hotels. But you can also wave them over at the side of the road at any time.
There is no metro in Abu Dhabi. Therefore, you have to rely on cabs or buses. The bus network is well developed and the buses are air-conditioned and modern. One ride is very cheap at about 50 cents. However, you can not pay in cash. In addition, tickets are only available at central sales stations, such as malls and major bus stations.
Alternatively, Hop-on Hop-off buses, popular with tourists, operate in Abu Dhabi. The red double-decker buses run on two routes, so that you can drive around all the main sights of the city. Since the distances are quite large, a complete tour can take several hours.
Sights and shore excursions in Abu Dhabi
The Sheikh Zayid Mosque is by far the most imposing building in the city. It is located in the south of the main island and is a good 20 km from the cruise port. The magnificent white mosque is one of the largest mosques in the Orient and can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. Inside is the world’s heaviest chandelier, made of Murano glass, and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet.
In the northwest of the city, 10 km from the port, is the Emirates Palace Hotel. It is located directly on the coast and at the end of the 8 km long waterfront Corniche. Fortunately, the luxury hotel of the extra class can also be visited by non-hotel guests. If you feel like a cappuccino with a pinch of gold, you can get it here.
Just a 10-minute walk from Emirates Palace are the Etihad Towers. Tower 2 houses the Observation Deck at 300. From there you have a magnificent view of the city and the Persian Gulf.
A 30-minute walk west of Emirates Palace is the Qasr al Watan Presidential Palace. The magnificent palace has only been open to the public since 2019. Guided tours of the impressive interiors and gardens are held daily. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday you can admire a 15-minute light and sound show at the palace.
Not far from the cruise port is Saadiyat Island, which has now become Museum Island. In addition to a national museum, you will also find the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which already inspires with its architecture.
Twenty kilometers to the southeast is a gaming paradise called Yas Island. The island hosts the great Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race every year. It is also home to Ferrari World – a theme park that is home to the world’s fastest roller coaster – and Yas Waterworld, a gigantic water park that offers countless water attractions.
If you have only one day in Abu Dhabi, it is not easy to decide what to do. However, I would definitely recommend visiting the Sheikh Zayid Mosque. It is too impressive to leave out.
Find and book excursions in Abu Dhabi
|Tour über die F1-Strecke Yas Marina||2 Stunden||26€|
|Ab Hafen Abu Dhabi: Moschee, Qasr Al Watan & Etihad Towers||5 Stunden||ab 75€|
|Stadtbesichtigung und Sheikh Zayed Moschee||5,5 Stunden||ab 51€|
|Wüstensafari mit BBQ, Sandboarding & Kamelritt||6 Stunden||ab 63€|
#3 Muscat, Oman
Muscat is the capital of Oman and is located in the northeast of the country on the Gulf of Oman. The city is more traditional than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, offering a more authentic glimpse into the culture of the Orient. Instead of skyscrapers, Arab-style buildings dominate the cityscape.
Muscat cruise port: location and transportation
The cruise ships dock at Port Sultan Qaboos. The port is not particularly magnificent but functional. Moreover, it is not far from the city center.
It is not allowed to move freely on the port area. Free shuttle buses take passengers to the nearby port exit. There are many cabs waiting to take you to the place of your choice. Alternatively, you can walk to the city center or stroll along the harbor promenade. However, one should not underestimate the distances here either.
If you decide to take a cab, you should know that the cab price is negotiable. At the port exit there are signs with recommended prices. One hour costs about $26. This is interesting if you want to take a tour of Muscat. Conveniently, the cab drivers know the tourist highlights of the city and will take you there without complications.
There are however also scheduled buses in Muscat. Line 04 departs from in front of the port terminal. Payment is made directly to the bus driver in local currency.
As an alternative, you can use the Hop-on Hop-Off buses of Big Bus Tours. For a complete round trip, which includes 8 stops, you need about 1.5 hours. This is certainly a convenient and uncomplicated way to explore the sprawling city. Anyway, the bus does not go to the great Sultan Qabus Mosque.
Sights in Muscat
Within walking distance of the port is the traditional Mutrah Souk, an Arabic market that is a popular stop for tourists. You can find oriental delicacies, spices and fragrances, handmade ceramics and colorful fabrics and clothing there. Walking further along the waterfront, you come to the Riyam Monument, a large incense burner that also serves as a vantage point.
