Cruise Lifestyle

The best cruise ships homeporting in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for 2017-18

The UAE’s 2017-18 cruise season will begin again on the 25th of October, when the luxury cruise liner Seabourn Encore returns to Dubai en-route to Australia, but this coming cruise season will see a number of cruise ships return, while others will be new to the city.

Here’s Cruise Arabia & Africa’s rundown of what to expect this year from those cruise ships homeporting in the Middle East for the winter cruise season that runs from November to March.



Cruising roundtrip from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, AIDAstella of AIDA Cruises will be the first of the Middle East cruise ships to return to her winter cruising grounds in early November. AIDAstella’s first Arabian Gulf cruise departs from Dubai on November 3rd, but because she is homeporting in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, passengers can also choose to board on November 6th during her port call in the capital of the UAE.

In either case, the cruise duration will be the same, 7-nights with port calls in Muscat, Oman and Mina Sulman, Bahrain. AIDAstella will also stay overnight in port in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to give cruise tourists more time to explore.

From November 3rd until April 3rd, 2018 AIDAstella will cruise roundtrip from Dubai every Tuesday and from Abu Dhabi every Friday, except on 20th of February, 2018 when she will sail a 10-night cruise from Abu Dhabi to Dubai via Muscat, Khassab and Bahrain.

AIDAstella was launched four years ago and is one of the larger ships in the AIDA fleet, reflecting the popularity of these Arabian Gulf cruise itineraries with German passengers. She carries 2,194 passengers at full double-occupancy and can be most closely compared to a ship of Norwegian Cruise Lines or Royal Caribbean.

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Azamara Journey

Arriving in the Arabian Gulf on November 13th when she docks at Dubai Cruise Terminal, completing a 17-night voyage from Athens, Greece that will call at Crete, the Suez Canal, Safaga in Egypt, Aqaba in Jordan and Muscat in Oman before arriving in Dubai.

Azamara Journey is the only luxury cruise ship in the 2017-18 season that will cruise roundtrip from Dubai, but this will be a one-time-only 10-night cruise departing Dubai on November 14th, 2017 and returning on November 23rd. She’ll visit Khasab and Muscat in Oman, Mina Sulman in Bahrain and Doha in Qatar as well as Abu Dhabi before returning to Dubai Cruise Terminal.

The port calls in Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Dubai will all be overnighters as well.

At just 180m long and with a passenger capacity of 690 at double occupancy, Azamara Journey is one of the smaller cruise ships in the modern fleet. Launched in 2000, she was entirely renovated and refitted in 2007 and boats four dining rooms, seven bars, two lounges, two pools, a spa and a number of other amenities.

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Mein Schiff 5

Launched in 2016 and with a gross tonnage of 99,800 and a passenger capacity of more than 2,500, Mein Schiff 5 is the newest cruise ship ever to be homeported in the Middle East cruise market, and is also the second-largest of all cruise ships cruising roundtrip from Dubai during the coming cruise season (MSC Splendida is the largest, in case you’re wondering).

Mein Schiff 5 will arrive in Dubai on November 19th, completing a 15-night cruise from Antalya, Turkey to the cruise hub of the UAE. Her Turkey-Dubai cruise is interesting because it has an immense stretch of days at sea between Aqaba in Jordan and Muscat in Oman, six whole days at sea!

After docking at the Dubai Cruise Terminal, Mein Schiff 5 will spend a night in port in Dubai before beginning her 2017-18 Middle East cruise season, sailing a from Dubai on November 20th on the first of 15 7-night roundtrip Dubai cruises in the Arabian Gulf, visiting Bahrain, Doha and Abu Dhabi.

This itinerary will be alternated on every other depart from Dubai with a eastern Arabian Gulf cruise itinerary that visits Khassab and Muscat instead of Bahrain and Doha. On March 26th, 2018, Mein Schiff 5 will cruise from Dubai for Turkey again to begin her summer Mediterranean season.

