We hop aboard the city's best floating restaurants
It seems that in Dubai, everyone likes to eat, drink and dance on water (that is, on a boat): many of the top hits on timeoutdubai.com revolve around aquatic-based fun, whether it’s dinner on a ‘BBQ Donut’, the city’s best party boats, or booking a place on old favourite Bateaux Dubai. This was enough of a reason for our shipshape staff to search the seven seas (aka Dubai Creek and the Marina) for some alternative dinner cruises. We discovered ‘On Verra 6’ (the biggest catamaran in Dubai, no less), which launched a series of tours late last month, as well as some of the city’s more traditional cruise offerings. Whichever way you look at it, there’s boatfuls of fun to be had this May.
On Verra 6 The unusual name of this huge catamaran sounds less like a boat and more like an otherwordly science fiction film, but it seems that the unconventional nature of this vessel is in keeping with the livelier and more relaxed alternative it offers to many of Dubai’s other dinner cruises. LY Catamaran, the company that runs On Verra 6, offers several private and open cruise options, including the newly launched Friday parties, each offering a different style of R&R. According to marketing manager Cindy Bekker, the atmosphere on this boat ‘can go from laid-back to one big party.’
On Verra 6 is one of a series of sailing boats that have been doing the rounds around France and the Caribbean for more than 30 years. Built and owned by Claude Kermoal, a respected French shipbuilder, this 25-metre beauty hosts up to 82 guests, and is apparently the biggest catamaran in Dubai. Currently docked amid the wooden dhows at Bur Dubai, there are plans afoot to move it to a more accessible location.
For now, however, tours head out onto the creek, giving guests the chance to take in views of the Palm Deira and The World Islands before heading to the waters around Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Here the party vibe begins and guests are given the chance to take a dip and mingle with the watersports enthusiasts who never fail to take interest in the huge catamaran.
There are various packages on offer – the afternoon cruises on Wednesdays and Saturdays involve a Lebanese buffet-style lunch offering salads, cold mezze and chicken skewers, followed by fresh fruit. The Thursday evening cruises do away with food altogether as the boat transforms into a floating nightclub, complete with DJ booth, dancefloor and private rooms below deck. Finally, the most recent addition to On Verra 6’s event roster is the themed Friday afternoon parties, which promise to continue long into summer. Cruises take place Wed and Sat 12.30pm-6pm (Dhs150 per person, with food); Fri 12.30pm-6pm (Dhs250 per person, with food); Thu 9.30pm-2am (Dhs200 for ladies, Dhs250 for men, Dhs400 for couples). Prices include soft drinks; beverages can be bought separately. Bur Dubai, near British Embassy, www.lycatamaran.com (050 586 9746).
Al Mansour Dhow With the exception of Bateaux Dubai, Al Mansour Dhow is perhaps the city’s best-established dinner dhow cruise. Run by the Radisson Blu Deira Creek, there’s a distinct Arabic flavour to the two-hour cruise – from the Arabic fare served at the buffet (alongside an array of generic ‘international’ fare) to the strumming of the resident oud player. While the food is not quite up to the quality of Bateaux Dubai, it’s decent enough, and the Dhs185 price tag makes it a more affordable way in which to enjoy the views of the creek at night. Dhs185 per person (includes welcome drink; beverages served separately). Daily 8.30pm-10.30pm (board at 8pm). Behind Dubai Chamber of Commerce, near Emirates NBD, Deira Creek (04 205 7033).
Cruises Dubai This budget dinner cruise gives nautically inclined diners the chance to see either Dubai Creek or Dubai Marina by night, as well as offering day cruises (though food is not included in these packages). In the evenings, guests can expect buffet and barbecue options alongside live ‘fusion’ music (aka covers of classic cheesy tunes). Dhs99 (Dubai Creek cruises; food only), Dhs175 (Dubai Marina cruises; food only). Daily 8.30pm-10.30pm (board at 8pm). firstname.lastname@example.org, www.cruisesdubai.net (050 871 7200).