The lovely Al-Alam Palace, or Sultan’s Palace, is located in the historic district of Muscat, 5 km southeast of the port. Today’s government quarter is extremely well-kept and magnificently planted. The palace itself is framed by two historic fortresses. Both the palace and all other buildings can be only viewed from the outside.
23 kilometers west of the port is the large Sultan Qabus Mosque. A ride there takes about 20-30 minutes. The mosque can be visited by non-Muslims from Sunday to Thursday from 8 to 11 am. Admission is free, but you should pay attention to appropriate clothing.
Finally, a trip into the backcountry will allow you to discover the extraordinary landscape of Oman. For example, a desert safari by jeep, which also includes hikes in dried-up river courses, the so-called wadis. The oases in the middle of the barren mountain landscape impress with their deep blue pools and clear waterfalls.
On the other hand, those who want to take a more relaxed approach during their shore excursion can take a beach and snorkeling excursion to a private sandy beach and unwind on the beach.
Find and book excursions in Muscat
|Privattour Wahiba Sands und Wadi Bani Khalid||8 Stunden||ab 363€ pro Gruppe bis 4 Personen|
|Wadi Shab & Bimmah Sinkhole Ganztagestour||8 Stunden||82€|
|Delfinbeobachtung und Schnorcheltour||3 Stunden||91€|
#4 Khasab, Oman
Khasab is a small fishing village in the north of Oman on the Musandam Peninsula. It is located directly on the strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman and is characterized by its fjord-rich coastline. In Khasab, a barren mountain and desert landscape right by the sea awaits you.
Khasab cruise port: location and transportation
There is only one port in Khasab, which the cruise ships share with the Arab traders on their small speedboats. From the cabin you can watch the traders bring sheep and goats from the boats and load modern electronic equipment. The hustle and bustle of the region’s commercial center is an interesting sight.
From the bare harbor, it’s a 20-minute walk to the center of town. Alternatively, you can also use the free shuttle bus. There is no tourist infrastructure in Khasab.
Sights and excursions in Khasab
In the historic old city of Khasab, you can visit the Khasab Fort with its integrated museum, which gives insights into traditional architecture and life in Oman, as well as the nearby mosque. And of course there is also a souk here in the center, where you can buy oriental spices and handicrafts.
Since Khasab itself does not have so many sights to offer, a trip on the water or into the backcountry is recommended.
For example, a boat trip through the Arabian fjords in a traditional dhow is a good option. During the trip, with a little luck, you will spot dolphins and sea turtles. In addition, you get the opportunity to swim and snorkel in between.
On a trip into the mountains of Oman, the jeep or bus tour takes you through the barren mountain landscape up along steep rock faces. The tour is interrupted by regular stops, because from the ridge you have an impressive view of the fjord and the sea.
#5 Doha, Qatar
Doha is the capital of Qatar and is located on the Persian Gulf. Qatar is geographically located between Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Doha’s skyline is characterized by striking Arabian-style skyscrapers. The city is growing rapidly and steadily, attracting many new visitors with its modernity.
Doha cruise port: location and transportation
The cruise ships dock at Doha Port. Since it is not allowed to move freely in the port area, a shuttle will take visitors to the port exit. A tourist information center in the port terminal will help with any questions you may have.
Cab stations are also available at the terminal. Cab prices are fixed in Doha. These consist of a basic price and the price per kilometer. The official cabs are recognizable by their light blue color.
Doha also has a well-developed bus network. A ride in the air-conditioned buses costs between 75 cents and $2. You can pay with cash or credit card.
There is also a metro, although it is still partly under construction and is scheduled to be fully completed by 2026. A one-way ticket costs about 70 cents, a day ticket $2.
Doha Bus company offers Hop-on Hop-off city tours in double-decker buses. The buses are already waiting at the port terminal and then head to the main sights in Doha. Buses depart from the stations every 30-40 minutes.
Sights in Doha
Not far from the cruise terminal is the 6 km long Doha Corniche waterfront promenade. From there, you can marvel at the unique skyline while strolling leisurely. Especially in the evening it shines in magnificent colors.
At the eastern end of the Corniche, and thus only a stone’s throw from the harbor, is the city’s most famous museum: the Museum of Islamic Art. It houses the world’s largest collection of Islamic artworks and is therefore worth seeing for all art lovers. The view of the skyline from the museum is also impressive.
Of course, a central Arabic souk is also a must in Doha. The large Waqif souk is only a 15-minute walk from the Museum of Islamic Art. Amidst traditional buildings, numerous merchants offer oriental spices, coffee, garments, souvenirs as well as local delicacies.