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Costa Mediterranea

When Costa Mediterranea docks at the Dubai Cruise Terminal on December 14th, 2017 completing a 22-night grand voyage from Barcelona, she will be visiting the region for the first time, and will also mark Costa Cruises’ market expansion in the Middle East cruise sector.

Costa Mediteranea is 85,700 gross tons, with a passenger capacity of 2,680, making her the fourth-largest cruise ship deployed in the Arabian Gulf during the coming winter cruise season. In terms of tonnage, she is almost twice the size of Costa neoRiviera, the cruise ship she replaces homeporting in Dubai.

Costa Mediteranea will cruise 24 7-night roundtrip cruises from Dubai during the 2017/18 cruise season. Each cruise will depart Dubai and visit Muscat in Oman, Sir Bani Yas Island off Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi itself before returning to Dubai. The port calls in Dubai and Muscat are both overnight stops at the cruise terminal, giving passengers more time to enjoy the city.

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MSC Splendida

Then there is the magnificent MSC Splendida, also cruising in the Middle East market for the first time, MSC Splendida will see MSC Cruises maintain its market dominance in this region. With a passenger capacity of 3,959 and a gross tonnage of 133,500, MSC Splendida is truly huge. In fact, she is the largest cruise ship to ever be based in the Arabian Gulf and is the third-largest ever to cruise from Dubai (Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas were the largest, while Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess was the second biggest).

MSC Splendida will be cruising roundtrip from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi during her Arabian Gulf cruise season, so passengers can choose which they’d like to use as their embarkation and disembarkation port. MSC Splendida will arrive in Dubai on December 22nd, 2017, completing a 17-night Grand Voyage from Genoa. She’ll then cruise 14 roundtrip Dubai and roundtrip Abu Dhabi cruises until March 31st, 2018, when she will be deployed to the Chinese cruise market.

These cruise itineraries are unique in the Middle East cruise market as they’re ‘butterfly’ itineraries, meaning that the Dubai cruise departures alternate between the eastern Arabian Gulf and the western Arabian Gulf. So the first cruise will visit Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Muscat and Khorfakkan before returning to Dubai, while the second will then cruise from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Bahrain and Doha in Qatar before returning to Dubai.

Passengers can combine these cruise itineraries into one 14-night back-to-back grand cruise and of course the same itinerary can be done from Abu Dhabi with the same back-to-back butterfly cruise option.

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Celebrity Constellation

The grand old dame of the Middle East cruise season this year, Celebrity Constellation is the oldest cruise ship homeporting in the Arabian Gulf for the 2017/18 season, but also the most luxurious. She will be returning to the region after a hugely successful maiden season out of Abu Dhabi last year and is also the only cruise ship homeporting solely in Abu Dhabi. That’s right, if you want to cruise with Celebrity Cruises around the Arabian Gulf, you can only board and disembark in Abu Dhabi, but her port calls in Dubai on her of her Abu Dhabi roundtrip cruises are at least two nights, providing ample time to explore.

Celebrity Constellation will cruise a 15-night voyage from Rome to Abu Dhabi to reach the UAE’s capital on November 26th, 2017. From then until late April she will cruise one of the most unique Middle East cruise seasons we’ve ever seen, with a number of roundtrip Abu Dhabi cruises visiting India and Dubai, and several cruise departures criss-crossing the Indian Ocean between Abu Dhabi and Singapore.

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Europa 2


We’ve added this in for its novelty value, it is the longest-ever cruise from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises luxury cruise liner Europa 2 will cruise from Abu Dhabi on the 14th of May, 2018, bound for Dubai.

What would usually take just a few hours will instead be a 9-night grand cruise around the entire Arabian Gulf as Europa 2 will cruise from Abu Dhabi to Doha in Qatar, Mina Sulman in Bahrain and Khasab and Muscat in Oman before arriving in Dubai on May 21st.

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