The grand voyage features 21 ports of call as the ship rounds the Arabian Peninsula, sails through the Red Sea, transits the Suez Canal and zigzags across the Mediterranean, before crossing the Atlantic bound for the United States.
Island Princess will also stay overnight in Dubai in the UAE, and Ravenna in Italy during the cruise, which includes five and seven day stretches of days at sea for those who love true open ocean cruising.
The full 111-day World Cruise visits 50 destinations across 31 countries and six continents, but for those with less time this voyage offers the best of the Middle East, Europe and the Atlantic.
Boarding begins in Dubai on March 16th, 2023, but Island Princess will only depart the following evening, giving passengers ample time to experience the modern metropolis on the Arabian Gulf.
There are five shore excursions available for Dubai, from a traditional desert safari (dune bashing and dinner at a nomadic Bedouin camp), to high tea at the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
Other points of interest for passengers will be the Burj Al Arab Hotel, the world’s only seven star hotel, the Jumeirah Mosque, the largest in the UAE after the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Museum, and the Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, home to luxury beach resorts, apartments and shopping malls.
After spending the first night of the cruise alongside in Dubai, Island Princess sails for Muscat, the capital of Oman. The city was once a major trading centre controlled and influenced by the Portuguese and is today a modern capital surrounded by the Hajar mountains, home to ancient souqs and gleaming new beach resorts.
“Old 16th century forts guard the bay and the palace, while the vibrant souqs offer daggers, superb silver jewellery, and traditional crafts and costumes,” Princess Cruises says the of the city, and advices passengers to explore the Grand Mosque, Muttrah Souk, Bait Al Zubair museum, Nakhl Fort and Al Alam Palace, the official residence of the Sultan.
Island Princess then spends five days at sea bound for Aqaba in Jordan, the gateway to the iconic ancient city of Petra. There’s more to the port than just Petra, the port of Aqaba has been an important strategic and commercial centre for over three millennia.
Perched at the apex of the Gulf of Aqaba, it offers internationally renowned diving opportunities and the richest marine life in the entire Red Sea. The old fortress on the waterfront dates to the 14th-century, while inland lies the lost city of Petra – a city that may date to 6,000 B.C. – and Wadi Rum, where an English soldier mystic named T.E. Lawrence found his destiny as “Lawrence of Arabia.”
After Aqaba, Island Princess leaves the Middle East with a Suez Canal transit, the culmination of an engineering dream that dates back as far as 2100 B.C, when it was first thought that the Red Sea and Mediterranean could be linked. The canal was only completed in the 19th century though, but has an eventful history, nonetheless.
Napoleon Bonaparte began the project in 1798, but it wasn’t until the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps got involved in 1858 that progress was seen. Eleven years later the canal was opened, and 13 years after that, in 1882, the British captured it from Egypt. Egypt then regained control during its revolution of 1952. In 1956, the British, allied with the French and Israelis, tried to take the canal back. The Arab-Israeli Six Day War of 1967 closed the canal until 1973, when another war and intense international negotiations led to its return to Egyptian control.
Island Princess’ final port call in the region will be to Ashdod in Israel, a gateway to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, an ancient city considered sacred by all three of the world’s Abrahamic religions.
For Jews, the Western Wall – the sole surviving remnant of the Second Temple – embodies their cultural and religious identity. Christians walk the Via Dolorosa and observe the Stations of the Cross, renewing Christ’s sacrifice. For Muslims, the city is home to the third holiest shrine in all Islam, the El-Aqsa Mosque.
Other ports of call on the itinerary include Kusadasi, Turkey (for Ephesus), a former Roman provincial capital and trading centre, home to several of Christendom’s holiest sites, including the Great Theater where St. Paul preached and the ruins of Ephesus’ Basilica, which cover the tomb of Christ’s most beloved disciple, St. John the Apostle.
Then it’s on to Gythion in Greece and the ruins of the fabled city state of Sparta, as well as Ravenna in Italy, where the ship will stay overnight so guests can fully explore this former Roman capital and Byzantine trade hub.
Island Princess then sails for Koper in Slovenia, Split in Croatia and Kotor, Montenegro, before spending a day at sea cruising for Malta, Sicily and Sorrento. Civitavecchia will be a popular port call as the gateway to Rome itself, after all the Roman ruins that have been explored at other ports leading up to it.
Nice and Marseille in France, and Barcelona and Mallaga in Spain will be the final Mediterranean ports of call before Island Princess begins her trans-Altantic leg, calling in Casablanca, Morocco and Arrecife and St Cruz De La Palma in the Canary Islands before arriving in Fort Lauderdale on April 27th, 2023.