Back to main site

Explore the enchanting Arabian Gulf


Top 10 highlights and things to do on our brand-new Arabian Gulf fly-cruise holidays

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

In 2019, you can join Oceana in Dubai for an exhilarating 10-night adventure featuring six iconic destinations. In the United Arab Emirates, you’ll stay overnight in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, allowing you plenty of time to take in these two dazzling cities. Stops at Sir Bani Yas Island (UAE), Manama (Bahrain), Khasab (Oman) and Muscat (Oman) offer yet more historic and cultural riches, as well as dramatic natural scenery.


With a flight time of only eight hours, it’s the perfect way to get your winter sun while exploring an exciting new region. Here’s our top 10 to help get you started.


1. Downtown Dubai is where it’s all happening – the vibrant development is full of hotels, nightclubs, designer shops, fine-dining restaurants and cafés. Here’s where you’ll find the mighty Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper with a viewing gallery on the 148th floor, and the magnificent Dubai Opera, a performing arts centre that opened just last year. If you’d prefer not to walk, save your energy and hop aboard the red-and-gold double-decker Dubai Trolley.


2. For an overview of Abu Dhabi, catch a seaplane from Yas Island for a 20-minute flight. Look out for the busy port of Mina Zayed and the distinctive red roof of Ferrari World amusement park, which boasts the world’s fastest roller coaster. You might also spot Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, its minarets and bulging white domes evocative of fairy-tale castles.


3. In Muscat, swing by the Royal Opera House. The architectural and cultural triumph was built in 2011 and has already greatly contributed to the country’s soaring tourist numbers. Hidden away there is Fauchon Café, which presents a visual and culinary feast like no other: expect pop art on the walls and excellent food on the menu.


4. The Dubai Mall is the kind of destination that’s hard to leave. It’s too big to cover in a day so take the golf-cart ‘taxis’ available on each floor. Don’t forget to stop at one of the Al Nassma kiosks in the mall and buy some camel-milk chocolate, while outside the mall you’ll find the famous musical dancing fountains, which cover an area the size of two football pitches.


5. Because Sir Bani Yas is largely undeveloped, the wildlife roams free on 1,400 hectares of cordoned-off land. In the morning, set out on a safari to spot Arabian oryx, deer, reticulated giraffes, hyenas and ostriches, and the reserve’s most alluring occupants: cheetahs.

Jeeps driving in the desert in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

A 4WD desert safari

6. Perhaps the most talked-about attraction in Bahrain is the 400-year-old Tree of Life. Located in the middle of the desert, where temperatures soar above 50 degrees Centigrade, how it survives remains a mystery to scientists. It’s visited by more than 50,000 tourists every year, and is worth the 30km drive out of Manama.


7. Go kayaking among the thick vegetation that faces Abu Dhabi’s Eastern Mangroves Promenade. It’s a serene outdoor activity, not least for the abundant birdlife, dolphins and turtles you’ll encounter as you paddle along.


8. Khasab sits at the very tip of Oman’s Musandam peninsula and is a great place to take a trip on a dhow (fishing boat). The vessel will navigate around Khor ash Sham, the biggest fjord, which is broken by sandy coves and atmospheric fishing villages. It’s also a great place to snorkel, as the clean waters are transparent as glass and the fish are delightfully indifferent to intruders.


9. Don’t miss the gold souq in Deira, Dubai’s commercial district. Narrow lanes are lined with hundreds of jewellery stores – an estimated 10 tons of gold is present in the souq at any given time. If you’re after a bargain then get your haggling head on. Be resolute but courteous, and don’t forget to say shukran (thank you) once you’ve struck a deal.


10. During your overnight stay in Abu Dhabi, head out of the city for a night desert safari. Massive 4WDs take visitors deep into the sand dunes for a Middle Eastern campfire barbecue dinner of roast camel and goat biryani, sometimes with belly-dancing and fire-eating performances.


Some of these activities will be available as organised shore excursions that you can book on board your ship, or ahead of your cruise using Cruise Personaliser.


Find out more and book your Arabian Gulf fly-cruise >


About the author

Christine Iyer enjoyed an idyllic childhood among the forts, mountains and beaches of Muscat. A journalist who has lived in Mumbai and Bangkok, she returned to the Middle East 12 years ago as a features writer for the Oman Tribune daily in Muscat. She currently lives in Abu Dhabi, where she was a writer and editor of the daily features section at The National, the region’s leading newspaper.