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Cruises to Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi (Photo:ventdusud/Shutterstock)

About Abu Dhabi

The capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the largest and wealthiest of the nation's seven emirates. Covering 80 percent of the land mass of the UAE, the emirate of Abu Dhabi is divided into three parts: the city of Abu Dhabi, the historic Al Ain region centered on a large oasis on an old camel caravan route and Al Gharbia, part of the world's largest uninterrupted sand desert with towering dunes spreading across the Arabian Peninsula.

The cruise port lies in the central city of Abu Dhabi, a rapidly growing cosmopolitan metropolis where glittering skyscrapers pierce the sky and five-star resorts spread across natural islands where you'll find golf courses, beaches, marinas, upscale malls, a Formula One race car track, amusement areas and cultural institutions. 

Compared with Dubai, the nation's playground and largest city 90 minutes to the north, Abu Dhabi is more family oriented and, with a population consisting of a higher number of native Emiratis, more traditional in its values. The head of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi is also president of the UAE, and the city is the seat of the national government and a financial center. 

Abu Dhabi's extreme wealth stems from oil, discovered in 1958. The UAE was formed in 1971 when the head of Abu Dhabi's ruling family, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, persuaded his fellow emirs to form the union and became its first president. Transformation has been swift. Abu Dhabi put its oil money into the development of a modern infrastructure, health care, education, arts and culture. Abu Dhabi grew into a modern, Westernized civilization in a little more than a generation, evolving from a society of fishing villages along the coast and Bedouins living a nomadic life in the desert. Still, you'll find it preserves its Arabian traditions and Bedouin hospitality. It is diversifying its stake in oil by developing other industries, including tourism, and is warm and welcoming to visitors. 

Abu Dhabi's culture is rooted in Islam, but all faiths are respected and protected by the constitution. The dress code is liberal, and Western wear is common, though native Emiratis often choose to wear their national dress.

--By Claire Volkman, Cruise Critic contributor

  • Why go to Abu Dhabi?

  • Abu Dhabi Cruise Port Facilities?

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Cruise Critic Favorite
Queen Mary 2 (QM2)
Queen Mary 2 (QM2)

60 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

1,200 Reviews
Leaving:Southampton
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
Jan 11, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Queen Mary 2 (QM2)
Queen Mary 2 (QM2)

102 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Southampton
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
Jan 11, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Jade
Norwegian Jade

18 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Norwegian Jade
Norwegian Jade

19 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Athens
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 13, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Nachi Cocom Beach Club

18 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Athens
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Nov 15, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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18 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Cape Town
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Jan 26, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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30 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
Jan 3, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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117 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:New York
Cruise Line:Cunard Line
Jan 3, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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19 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

50 Reviews
Leaving:Genoa
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Nov 7, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

13 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Crystal Cruises
Oct 27, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Dec 30, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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18 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Genoa
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Nov 28, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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17 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Rome
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Nov 29, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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17 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Rome
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Nov 8, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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6 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Nov 28, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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18 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:MSC Cruises
Mar 25, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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19 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Genoa
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Nov 28, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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19 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Mar 19, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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19 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Mar 18, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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22 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Mar 18, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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10 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Dec 28, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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20 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Genoa
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Nov 28, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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21 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Barcelona
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Nov 26, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Dec 16, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Abu DhabiDetails

Leaving:Dubai
Cruise Line:Costa Cruises
Mar 10, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Why go to Abu Dhabi?

Pros:

Port is conveniently located near the city center's glimmering skyscrapers and luxury resorts

Cons:

Most nearby beaches are private, with paid membership required, and bars are only found within hotels

Bottom Line:

A modern hub that has retained its Bedouin culture with colorful souks, mosques and museums

Abu Dhabi Cruise Port Facilities?

The Zayed cruise port terminal, which is almost brand-new, offers a few souvenir shops and restaurants if you find yourself stuck there in between excursions. There are shops selling hand-knit scarves, trinkets (many of which aren't made in the UAE) and small coffee shops selling savory and sweet dates and the infamous Arabian tea.

