Middle East Cruise News

Fred Olsen to cruise from Dubai to UK in 2024 aboard Borealis

Fred Olsen Cruise Line is sailing the old maritime Silk Road in 2024 with a westbound cruise from Dubai to the UK via the Mediterranean and iconic Suez Canal.

The 22-night cruise aboard Borealis departs March 26th, 2024, and will take passengers from the modern metropolis of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, through the ancient ports of Europe to Southampton, the maritime hub where the ocean liner routes of the British Empire once converged.

Borealis is Fred Olsen’s new ship, a sister ship to Bolette. Both vessels were acquired in 2021, having formerly sailed for Holland America Line, which is known for its longer, grand voyage itineraries.

Borealis at sea

That makes Borealis a perfect fit for this kind of itinerary from Dubai with more exploration in more exciting ports than your typical week-long roundtrip. The ship’s smaller size, spacious public areas, open deck spaces and impressive array of restaurants give her the flexibility of comfort for voyages, while still being able to access smaller cruise ports.

Size isn’t a concern in Dubai, however, which is home to Port Rashid, the primary cruise port in the Middle East, with a massive cruise terminal capable of handling the largest ships in the world.

Located to the south of the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai was once a tiny fishing village but is now one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with a population of more than 3 million, hailing from more than 200 countries all over the world.


In Dubai, historic and cultural structures sit alongside ultra-modern skyscrapers such as the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building, and the distinctive Burj al-Arab, a hotel shaped like a sail, which is considered the most luxurious in the world.

The equally distinctive man-made Palm Islands near Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal, where Borealis docks, feature Atlantis the Palm, and a viewing platform high above the Nakheel Mall, providing expansive views of the city and its unique coastline.

Borealis departs Dubai on the second night of the cruise, as she stays overnight in port on the first night, giving passengers more time to explore the city. She sails overnight for Khasab, a small fishing village in the Sultanate of Oman, set amid the magnificent fjords of Musandam – known as ‘Norway of the Middle East’.

Khasab, Oman.

The town itself features the historic Khasab Fort and The Old Souk, where traditional markets are found, while the Jabal Hareem Peak just outside the town is the highest point in Musandam, and renowned for its marine fossils and views.

A particular draw in Khasab, however, are the dhow cruises amongst the fjords, to spot dolphins playing in the emerald green seas of the region.

From Khasab, Borealis sails overnight to Muscat, the ancient capital of the Sultanate. The city is surrounded by the Hajar Mountains and the breath-taking sand dunes of the Ramlat Tawq desert, and features the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Qasr Al Alam Royal Palace, along with Muttrah, one of the oldest souks on the Arab peninsula, with a maze of alleyways selling all manner of goods.

Departing Muscat, Borealis spends five days at sea cruising along the coast of Oman, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, bound for Aqaba in the Red Sea, the only port in the Kingdom of Jordan. This stretch of seadays gives passengers ample time to fully enjoy the ship and her 6 restaurants, 8 bars and cafes, casino, auditorium, spa, gym and swimming pools.

A particular highlight of Borealis is her traditional forward-facing observation lounge, appropriately called the Crow’s Nest. Not many cruise ships have these anymore, and this lounge aboard Borealis is one of the most beautiful, harking back to her history with Holland America Line.

Aqaba in Jordan is the gateway to Petra.

Aqaba is over-shadowed by Petra, which lies just a few hours inland, but is itself home to thousands of years of history. The imposing 15th century Mamluk Fort once served as a military site for the Ottomans on the pilgrimage route from Turkiye to Mecca and Medina, but Aqaba has been around since 4,000 BC.

More modern attractions include its beach resorts for windsurfing and other water sports, while notable dive sites such as the Yamanieh coral reef can be found in the Aqaba Marine Park, south of the city.

Borealis only stays one day in port here, however, and the vast majority of passengers are likely to opt for the excursion ashore to Petra, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and the capital of an ancient kingdom that once dominated the whole region 2000 years ago.

The Lost City of Petra is carved into the sandstone sides of the mountains in which it sits and was completely hidden until 1812 when it was rediscovered by Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It had been lost in the desert for centuries, having fallen in importance during the Roman Period when shipping in the Red Sea overtook land trade routes.

Aqaba and Petra are the final port calls in Arabia proper, with Borealis then sailing overnight for the Suez Canal, a 120-mile waterway connecting the Red Sea and Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt. The canal was dreamt of during the Ancient Egyptian period, but was finally opened in 1869 and has been one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes ever since.

Haifa, Israel

After spending a day transiting the canal, Borealis turns west for Israel, calling in Haifa, which sits on the slopes of Mount Carmel and is home to a fusion of Jewish and Arab cultures. The Bahai Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most holy site of the Bahai faith, the shrine here is topped with a golden dome, and set amongst some of the most spectacular gardens in the world.

From Israel, Borealis sails overnight for Limassol on the southern coast of Cyprus. Here passengers can explore the Cyprus Medieval Museum, built in 1193 by Guy de Lusignan, founder of the Lusignan dynasty, and rebuilt in the 19th century by the Ottomans. Nearby, the Amathus site, with the ruins of a Temple of Aphrodite, contains a local museum with many incredible artefacts from around this time.

The final three port calls in Rhodes, Malta and Cartagena are equally steeped in history. Rhodes was a major maritime power in the years after the death of Alexander the Great in 332 BC, and its UNESCO World Heritage Sites are testament to this period, such as Old Town and the wonderfully preserved Acropolis.

Valetta, Malta

Valetta, the capital of Malta, still retains its 16th century city walls, while its Grand Harbour retains the evidence of the many conflicts that this island has fought during its time as part of the Roman, Greek and British Empires. Valetta has long been a strategic maritime city and was also a key provisioning port during the Crusades of the Middle Ages.

The city’s most noteworthy landmarks are the National War Museum, housing many military artefacts and the Casa Rocca Piccola Palace, while on the north of the island is the silent city of Mdina, home to the Roman burial complex of St. Paul’s Catacombs.

Cartagena is the final port call before Southampton. This Spanish city and major naval station was one of the most important cities in the known world during the heyday of the Roman Empire.

Among its many Roman ruins are a 1st-century BC theater and Casa de la Fortuna, a villa with murals and mosaics. The Muralla Púnica (Punic Wall) interpretation center houses the remains of a 3rd-century B.C. defensive wall.

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