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The lure of Dubai is irresistible, from its glittering mega-skyscrapers to its traditional Islamic roots. This enigmatic destination is recognized worldwide as a city pointed full throttle toward the future. Dubai is a must-experience city while on an India cruise. Dubai’s most iconic sights include the 160-story Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, and the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, a luxury resort which happens to be shaped like a boat’s sail.
Dubai is unlike any other place in the world, filled with luxe shopping and high-end boutiques, unique souqs (markets) scattered all over the city, and cultural institutions like the Dubai Museum. While you’re stopped on a Dubai cruise, you’re meant to live it up on unforgettable excursions like a helicopter tour of the city or a camel ride at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Not even differences in climate can stop Dubai from bringing you every experience you crave. There’s even an indoor skiing experience and the massive Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.
Take an afternoon to explore history at the Dubai Museum, located within the Al Fahidi Fort, which is the oldest building in Dubai. Each gallery and exhibit showcases a recreation of life and society in Dubai from hundreds of years ago. It’s a must-do for history buffs, or for those who want to learn more about Dubai’s history as a global power.
If you’re looking to visit a traditional Islamic mosque, head to Jumeirah Mosque, which is open to non-Muslims as well as Muslims. This landmark mosque stands out with clean white stone. Take a 75-minute guided tour of the mosque to learn about life and traditions of the mosque.
When you cruise Dubai, take a day to explore the three man-made Palm Islands, called Palm Jumeirah, Deira Island, and Palm Jebel Ali, where families and solo travelers alike can enjoy the beach resorts, swim, snorkel, and dive. Waterparks and slides make it easy to cool off on a hot day, and you can even swim with dolphins on the islands.
Don’t miss this classic local landmark, the ornate Dubai Fountain. Catch a choreographed performance of lights and music in the center of downtown. It’s also the largest fountain system in the world.
Over 1,000 shops call Dubai Mall home, so you could easily spend days here and still not see it all. From jewelry to luxe clothing items and a large food court for when you get hungry, the Dubai Mall lives up to its status as the 2nd largest mall in the world. Plus, you’ll find the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and the Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink located within the mall, which makes this a perfect afternoon excursion for families and those who want to stay indoors on a sweltering Dubai day.
The Burj Khalifa clocks in as the tallest skyscraper in the world, and in person it’s an immense sight. Purchase tickets for the incredible observation decks on the 124th or 148th floors, where you can take in a panoramic skyline of Dubai.
Thrill seekers must head out on a desert safari while in Dubai. Ride through the red dunes on a car or bike or go camel riding in the desert. Or try sandboarding on the vast sands. Spend the night at a Bedouin camp and enjoy the desert and the traditional Bedouin setting in style on a shore excursion.
Wreck diving is popular in Dubai, where remnants of shipwrecks litter the ocean floor. Divers will love Dubai’s adventurous seascape even though it doesn’t have active coral reefs. Cool off on a hot day with a dive or a swim on the Persian Gulf at Jumeirah Beach.
Afternoon tea is a huge part of the culture in Dubai. Stop in for high tea at the Skyview Bar at the top of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, where you can sip tea and enjoy fresh pastries while you watch the sun set over the skyline. Other dishes readily available on menus here include shawarma and falafel-based dishes. Locals regularly eat fresh seafood catches as well as lamb and mutton. Hummus is also a staple in the area. When you cruise Dubai, try another Emirati delicacy, al harees, which is a mix of wheat and meat with a porridge-like texture.
On cruises to Dubai, you’ll quickly discover that the history of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is rich, varied, and experiencing its very own renaissance. Humans have been living in the area that is now Dubai for thousands of years, but Dubai didn’t gain its cultural and economic prominence until the 18th and 19th centuries, when the city became the first port opening the area to trade. In the 1950s, oil was discovered and forever changed Dubai’s economy and its role in the global sphere. Since then, Dubai has steadily grown, becoming one of the most glamorous cities in history. Culturally, Dubai is greatly influenced by Islam, and during Ramadan, many restaurants and shops close to adhere to the holiday. Be sure to check to see if your Dubai cruise coincides with Ramadan during your time there.
Your Dubai cruise ship’s port of call is the Port of Rashid, which is equipped with state-of-the-art amenities like free wifi, currency exchange, a tourism information area, and plenty of souvenirs for you to bring back home when you return to the ship. You’ll see the Dubai skyline when you arrive at the Port of Rashid, and can depart the cruise port from a taxi or through a complimentary shuttle when you’re heading out on a shore excursion.
As the UAE’s most populated city, Dubai has no shortage of people buzzing around, trying to get from point A to point B. Dubai has an extensive metro and bus system that you can access by getting a Nol Card. You can simply buy a day pass while you’re stopped on cruises to Dubai. The taxi network in Dubai is enormous, too. Taxis have a different colored roof than other cars to signal what is a taxi and what isn’t. They’re also metered to make sure you get a decent fare. You can hail a taxi from the cruise port, but be sure to talk with your driver if you’re interested in booking a multi-stop ride or tour with them.
Dubai is a shopper’s paradise, ranging from the high end to bargain markets for every type of shopper. The Dubai Mall is the second largest mall in the world, so it’s easy to lose track of time perusing over 1,200 shops featuring clothing, antiques, and fine jewelry. Of course, Dubai’s revitalized downtown contains a variety of souks and marketplaces where you can purchase gold, spices, jewelry, handmade goods, and more.
Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates and the official currency there is called the Dirham (Dhs). You can haggle and bargain in souqs, or outdoor markets, but prices in department stores and boutiques tend to be fixed. Tipping is 10-15% of your surcharge at restaurants and bars, and you can round up to the nearest Dirham note when you’re tipping your taxi driver.