The terminal also offers a check-in counter for Etihad Airways, currency exchange, ATMs, a free shopping shuttle service, a kids play area and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Located right on the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi is one of the easiest cities to explore while in port. Zayed Port, the main cruise ship docking point, allows for super easy exploration. Both the Big Bus and taxis are lined up all day -- which transport guests to and from Abu Dhabi's biggest and most popular sights.

Good to Know?

Abu Dhabi is one of the safest places to travel for just about anyone, from solo female travelers to families and couples. However, there are things to note if you're a female -- you need to wear clothing that covers your shoulders and your legs (from the knees) when you're out in public. Although you're still able to walk around comfortably if you don't, its respectful to dress appropriately, according to local customs, in shopping malls, hotels, resorts and in the city. You do, though, need to make sure you're fully covered at the Sheik Zayed Mosque -- as they won't let you in otherwise. If you're dining out or going to beach clubs or nightclubs, it's recommended to cover your shoulders to and from the venue. To make sure you're always prepared, keep a pashmina or a sweater with you at all times. It's a good idea to keep a shawl with you at all times, as it can be cold in many air-conditioned venues. It's also important to note that PDA (or public displays of affection) are not welcomed or permitted in Abu Dhabi.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Abu Dhabi is not a walkable city and it's designed for driving. With most attractions away from the city center (like Yas Island and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque), it's impossible to get around without a car hire, taxi or a Big Bus ticket. However, if you're downtown, you can walk to explore the towering skyscrapers and shops that are clustered in the center.

By Bus: Always parked outside of the Zayed cruise terminal is the Big Bus, an international brand that is known the world over for transporting passengers around cities. The price is reasonable and will take you to and from some of Abu Dhabi's most popular landmarks, like the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, through Yas Island or around the downtown area. It's a little touristy, but riding on the upper level will give you epic views of the city as you drive around (make sure you bring your camera!) Plus, you can choose from two routes -- the city route or the one that takes you around Yas Island.

By Taxi: Taxis tend to be inexpensive and you can find them almost everywhere in Abu Dhabi, especially around the major landmarks. If you don't have time to wait on the Big Bus, taxis are often waiting outside of the port to take you to and from the city's biggest landmarks. With vast distances between some landmarks, be wary of costs escalating, though, and always get into a cab with a clear approximation of how much the ride will cost you. Also, only get into registered taxis (you'll see their license, photo and a number to call on the back of their seats).

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Abu Dhabi and Dubai use the same currency -- the dirham. Whether in the terminal or around town, there are ample banks and ATMs that can exchange foreign currency into dirhams, or can dispense the local currency. For up-to-date currency exchange rates, check www.xe.com.

Language?

Like all of the Middle East, the primary language of Abu Dhabi is Arabic. However, because the city is so multicultural and has a huge expat community, nearly everyone -- from taxi drivers to restaurant owners to shop purveyors ---speaks at least basic English. In addition, almost every single tour operator will provide English speakers with an English guide.


Abu Dhabi Cruise Reviews
We stayed two days in Abu Dhabi. The first day we took the free shuttle to the World Trade Centre in the centre of Abu Dhabi, then walked to the Heritage village and flag ( a long walk ) and had lunch nearby before... Read More
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jons1300
Not as good overall as Dubai and needs a few years to mature. The Corniche beach area was roped off? The Grand Mosque is a must-see. The Emirate wishes to keep Abu Dhabi more in line with Arabic tradition that Dubai... Read More
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jjessie
A great town to tour. Walking the Corniche is a wonderful way to enjoy a day. Previously visited Al Ain via tour, which we highly recommend.... Read More
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SkyeFlyer
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is spectacular and well worth a visit. Unusually, it is open to visitors, entry is free and it can be reached using the number 44 bus. Allow plenty of time and dress appropriately.... Read More
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Sussex Duo

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