Language: Arabic, but English is widely spoken.
Currency: UAE Dirham.
Docking/Anchoring: Dubai has a new cruise terminal which is in the middle of a cargo shipping port just outside of town.
Itineraries: Features on Middle East cruises, world cruises, and repositioning cruises from Europe or Australia.
Getting Around: The port offers two free shopping shuttles to local malls, but if you are not taking an excursion you will have to take a taxi to get into the city to shop or go sightseeing.
Dubai is a relatively new player in the cruising market as ports of call go, but it’s a major hub for anyone cruising the Gulf during the northern hemisphere winter. Also, its impressive airport has evolved into the new must-do stopover between Europe and Asia and Australasia. Although brash and glitzy today, it evolved from a small trading and fishing port, and a gateway on the Arabian Gulf to a variety of diverse places such as Oman and Saudi Arabia. Today, however, it has plenty of sights to see beyond shopping and flashy hotels. The trick is to look beyond what automatically catches your eye, and scratch beneath the surface.
The Burj Al Arab/Burj Khalifa: Top pick of Dubai’s many landmarks includes the Burj Al Arab, the world’s first “seven-star” luxury hotel built in 1999, and taking a ride to the observation deck of the world’s tallest skyscraper, the futuristic Burj Khalifa. If you do nothing else in Dubai, aim to do this.
The Gold Souk: Gold, the traditional wealth standard of the east, is also one of the city’s best buys, and for an abundance of choice as well as the chance to practice your bargaining skills, head for the Gold Souk in Deira. Boasting rows of shops packed with elaborate jewellery and ornaments, it isn’t just a shopping opportunity but also a major tourist attraction.
The Creek: This combines the city’s heritage with some of its most famous landmarks, and is a natural sea-water inlet which cuts through the centre of the city. It’s also the historical focal point of life in Dubai offering a colourful insight into the trading ways of a bygone era.
Al Fahdi Fort: This is the home of the Dubai Museum, featuring exhibits which tell the city’s history, and nearby Jumeirah Mosque is one of the largest and most beautiful examples of modern Islamic architecture.
Play Golf: Dubai is the pioneer of golf in the Middle East, and the city boasts courses designed by legends including Colin Montgomerie and Jack Nicklaus. Located on the edge of the city, the first and most famous of them all is the Emirates Golf Club, with two beautifully landscaped courses suiting all standards. Also worth a look is the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, a sports and leisure complex near the city centre with an 18-hole, par 72 course.
Shopping: From souk to shopping mall, Dubai truly has it all. Its reputation as a shopper’s paradise isn’t overstated, helped along by low import duties and an open market status. Dubai’s many impressive malls are where you’ll find your heart’s desire. The Dubai Mall, which is also part of the Burj Khalifa complex, is the world’s largest mall in size with 1,200 outlets, and the Mall of the Emirates, located in the Al Barsha district known as “New Dubai” is a complex including shopping, entertainment and a famous indoor ski resort.
A city tour will get you around the major sights, if you want to see incredible hotels, man made islands and a souk or two. A popular alternative, however, is a desert safari. In fact, there are those who’d say that no visit to Dubai would be complete, however, without a trip into the desert. A 4WD safari offers a real taste of the true heart land of Arabia; even in just a half-day tour, you can cover a variety of terrain taking in sights including remote villages and camel farms.
Further afield, a long day but quite a popular tour is to Al Ain, a charming desert oasis known as “Garden City”. It’s surrounded by red sand dunes and curiously shaped hills, and is an important stop on caravan trails, with tombs dating back to the Bronze Age.