With a growing number of cruise lines calling and homeporting in the emirate, Abigail Healy rounds up four shore excursions to recommend
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the most iconic sights in Abu Dhabi and Fred Olsen Cruise Lines offers tours including a visit to the landmark. Arguably one of the most important architectural treasures of contemporary society in the UAE it was initiated by the late president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The mosque features 80 domes all decorated with white marble, with the main dome’s outer shell measuring 32.7 metres in diameter. Artificial lakes surround the mosque and reflect its image, while coloured floral marble and mosaics pave its courtyard. Clare Ward, director of product and customer services, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, says: “This is a unique highlight of the destination, and we have tours in Abu Dhabi that provide our guests with a wonderful opportunity to visit. It is breath-taking – both in size and beauty.”
Book it: The 14-night Authentic Arabia fly-cruise from Aqaba to Abu Dhabi starts from £2,499pp departing on September 20, 2018.
Celebrity Cruises’ Ben Fogle’s Enchanted Desert excursion takes guests out to the desert for an evening of adventure with immersive experiences such as tasting traditional delicacies and the chance to try a spot of sandboarding. Claire Stirrup, director of sales, UK and Ireland, Celebrity Cruises, says: “The modernity of Abu Dhabi is amazing, but when you know where to look, you get a real sense of the tradition, culture and hospitality that makes the UAE such an exciting destination for agents to sell.”
Book it: Celebrity Cruises’ 11-night Arabian Coast Immersion Cruise onboard Celebrity Constellation starts from £1,649pp based on two sharing and a November 26, 2017 departure, including flights and transfers.
For Formula 1 fans, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, which hosted the first ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009, will be top of the list and P&O Cruises offers an excursion that offers a look behind the scenes. Guests will take in panoramic vistas of the circuit, pass by the Driving Academy and, should the day’s events allow, they may be able to visit the Race Control Centre for a photo opportunity of the starting grid, finishing line and podium. The tour also takes in the Pit Garages, F1 Team Villas and solar-powered VIP Shams Tower.
Book it: P&O’s Arabian Gulf 11-night cruise starts from £1,449pp, including flights, departing January 29, 2019 with an overnight in Abu Dhabi. The Yas Marina F1 circuit excursion costs from £54pp.
MSC Cruises has a new excursion that allows guests to experience a night in the desert combined with time in the city. It begins with dune bashing, before heading to luxury Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa for an authentic Middle Eastern dinner, music and dancing, followed by camel and equestrian shows. The next day involves a mix of cultural immersion and shopping, plus time in Abu Dhabi or Dubai. Steve Williams, director of sales, says: “This is a truly immersive cultural experience, not only discovering the location and scenery of Abu Dhabi, but also tasting its local flavours. We want to ensure our guests really enjoy the local experience in each destination we bring them to. “Our Fly & Cruise packages with embarkation in Abu Dhabi offer guests complete peace of mind in terms of transfers. By working in partnership with Emirates and Etihad, we help guests connect with destinations in order to provide a hassle-free travelling experience.”
Book it: A seven-night sailing from Dubai starts from £999pp including flights. The excursion costs £139pp and is commissionable to agents.