Planning A Trip To Dubai? What It’s Like To Sail The Persian Gulf With MSC Cruises

Our Digital Editor Denise Curtin took a trip East last month.

Dubai was always one of those ‘need to visit’ destinations high on my bucket list. Other worldly, oozing glitz and glamour with endless choices of food, endless places to party and dreamy beaches. It checked off everything I could ever want from a holiday and thus was always somewhere I wanted to visit sooner rather than later. But then covid happened and it continued to happen for two years, reducing my travel plans to 5km walks and eventually, a few staycations.

But with travel restrictions lifting last summer and now, all restrictions a thing of the past, I was lucky enough to finally make that trip to Dubai, thanks to a fabulous invite that dropped in my mailbox from MSC Cruises.

At first, I won’t lie, I was surprised to see the words Dubai and cruise in the same email headline. I never imagined Dubai as being a cruising destination, but then again, as a total cruise newb, why was I surprised? I suppose from television, some friends’ advice and Instagram, I saw Dubai as a place you visit when you’ve got the money to splash out on the big hotels, unaware of all the incredible alternative options to see the city, like having a ship as your base. Not only can you use it as a hotel when docked, but you can see more than you could possibly imagine once you set sail, to quote Hannah Montana, it is the best of both worlds.

To experience it for myself, I left Dublin in early March for a four night excursion with MSC Cruises, flying directly from Dublin to Dubai before boarding the MSC Virtuosa at Dubai’s Port Rashid.

My first experience on a cruise, and talk about setting the bar high! Dubai is the perfect warm escape thanks to the sun, sea and and incredible shopping. But getting to experience it by cruise offers you the opportunity to discover and see so much more, as well as creating new friends thanks to the ship’s lovely sense of community.

With 21 bars, 11 restaurants, five pools, a shopping street, spa, gym, incredible kids facilities, and fantastic entertainment for the adults too, the MSC Virtuosa made residing back to the ship every evening as fun as exploring the city, with so much to do and see.

Taking in a mixture of city sights with onboard activities, on the first night of the trip we ventured into downtown Dubai, a short 20 minute taxi ride from the ship, to soak up the nightlife and all the city has to offer at restaurant La Cantine Du Faubourg.


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On the second day we continued our Dubai explorations by heading to the world’s largest waterpark and also getting to experience the beach side to Dubai, at Aquaventure located at Atlantis The Palm.

Food wise, the great thing about cruising is that anytime you’re peckish there’s plenty of grub on the ship and the likes of the buffet and certain restaurants are all included with your package meaning, you eat as much as you want, when you want. From pizza and chips to fresh fruit and salads, as well as varying cuisines and cultures, the choice was endless, which meant it took me many trips to try everything out.

Other nights on the ship, we opted for the more fine dining, heading to the speciality restaurants. The MSC Virtuosa has four and throughout my time onboard I tried two. A steakhouse and a French Vietnamese infusion restaurant. Both of them offered such different food in such different settings, it was in those moments I totally forgot I was actually even on a ship, setting sail for destination number two, Sir Bani Yas.

Sir Bani Yas is like a little slice of heaven, a strip of silky sand for sunbathing, eating and watersports, with huts offering thirst quenching cocktails, it provided the perfect chill day in the midst of a packed itinerary, before continuing the trip on to Abu Dhabi where we ended things before heading back to Dubai and sadly, flying home.

Waking up every morning to see a new view from my balcony was truly something unique, as was travelling while I slept in my comfy double bed and maximising my trip to take in lots of new sights without the regular hassle of public transport or renting a car.

I was a cruise newb, but now, I’m totally converted.

MSC Cruises offer a variety of packages for exploring the Arabian Gulf, with something to suit everyone, taking in lots of incredible destinations from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and Doha.

Now, replacing the MSC Virtuosa for the summer season is the equally exceptional MSC bellissima. The season will be extended and runs from 2nd April until 25th June.

Starting the voyage with an overnight stay giving guests time to enjoy the best of Dubai, whether that’s a visit to the famous Aquaventure water park, Jumeriah ‘s array of beaches or savouring the global cuisines in the downtown restaurants. Set sail and take in in the sunset views of Sir Bani Yas Island or for the more adventurous a Kayaking experience through the mangroves.

Visit the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, only 10 minutes away from the port as you are transported to a world of art collections through the ages, before sailing to Doha for an overnight stay, finishing the trip by heading back to the cosmopolitan city of Dubai for a night’s stay on land.

Cruise & Fly for €1,199 per person, cruise only for €599 for a 7-night cruise. To book visit or call 1800 937137 and read more on the MSC Bellissima HERE.


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