My husband and I have never been on a cruise before and having recently retired in Abu Dhabi, we have decided that now would be the best time to go. We would rather not have to fly back to England for the cruise but it has been difficult to find anything in the region. Could you help us out? Dubai is increasing in popularity as a cruise destination, with a 40 per cent increase in the number of incoming cruise passengers forecast for the coming year. The new cruise terminal is expected to open in January 2010 and will be able to serve four vessels simultaneously, a much-needed improvement over the now defunct terminal, which opened in 2001. At the moment, cruise passengers are served by a temporary facility, consisting of several marquee-like structures. Consequently, it may be a good idea to put your plans on hold for the moment.
Notwithstanding, it is fairly easy to find cruises departing from Dubai, and our central position on the map means that there are some great options available. Italian cruise company Costa uses Dubai as its regional hub, capitalising on the favourable weather here during Europe's low season. Its website, www.costacruisesasia.com, has details of the three routes it is offering from Dubai over the next few months. The first is a seven night cruise around the Gulf, taking in Bahrain, Muscat and Fujairah, and is probably most suitable for those who are unfamiliar with the region. A more interesting alternative is the second option, which sails from Dubai and ends up in Italy 18 days later, stopping off in Aden, Sharm El Sheikh and Alexandria on the way. Finally, there is the Dubai-India-Maldives cruise which brings you back to Dubai at the end of the 17-day tour.
If you are interested in travelling further afield, have a look at Regent Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com). A 55-day voyage to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on board the Seven Seas voyager costs from US$48,500 (Dh178,000) but you can opt not to go all the way. An excellent search engine that covers several different cruise lines is www.cruisecompete.com. This allows you to search for voyages by destination, departure port and cruise line, and get a quote from one of over 300 travel agents competing for your business. Fares for cruises can fall significantly if you book far enough in advance, so delaying your trip by a few months would probably be wise.