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Dubai as a Cruise Destination

March 13, 2019 Visit Middle East / Dubai No Comments Email Email


Dubai is one of the top cruise destinations in the Middle East, and increasingly growing as a key winter cruise destination among tourists. With multiple home-porting ships, and a number of ships that stopover in Dubai, there are plenty of opportunities for tourists to visit Dubai and take a regional or international cruise itinerary. Moreover, there’s plenty to do while in Dubai – whether sightseeing, dining, or immersing oneself in culture and traditional experiences.


Dubai’s cruise industry first began as a trade corridor between the GCC and other socio-economic-cultural hubs. It has now evolved into a vibrant travel route that showcases Arabia at its most dynamic – a place where guaranteed sunshine, majestic desert landscapes and futuristic cityscapes meet.

The first ever cruise ship docked in Dubai in 1996, followed by the opening of Dubai’s cruise terminal – the first in the region – in 2001. The city has become an increasingly appealing winter cruise destination and has established itself as the Gulf’s pioneering home port since 2006. The industry has grown rapidly over the past 17 years. In the 2001/02 season Dubai received 7,000 cruise passenger – over 725,000 passengers are expected in Dubai for the 2018/19 season.


With year-round sunshine, an ever-evolving list of attractions in the city and multiple international cruise lines operating regular international itineraries out of the city, Dubai is the perfect cruise destination for winter sun and is fast cementing its position as the ‘cruise hub’ of the Middle East.

Dubai is the perfect location to start an international cruise itinerary, ranging from a short five-night voyage, to 14-night round trips, and longer world cruise itineraries. During the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 cruise seasons, Dubai will serve as a winter homeport for eight international cruise lines and over 20 other world-class cruise lines will be calling in to Dubai for overnight stay. Most of them will feature the city as a turnaround port as part of their re-positioning of cruises and grand voyages between east and west, whilst several cruise lines now homeport in the city and offer roundtrip Dubai cruise itineraries around the Arabian Gulf and India during the winter cruise season.

Dubai also has the most modern and the largest dedicated cruise port in the Middle East, spanning over 36,500 square metres with a pier that stretches over 2,200 metres. The facility allows Dubai to comfortably accommodate six ships at the same time, with a proven track records of handling the complete passenger turnaround of five cruise ships simultaneously. The port facilities are currently being upgraded even further including the building of new facilities.


There are now seven major cruise lines homeporting in Dubai, running cruises in the Arabian Gulf and beyond. Over twenty cruise lines now also use Dubai as their embarkation port in their longer international and repositioning voyages between October and June every season. More cruise lines are due to be added in the coming seasons, including Celebrity Cruises who will be relocating its homeport in the 2019/20 season.

MSC Cruises’ MSC Splendida will be operating seven-night itineraries (to be replaced by MSC Bellissima in 2019/2020). MSC Cruises will also use Dubai as a turnaround port for MSC Lirica when she begins her new roundtrip cruises to India in 2018/2019 season.
Costa Cruises will be sailing seven-night cruises from Dubai aboard Costa Mediterranea for the coming two cruise seasons until at least 2020.

P&O will cruise roundtrip on 10-night cruises to all the major ports in the Arabian Gulf aboard Oceana. The cruise line’s inaugural Middle East season is this year, but Oceana has been reconfirmed for the following year as well.

Pullmantur is also operating 10-night roundtrip cruises from Dubai for the first time this season. The cruise line promises that these Arabian Gulf itineraries have been designed “down to the last detail”.

AIDA Cruises will homeport AIDA Prima in Dubai for the coming two cruise seasons. She is the largest and most modern ship the cruise line has ever sent to the Middle East cruise market.
TUI Cruises will homeport Mein Schiff 4 for the 2018/19 cruise season, and Mein Schiff 5 in 2019/2020. Both ships will sail identical 7-night cruise itineraries from Dubai within the Gulf.
Royal Caribbean will recommence round-trip cruise itineraries from Dubai in the 2019/2020 season, offering three different round-trip itineraries around the Arabian Gulf.

Celebrity Cruises will relocate its homeport to Dubai starting 2019/20 season with its Celebrity Constellation ship offering round-trip itineraries around the Arabian Gulf and India.


