To some people, you haven’t really lived in Dubai until you’ve chartered a vessel of some sort. Most people will opt for a dhow, mainly because of the added opportunity to get out of the city for a night and see a bit more of the UAE or Oman. There are also a number of yacht-chartering companies in Dubai, but the notion that it’s extortionately expensive to hire a yacht is probably the reason why this doesn’t feature too frequently on a list of weekend activities.
As it happens, yacht hire doesn’t need to be bank-breaking, particularly if you round up a group that matches the vessel’s capacity, as we discovered before boarding a 48ft Al Shalli boat chartered from the Xclusive Yachts office in Dubai Marina. With a capacity of up to 12 people, and a hire cost of Dhs1,200 per hour on weekdays, it works out at Dhs100 per person per hour. On a Friday, you’ll pay a little more, at Dhs1,400 per hour.
After the obligatory happy snapping in the Dubai Marina Yacht Club harbour in order to send triumphant photos to friends back home, we climb aboard our private boat and make a beeline for the cushioned front deck, where we settle in for the cruise out of the marina. It’s 4.30pm, and the lowering sun casts long shadows across the water as we head out into the Arabian Gulf, cruising along the stretch of sea in front of JBR, heading towards the top of the Palm Jumeirah. As the wind and waves pick up, we clutch our sailors’ hats (for one member of our group, this is no exaggeration), shuffle along the side of the boat and make our way up to the top to avoid the spray. Up here, there is a second set of controls (our captain is inside at the first set), including a radar that shows the depth of the water we’re passing over, as well as offering a glimpse of aquatic life below using a heat sensor.
Cruising past Atlantis and towards the Burj al Arab, we’re treated to a view of some of the city’s best-known landmarks from a perspective we’ve never seen before, then we’re steered around just in time to catch the sun as it drops closer to the water. Watching the entire sunset is immensely satisfying when you’re sitting on a yacht near the edge of the Palm, distracted only when it’s time to wave at a passing boat (though we’d never dream of doing it on a bus, there’s something about boats that compels you to wave like a lunatic at strangers).
Once the sun has sunk beneath the horizon, we continue back towards the mainland, stopping just in front of The Westin where we’re offered the chance to go for a dusk dip, before we slowly return back to the marina to complete our two-hour trip. And for just Dhs200 each, we all agree we couldn’t have picked a more relaxing, satisfying way to round off the weekend. Charter prices with Xclusive Yachts start from Dhs300 per hour for a 22ft rider with a three-passenger capacity, up to Dhs4,300 per hour for a 90ft Majilis catamaran with a 65-person capacity. Minimum two-hour hire. Dubai Marina (04 432 7233)
Al Wasl Cruising and Fishing
Prices start at Dhs600 per hour for a 33ft sports boat accommodating up to eight people, perfect for deep-sea fishing. The most expensive is an 85ft luxury yacht for Dhs3,200 per hour, which can accommodate up to 30 guests (that’s Dhs213 each for two hours).
Deira (04 295 9477).
Marine Concept Yacht Charter
Cruise for a minimum two hours for Dhs1,700 on a 38ft GC Marine Adora, with a group of up to 10 people, or go all out with the enormous 120ft Guy Couach yacht for US$6,000 (Dhs22,000) for a minimum four hours – with fuel excluded – with a capacity for 30 to 35 guests, eight sleeping (that’s Dhs628 each for 35 people). Hire it for a week for US$110,000 (Dhs404,000).
Al Barsha Business Centre (055 960 3030).