If you are more interested in nature and the desert, you can also go on an exciting desert safari in Qatar – including dune bashing and camel rides.
On the other hand, a guided historical city tour, during which you will visit the Waqif souk, The Pearl island and the Katara Cultural Village, is a very relaxed and cultural experience. A final boat ride on a traditional dhow completes the shore excursion in Doha.
Find and book excursions in Doha
|Wüstensafari, Kamelritt, Sandboarding & Binnenmeer||5 Stunden||ab 54€|
|24-Stunden-Ticket für Hop-On-Hop-Off-Bus||24 Stunden gültig||42€|
|Halbtägige Sightseeing-Tour durch Doha||4 Stunden||88€|
#6 Manama, Bahrain
The Kingdom of Bahrain is an island nation in the Persian Gulf. Manama is the capital and is located in the northeast of the main island. It is characterized by a mix of tradition and modernity. In Manama, for example, modern skyscrapers stand next to traditional Arabic buildings, creating an interesting mix of styles.
Bahrain cruise port: location and transportation
There are two berths for cruise ships in Bahrain: Khalifa Bin Salman and Mina Salman ports. Nowadays, the modern port of Khalifa Bin Salman is the main port used by shipping companies. This is located 18 km east of the center of Manama.
It is not allowed to move freely on foot in the port area. Therefore, free shuttle buses take passengers to the city center – either to the central souk or to the Bahrain City Center.
Unlike the other ports, there are no cabs waiting at the port terminal. In general, there are rather fewer cabs on the road in Bahrain than in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, for example. If you need a cab urgently and can get hold of one, you should negotiate the price beforehand. Otherwise, an organized excursion or exploration on foot is recommended.
Sights in Bahrain
There are numerous large shopping malls in Manama. The most architecturally impressive is certainly the Bahrain World Trade Center in the north of the city. It is the first skyscraper in the world with an integrated wind turbine. The two 240-meter high main towers, connected by three crossbars, are a landmark of Manama. The financial district is home to many other impressive skyscrapers that dominate the Manama skyline.
The contrasting program can be found not far from the Bahrain World Trade Center in the old town of Manama. You will find there the large Manama Souk, the oldest bazaar of the city, which is characterized by its many narrow alleys and shopping opportunities there. The traditional flair is already evident at the historic entrance gate, the Bab Al-Bahrain.
If you want to learn more about the history of Bahrain, you can visit the Manama National Museum. Archaeological artifacts up to 5000 years old are presented there. In addition, historical ships are exhibited in the outdoor area.
At the western end of Bahrain is the King Fahd Dam connecting bridge between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. With 25 kilometers, it is one of the longest bridges in the world. In the middle of the bridge there is a small island with an observation tower for visitors.
The Kingdom of Bahrain certainly owes its new popularity to Formula 1. The Bahrain Grand Prix has been held there annually since 2004. The Bahrain International Circuit is a good 30 km from the city center. Motorsport fans can book a guided tour to take a look behind the scenes of the racing event. An organized excursion of the shipping company brings you there without complications.
Alternatively, you can book a jeep or bus tour of the small kingdom or take a guided bike tour. The excursion offers of the shipping companies are numerous.
Plan and book shore excursions
In general, it is recommended to book excursions in advance. In this way, you do not lose time on site and do not have to worry that individual excursions are fully booked.
If you book excursions with the shipping company, they cost on average $60-$110 per person, depending on how long they last. A half-day tour costs on average $53 per person. Once you have booked your cruise, you will be able to see all the excursion offers and the exact pricing. If you are undecided in advance, you can also book the excursions later on board. Not uncommonly, however, the most popular excursions are then out of stock.
Just as easy but a bit more individual you can organize your shore excursions via Get Your Guide. There you will find a variety of exciting activities and excursions. Whether it’s tickets to the Burj Khalifa, a desert safari or a boat tour, you can find practically anything on Get Your Guide. In addition, such self-organized trips are usually much cheaper. The only drawback is that in some cases you have to organize the transfer yourself. However, this also gives you more freedom in planning your shore excursions. It’s a weighing of pros and cons.
Orient Cruise Conclusion
On an Orient cruise you will witness many contrasts. Here modernity meets traditional Arab culture. So you can visit the most impressive skyscrapers of our time and just moments later stroll through a traditional souk where people haggle over spices and gold.
A cruise through the Orient is definitely worthwhile for anyone interested in this exciting cultural mix. The fact that the desert climate (almost) guarantees perfect weather during the cruise is just the cherry on the cake.
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