Citizens from over 50 countries receive visa on arrival in Dubai, UAE. In 2014, the UAE also introduced a multiple-entry UAE visa exclusively for cruise tourists. Costing AED 200, this allows visitors to enter the UAE multiple times through any of its air and sea ports. As of 2018, Dubai also now offers long-term multiple entry visas for the crew of passenger ships free of charge. Visit:


During a stay in Dubai, there’s plenty to keep visitors busy – from record-breaking landmarks and pristine beaches to unforgettable desert experiences, world-class shopping districts and a dynamic gastronomy scene. Start and end your cruise in Dubai for an unforgettable experience.

A Rush of Adrenaline at Dubai’s Theme Parks
Dubai is home to some of the world’s best theme parks and waterparks – be it for those looking to splash around in water, make personal records on gravity-defying rollercoasters, or immerse yourself in the world of movies and cartoons. From IMG Worlds of Adventure to Dubai Parks & Resorts, Dubai’s theme parks offer plenty of action to those who take their thrills seriously.

Breath-taking Sights
A metropolis surrounded by rolling desert dunes on one side and the sparkling Arabian Gulf on the other, Dubai boasts magnificent views at every turn. Be it the fronds of the iconic Palm Jumeirah, the city’s futuristic skyline and towering Burj Khalifa, sweeping panoramic views of the entirety of Dubai from the Dubai Frame, or unparalleled views of the Gulf and the world’s largest observation wheel, the views across Dubai are invariably impressive and arresting.

Unique Shopping Experiences
Visitors can enjoy a unique shopping experience from high-end fashion houses, to mass market affordable brands, to traditional markets. Between Dubai’s grandiose malls including The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and City Walk to traditional souks, you’re guaranteed to find a souvenir to treasure from your holiday to Dubai. For dedicated bargain hunters, the Dubai Outlet Mall and The Outlet Village provide affordable shopping and fabulous deals on designer brands.

Visit Old Dubai
At the heart of Old Dubai lies the wind towers, and gypsum and coral buildings of Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, restored to their original glory using authentic traditional building materials. Photography enthusiasts can get the perfect Instagram-click at every corner of the neighbourhood, adorned with Arabesque designs on the old buildings. The traditional Arabian markets, meanwhile, help you discover the true essence of Dubai’s heritage as a trading nation.

Relax by the Beach
Whether you’re looking for a short break in the sun or a family beach holiday, Dubai’s beach destinations hold the key. Jump in and out of the crystal clear waters on Kite Beach or snap a selfie in front of Burj Al Arab. Also perfect for a stroll are Dubai’s newest waterside destinations La Mer and Al Seef, offering ideal outdoor settings to eat, play and unwind.

Catch a World-Class Show
Dubai sets the stage for world-class events and festivals year-round that weave together a cultural tapestry that is unique to the city, from the hottest concerts to stunning stage shows at La Perle and the Dubai Opera to international musical acts, festivals and legendary performances across the city.

Desert Adventures Amongst Dubai’s Dunes
Instagrammable sunsets, great food and luxurious tours are just some of the reasons to enjoy desert adventures amongst Dubai’s dunes. A quintessential desert safari is the perfect way to soak in the best of the desert, combining dune-bashing, and desert wildlife experiences.

If You Have More Time, Explore the Enclaves of Hatta
Those looking to travel back in time to discover the historical culture of Dubai while enjoying the ambient temperatures of Dubai’s winter can head to the mountain town of Hatta. This quiet retreat, nestled in the Hajar Mountains, is known for its ancient Hatta Fort, the bright turquoise water of the Hatta Dam and the remnants of a village from days gone by. Located nearly 130km south-east of central Dubai, the untamed environment makes the mountain enclave of Hatta the ideal spot for thrill-seekers and nature-lovers; whether you’re looking to take on the rough terrain by mountain bike, tackle the waters by kayak, or simply explore the cultural town by foot.

Save While Sightseeing
If you only have a few days in the city, the Dubai Pass is also a great way to experience all that’s possible in the emirate. This all-inclusive pre-paid card grants cash-free access to 33 key attractions across Dubai, making it the perfect way for tourists to explore the city’s world-class destination proposition.

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