Sunsets, Souks and Sunshine awaited me in the Middle East on what was going to, no doubt, be the trip of a lifetime. Being completely familiar with travelling westbound from Ireland, flying to Dubai for a cruise was completely out of my comfort zone.
I didn’t know the currency, I didn’t know the language, I knew little of the culture and I didn’t even know its time difference compared to my home Ireland. It was as Disney quoted, A Whole New World to me and I was nervous, but oh so excited.
Dublin to Dubai – Direct with Emirates Airlines
We flew direct from Dublin with Emirates the night before our cruise. The flight was direct and it was a fantastic experience. Friendly cabin crew, delicious food, comfortable economy seats and plenty of movies and tv shows to choose from. I was really impressed with Emirates and would happily fly long-haul with them again.
After our 7 hour flight from Dublin, we landed in Dubai International Airport and it was like we had arrived into a palace! Grand, spotlessly clean and opulent, it was a very good first impression of Dubai. One thing to note though, you aren’t allowed to take photos in the airport which I was kindly advised as I tried to take some aircraft shots! Oops!
Once we got our bags, it was straight to the ship and at 8am in the morning, I was feeling tired from the journey. The cruise port was a quick 15 minutes from the airport and the MSC Fantasia stood tall among the other cruise lines docked. I knew then, I was in for a treat.
MSC Fantasia – Ship Highlights
Boarding was quick and easy and in true MSC Cruises style, the MSC Fantasia was stunning. With relaxing lounges, great dining and fabulous cabins – I was impressed.
We had a balcony cabin on deck 13, mid ship. It was the perfect location as every area of the ship was so easy to access. The buffet and pool deck were just one deck up and the lobby, dining options, spa and theatre were also easily reached from our location.
Balcony Cabin – MSC Fantasia – Deck 13
I loved my cabins interior. It was chic, modern and so clean. We had twin beds in the room and a couch / living area and it was all very roomy for a cruise ship. I was also impressed with the size of the bathroom – it was quite large – even compared to the one I had on Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship (you can reach my review on Harmony of the Seas here). The only thing I was let down by in the cabin was that it had a shower curtain as opposed to glass doors. Shower curtains are not my cup of tea!
Top 18 – Luxury Sun Deck
Top 18 was my favourite area of the ship. Away from the hustle and bustle of the pool deck, you guessed it – on the 18th deck, this adult only area was a treat. It was quiet, had fantastic sunlight and a small bar on hand. Whenever we had free time, I spent it up here relaxing in the sun and it was just perfect. Its much quieter than the main pool deck, so if you’re not into a busy environment by a pool, this is perfect. There is also cabanas you can rent and a jacuzzi to take a dip, while you enjoy the sun. Top 18 comes at a small extra daily charge (I think it was around €15-20) and its so worth it in my opinion. Its a fabulous area!
Other on-board highlights – MSC Fantasia:
- The dining on board, although there wasn’t many restaurants to choose from was really great quality and each restaurant we attended had a fabulous ambiance. I also found 90% of the staff fantastic.
- The Manhattan Bar was where we went after dinner and although there was dozens of bars on board, this one was always so lively! People would be up dancing and it was just a fantastic bar to relax and enjoy.
- The shopping on board the Fantasia was incredible, which I had known from a past cruise on the MSC Poesia. They had many great brands to choose from, from across perfume, handbags, clothes, gifts, jewellery and more.
- The sunrises and sunsets were my favourite times of the day and I used to get up around 6am every morning to watch the sunrise and to take a walk around the deck. Its a fabulous way to start the day and one of my favourite things to do on a cruise.
- I also loved that when you leave a port of call, MSC blast the song ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ across the ships speakers. Its very moving and brought a tear to my eye each time it was played.
Arabian Cruise – Ports of Call Highlights
I could definitely do a whole other series of posts on the ports of call we visited and what there is to do, so for now, I’ll just touch on my highlights.
Abu Dhabi: Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque
In Abu Dhabi, we took a taxi from the cruise to the Sheik Zayed Mosque and it was the most stunning place I have ever been. Once there, we were dressed in the traditional burkas as women are not allowed to enter the mosque without being covered head to toe, including hair.
We did a free walking tour of the mosque and it was just incredible to learn about the Muslim religion and the meaning behind the beautiful creation of which we were walking around. This is a must for anyone in Abu Dhabi.
Muscat, Oman – Souks
My god did I love the Souks of Arabia! I didn’t know what to expect with the souks and I was definitely picturing them as per Sex and the City 2! But the souks were truly incredible. They had endless goods including scarves, trinkets, dresses, shoes, bags, lanterns. The list just goes on. I love scarves and I purchased 7 of them on my trip. Souks are all about haggling so don’t be afraid to do this with the stall owners. They also take any currency you have and don’t worry – they are incredible safe – as is the whole of the UAE and Oman.
Khasab, Oman – Arabian Fjords
The highlight of my cruise was no doubt our traditional dhow boat cruise to the Arabian Fjords. I love nature and vast scenery and this was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and to think I never knew it existed! Crystal clear waters meets vast mountains and cliffs and as you sail through the fjords you’re joined by wild dolphins! It was just magical. You also get to swim and the water is incredible. We booked this excursion through MSC Cruises and I couldn’t recommend it enough – a must do!
Dubai – Old Dubai
Dubai is stunning. There’s no doubt about it and I was truly blown away by how futuristic and traditional it was, all in one. As part of an excursion we did with Arabian Adventures (which are owned by Emirates), we visited Old Dubai and it took us back just a couple of years ago. Its crazy to think how far the city has come in just 25 years but even so, its still a humbling place.
Dubai – New Dubai
No trip to Dubai would be complete without visiting the Burj Khalfia, the Atlantis Resort and the incredible Dubai Mall and in our short day there, we took it all in! If you have time on your visit, be sure to go up the Burj Khalfia, the tallest building in the world, to experience the most amazing views. We didn’t get to do this and I regret that. I also imagine the fountains would be best seen from up here as the crowds were so bad – I couldn’t see them at all 🙁 If you’re going to watch the fountains from ground level, arrive 15 minutes before show time to get a good spot.
Top Tips / Advice for an Arabian Cruise with MSC Cruises
- The drinks package is a must so make sure you pre-purchase this as its more expensive on board. I don’t drink alcohol and it was still great value.
- Don’t forget that your gratuities will be added onto your cabin at the end of your cruise so be sure to budget for that.
- The ship is cashless and so you will charge everything to your room with your room key. You may this all at the end.
- Be cautious of taxi drivers in the UAE, the will rip you off if they can. They will also try to sell you ‘taxi tours’ of the city you’re in. Remain strong and don’t let them rip you off.
- Bring cardigans and scarves and carry them in your handbag when in port, you never know when you’ll be asked to cover up.
- Check out the MSC shore excursions before you travel and book as many as you can with them because the ones we did were truly fantastic. So well organised and great value too.
- Do a desert dune safari excursion – the one thing I regret that we didn’t get to do 🙁 Its meant to be AMAZING! You can do these from Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
- Its Euros on board the ship, even though you’re not in Europe. You will also need a European or US plug adaptor.
- Dubai is very expensive and I recommend having plenty of spending money if you’re going to explore the city.
To conclude on what was the trip of a lifetime, I cannot recommend a cruise from Dubai with MSC Cruises enough. It was an amazing experience and I’m so thankful that I got to do it as part of my job. How blessed am I. <3 To conclude, I will share some more snaps with you all and watch this space for my travel vlog, coming soon!
Have I tickled your fancy to cruise? Tell me in the comments below!