If you still imagine a cruise holiday to look like 1970s American hit show The Love Boat, as you don a sequinned dress or shiny suit for dinners at the Captain’s table, then we can safely say that these days, you’re way off the mark.
More than 25 million passengers are expected to sail this year and the fastest-growing portion of cruisers are young families in search of fun, adventure and the chance to travel – without the logistical stress of navigating themselves. And the best bit for families here in the UAE is that you can dip your toes in and set sail on the high sea from right here in Dubai, seeing the Arabian Gulf as you’ve never before.
The MCS Splendida, one of MSC Cruises’ largest modern ships, will be deployed in the Emirates from December, touring the coastline over seven nights of culture, sightseeing, leisure activities and, of course, relaxation, as it docks in Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Khor al Fakkan, before arriving back at the port of Dubai.
Cruise Master Middle East’s head of sales and marketing, Lyndon Mendonca, explains the increasing attraction for families with small children. “Once on board, guests will be able to enjoy a diverse choice of sports and entertainment facilities with dedicated clubs for kids, segmented by age group, and activities organised to cater for all interests, every day.
“These include sports programmes, interactive kids’ cooking classes designed with Michelin-starred chef, Carlo Cracco, and the hugely popular Kelly & Kloe activities and web series, which follow the story of two young girls and their imaginary adventures on board an MSC cruise ship, complete with magic, videogames, movies and dances with endless costume changes, to really bring the cruise experience to life for the littlest passengers.
He adds: “Then there’s the onboard tennis and basketball courts, a mini-golf course, a jogging track and gym, as well as an aqua park complex, four swimming pools, a Formula 1 simulator and 4D cinema.”
Okay, we’re starting to see his point. Did we also mention the clever collaboration with LEGO (the LEGO Experience) which means a whole day on every cruise is dedicated to fun, block-building-based activities? Plus there’s the brand-new LEGO Room for children aged three to 11, offering access to those addictively popular multicoloured bricks for the entire duration of your trip. We’re sold!
Little sailors will also be able to enjoy the very latest in gaming technology, including the PlayStation VR, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, 3D printers and HP Sprout (an incredibly cool instant printer technology also featured on our shopping page page 62) meaning there is literally no excuse for anyone to be bored – or even leave the ship at all, if we’re honest.
But a cruise wouldn’t be a cruise without the port to port sightseeing now, would it?
And when do you ever actually get to be proper tourists in your home country?
Sir Bani Yas Island is the first stop-off and you will be treated to a full-day excursion on this stunningly beautiful 1.5-mile-long stretch of land just off the southwest coast of Abu Dhabi, where you can either relax and enjoy the beach and ocean or choose from several activities, such as exploring the island on a Jeep safari, taking in the sights of the extensive nature reserve that occupies more than half of this natural island.
The Omani capital of Muscat is considered by many to be a real jewel in the Arabian crown, and the stopover here will give passengers the chance to wander the two-mile waterfront corniche, seeing local fishermen trading their day’s netted haul and visiting ancient forts carved into the rocky hillside. There’s a vibrant, bustling souk where you can pick up authentic essential oils sourced from the original home of the Frankincense tree down in the south of the country (a genuinely exciting souvenier) and also the chance to snap endless photos of the truly breathtaking harbour skyline, dotted with minarets and wind towers – a world away from the familiar skyscrapers of the UAE.
Still not convinced? Perhaps the fact that this particular ship offers the award-winning MSC Yacht Club Experience – a ship-within-a-ship concept offering 71 butler-serviced suites (the only such service available on a cruise ship in the region) – might just swing it for you. This obviously comes at a price, but if you’re saving yourselves the cost of a flight to the Caribbean to start your cruise, this could arguably be well within budget…
See you portside!
From Dhs247 per person, per night. Departs from the Cruise Terminal, Port Rashid, Dubai, every Friday and Saturday from December 2017 to March 2018. www.cruisemaster-me.com (04 299 9223).