A water taxi in Dubai

Dubai’s popularity as a cruise destination continues to grow, judging by the number of operators that have started to include the city as a port of call since the opening of the Dubai Cruise Terminal in 2010.

Jo Rzymowska, Royal Caribbean’s general manager, says: “Dubai is really starting to boom on the cruising map - more than 325,000 people passed through the Cruise Terminal in 2010 and this is set to increase in 2011.”

Royal Caribbean is one of two cruise lines that now home-port in Dubai, and a seven-night Dubai fly/cruise starts from as little as £987pp (about R11 000) on Brilliance of the Seas.

The ship will also sail a 12-night Dubai and India fly/cruise that calls at Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore, Cochin and Muscat in Oman.

Jo adds: “Brilliance of the Seas is returning to Dubai in November 2011, two months earlier than her season in 2010, due to a really successful response to the Middle East cruises from UK travellers.”

Brilliance of the Seas has 13 decks, and passengers can knock themselves into shape in the state-of-the-art fitness centre before tackling the mini-golf course or scaling the rock-climbing wall.

If relaxing is your thing, head to the health and beauty spa, which features a solarium with a retractable glass roof and cascading waterfalls. There are also five different eating places to choose from, including the mouth-watering Italian restaurant, Portofino.

Costa Cruises also home-ports in Dubai and offers a number of itineraries. The recently launched Costa Favolosa operates a seven- day voyage from Dubai that includes Oman, Fujairah and Abu Dhabi. The ship is equipped with many high-tech luxuries including a “4D cinema” and a Grand Prix simulator.

Unlike many cruise lines, Oceania Cruises operates mid-sized ships that carry no more than 650 passengers. These vessels are able to navigate waters and visit ports inaccessible to larger ships.

Oceania’s Timeless Treasures voyage aboard the luxurious Nautica sails from Athens to Dubai, making calls at Cyprus, Israel, the Suez Canal, Egypt, Jordan, Oman and the UAE. The cruise departs on November 4, 2012, and prices for the 18-day trip start from £1,799pp.

The eWaterways cruise ship Deutschland, which will be the official London Olympic hotel ship in 2012, has four different itineraries that feature Dubai, including a 19-day voyage entitled In Sinbad’s Footsteps, which sets sail on January 6, 2013.

Celebrity Cruises will combine the Middle East and Asia aboard Celebrity Solstice, with its innovative Lawn Club - half-an-acre of lawn on the top deck, and AquaClass staterooms incorporating spa elements and access to the Persian Garden and the Elemis AquaSpa.

MSC Cruises is adding Abu Dhabi and Dubai to its 2011 winter season. A total of 19 eight-day cruises will depart from Abu Dhabi and Dubai between October this year and March 2012 on MSC Lirica, which will be based out there. This will be preceded by the 17-day maiden cruise of Lirica from the Italian port of Genoa to Abu Dhabi.

The opening of the Dubai Cruise Terminal has also led to growth in the cruise-and-stay market. This has, in turn, resulted in the expansion of tourist facilities in neighbouring emirates.

Ras Al Khaimah, with a history that goes back more than 5,000 years, is one of the rising but little-known Gulf stars.

It is proving popular with the cruise-and-stay market, with a number of upmarket beach resorts. It is also within easy striking distance of the Dubai Cruise Terminal. - Daily Mail