You might have heard a lot about the Suez Canal this year as it was in the news for an unusual reason. In March one of the world’s largest container ships, The Ever Given, ran aground diagonally across the canal amid the high winds of a dust storm. Traffic in both directions was blocked, holding up about $10 billion in global trade each day. Crews worked around the clock to free it and eventually, after six long days, it was re-floated, but not before it became the punchline to every joke on late night television and social media.
When we recently announced we would be offering a tour that transited the Suez Canal, the Dubai & Suez Canal Cruise on Norwegian Jade, I didn’t know much about what it would be like to visit as a tourist. I knew a little bit about the Canal’s important role in history but had never considered it as a cruise route. So, I set off to learn a bit more about what makes this cruise so unique.
One of the most unique benefits of a Suez Canal cruise is that its position straddling Asia, Africa, and Europe allows you to visit a diverse list of ports in a single trip. Most Suez Canal itineraries begin in Dubai and finish in Italy or Greece (or vice versa). This route provides the opportunity to visit a wide array of historical and fascinating sites along the way.
Here are just a few of the things you can see and do aboard a Suez Canal Cruise:
1. See where history meets modernity in Dubai
You’ll likely board (or disembark) your cruise in Dubai, a stunning city, sometimes compared to the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz because of its spectacular modern architecture and incredible skyscrapers. Visit the Palm Jumeirah, the world’s largest manmade island or take in the panoramic view of city, desert, and ocean from the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Visit the Burj Al Arab, a spectacular hotel that looks like curved sails and has become the symbol of Dubai. If shopping is more your speed, you can stroll through the colourful Souk Madinat Jumeirah, or visit the world’s largest shopping mall.
2. Take in the wonders of Abu Dhabi
Another popular stop is Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates’ other great city. Located on an island in the Persian Gulf it has over 1.7 million residents. During your visit, you can get a thrill at the iconic Ferrari World theme park, tour a reconstructed traditional oasis village at the Heritage Village, or see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a palatial architectural wonder that is one of the world’s largest mosques.
3. Visit the birthplace of the Sultan in Salalah, Oman
The city of Salalah was founded in the 13th century, prospered from the incense trade, and is now the largest sea port in the Arab Peninsula. Don’t miss the impressive Sultan Qaboos Mosque or the Al Husn Palace, one of the homes of former Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Then, stroll through the old Haffahsouk, famous for the sale of frankincense and other Dhofari traditional souvenirs.
4. See ‘the Pink City’ of Petra in Jordan
Our cruise docks in Aqaba, Jordan and includes an excursion to Petra. The legacy of the Nabateans, an industrious Arab people who lived 2,000 years ago, Petra is known as ‘the pink city’ and is one of the ‘new seven wonders of the world.’ You approach through a cool, narrow, one-kilometre gorge which suddenly opens into a natural square, dominated by Petra’s most famous monument shining in the dazzling sun, the Treasury. There are over 800 individual monuments here including coloured tombs, baths, funerary halls, colonnaded streets, and a theatre.
5. Experience the mysteries of ancient Egypt
One of the major highlights of a Suez Canal cruise is visiting the historical treasures of Egypt. Visit the city of Luxor, built on and around the ancient city of Thebes, known as the world’s largest open-air museum. Across the River Nile are the monuments, temples, and tombs of the west bank Necropolis, which includes the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens. Altogether this area is one of the most famous archeological sites in the world and is on almost every traveller’s bucket list.
6. Take in the out-of-this-world scenery during the canal transit
Experience the illusion of sailing through oceans of desert sand as you transit the canal itself. On the west side is the The Nile Delta dotted with cities and villages. In contrast, the Sinai Peninsula on the east is an expanse of vast desert. When you enter the southern portion of the canal you’ll be treated to views of the seaport city of Suez, with ornate mosques, gardens, and the towering Suez Canal bridge that connects Africa and Asia. Halfway through the canal, you’ll sail by Ismailia with it’s Coptic Church and colonial-era buildings. Finally, as you exit the northern portion of the canal, you’ll pass Port Said, a cosmopolitan port city with 19th-century villas, lush public gardens, sandy-hued mosques, and a famous octagonal lighthouse.
7. Explore the holy sites of Israel
From the cruise ports at Ashdod and Haifa it’s a short journey to some of the most famous holy sites in the world. Visit the beautiful walled city of. Walk along Via Dolorosa, the cobbled road where Jesus carried his cross to his crucifixion and then enter the Jewish Quarter to take in the wonder of the Western Wall or Wailing Wall which is the most sacred Jewish site in Jerusalem. You can also visit the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, honoured as Jesus’ birth site since the 2nd century. See the Basilica of the Annunciation, the largest Christian Church in the Middle East, or Cana, the place where Jesus changed water into wine. Other highlights include the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha, where Jesus is believed to have performed his miracle of the loaves and fishes.
8. Experience the authentic Mediterranean in Cyprus
The port of Limassol provides the opportunity to visit the the tiny country of Cyprus, best known for its beautiful beaches, bright blue seas, ancient ruins, and delicious cuisine. Visit one of the numerous archaeological sites, including the ancient city of Curium, with its Greco-Roman amphitheatre, or Kolossi Castle, the birthplace of the world’s oldest wine.
9. Get a taste of island life in Greece
Suez Canal Cruise itineraries often feature ports in the Greek Islands on route to Athens. One likely port is the most easterly of the Greek islands, Rhodes, which boasts a rich historical past and one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe.
10. Visit the ancient sites of Athens
Once you arrive in Athens and bid farewell to your ship, make time to explore the amazing archeological sites the city has to offer. The most famous symbol of ancient Greece is the Acropolis which stands on a hilltop in the centre of the city. Other must-see historical monuments include the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Hadrian’s Arch, and the Panathenean Stadium, site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
Join us on a Suez Canal cruise in 2022
If this itinerary sound interesting to you, join us as we cruise aboard the Norwegian Jade in February 2022!
DUBAI & SUEZ CANAL CRUISE February 8, 2022 – 28 Days
The ancient lands of Arabia, Egypt, the Middle East, and eastern Mediterranean are a world of wonders — a window to a long past age of extravagance, massive wealth, and ample acts of tribute. This cruise from Dubai to Athens is a rare opportunity to see many highlights of this storied region from the convenience of a ship. Only a few cruises transit the Suez Canal, the engineering marvel of the 1860s that shortened the trip from Europe to the Indian Ocean by 8,900 km. Other highlights include Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest building; the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, an Arabian Desert safari, Petra, Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings, the Biblical sites of Israel, the islands of Cyprus and Rhodes, and Greek antiquities in Athens and Delphi. So many renowned places on one tour!
If you’d like to learn even more about this tour, we recently hosted a webinar with Fatima DaSilva from Norwegian Cruise Line. The webinar was recorded and can be viewed here.