Relax Tours Relax offers one of several Marina-based dinner cruises: while it’s less than half the price of Rikk’s (see right), which is docked nearby, we found it twice as quiet. Entertainment comes in the form of a belly-dancer, while the food is provided by the nearby Lotus Hotel and ranges from beef Stroganoff or grilled John Dory with lemon butter sauce to chicken biryani. At time of going to press, Relax informed us it was revising its packages, so there may well be changes in the near future. Dhs130 per person (walk-in guests). Daily 8.30pm-10.30pm, although times can vary, so call ahead.. Dubai Marina, near Lotus Hotel Apartments (050 924 0550).
Rikk’s Dhow Dinner Cruise Rikk charges a cool Dhs300 for an adequate (though not, by any stretch of the imagination, amazing) all-you-can-eat international buffet dinner, plus live entertainment in the form of a belly dancer and music. Though we balked at the price tag (which includes food and soft drinks; beverages can be bought separately), we were surprised just how popular the tour was, with nearly all the tables taken on a Tuesday night. Meandering up and down the Marina waterway is very pleasant for the first hour, though there’s only so much buffet and belly-dancing you can take before the whole process becomes a tad repetitive. Dhs300. Daily 8.30pm-10.30pm (board at 8pm). Dubai Marina, near Lotus Hotel Apartments. email@example.com, www.rikks.net (04 357 2200).
Aprons & Hammers This crab shack, based in a converted dhow, is garbed with plastic crabs, starfish, lobster baskets and fishing nets to reinforce the seafood theme. Yet the most novel part is the act of eating itself. Guests are given pincers, hammers and (you’ve guessed it) aprons, before tucking into bucketfuls of crab or lobster. Good, messy fun. Prices vary. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort (04 454 7097).
Bateaux Dubai Sightseeing may normally be associated with snatched meals and overpriced tourist fodder, but dinner cruise Bateaux Dubai continues to trump all expectations, offering a relaxed trip along the Creek accompanied by generally delicious cuisine. In recent months, the boat has added a ‘high tea’ option, which includes unlimited tea and coffee and a selection of sandwiches, scones and cakes stacked across three tiers. Compared with the rapid service during dinner, you may find it a battle of wills to get your tea and coffee refills before the scones leave you with an uncomfortably dry mouth – in which case we advice slathering on plenty of the homemade jam. So sophisticated does Bateaux Dubai make sightseeing, even the residents are joining in. Dhs330 (includes welcome drink), Dhs450 (selected house beverages). Al Seef Road, opposite British Embassy, Dubai Creek (04 399 4994).
BBQ Donut Dining on doughnuts is one thing, but dining upon one is another matter altogether, especially when it’s floating on Dubai Creek. Of course, said doughnut isn’t made from deep-fried flour dough (which isn’t renowned for its flotation properties); instead it’s a name given to the doughnut-shaped floating barbecue stations that have recently launched at Dubai Creek Club restaurant The Boardwalk. So what of the food? As a rule, gimmicky dining experiences tend to place an emphasis on style over substance, but this happily was not the case on the doughnut. The wagyu steaks managed to retain their tenderness and flavour in spite of my ham-fisted barbecue skills, and the pre-marinated chicken was smoky and soft. As expected, the fish proved trickier to barbecue because it had a habit of sticking to the grill, while the prawns made a point of falling through the grating into the charcoal below. From Dhs1,200 for six people. The Boardwalk, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000).
The ultimate dinner cruise? On Tuesday May 15, cruiser liner Voyager of the Seas makes her maiden visit to Dubai, and will be one of the biggest boats ever to dock at Port Rashid’s cruise terminal. Onboard, there’s an ice rink, a three-storey dining room, four swimming pools and an array of restaurants including Johnny Rockets (classy). Sadly, Dubaians won’t be able to snoop around, but anyone remotely interested in boats should head down and take a look.