From enchanting architecture to some of the world's most iconic landmarks (think Egypt's pyramids and Jordan's lost city of Petra), the Middle East can satiate any appetite for history and culture.
While unrest in parts of the region might deter some from the Middle East altogether, areas such as the Arabian Gulf and Egypt's Nile River, which have been seeing cruise ships for years, remain safer to visit and continue to grow in popularity. Cruise lines routinely work with local governments, conducting security assessments to keep these ports on the map.
While history and culture prevail as main attractions, cruisers also can enjoy beaches, golf courses and adventures that span anywhere from desert treks to birdwatching and scuba diving.
Many of these ports also are home to five-star resorts to which cruisers can get a day pass or visit for lunch. Shopping abounds in all ports, in either high-class malls or smaller souks.
Specific tours might include whale- and dolphin-watching in Oman, a visit to Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World theme park, a desert safari outside Dubai's city limits or a walking tour of Jordan's ancient city of Petra via the Aqaba cruise port.
Cruising to the Middle East anytime between December and April gifts visitors with moderate temperatures and sunny days. Ships do not visit during the scorching-hot summer months.
Middle Eastern itineraries that focus on the Arabian Gulf usually include stops in the following destinations: Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. The Suez Canal also connects these ports to Jordan, and ultimately the Red Sea.
Egypt's Nile River cruises, on the other hand, put more emphasis on the sites you will see instead of the cities you will visit. Highlights of this itinerary include the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple.
The majority of Middle East cruises, whether exploring the Arabian Gulf or Jordan via the Suez Canal, begin in Dubai; the former is generally roundtrip, while the latter might end in a Mediterranean port. A handful of Arabian Gulf cruises also begin (and end) in Abu Dhabi.
Arabian Gulf (also known as Persian Gulf) itineraries provide a quintessential Middle East experience with a nice variety of ports in the UAE, Oman and more.
Nile River itineraries zero in on Egypt. Nile River cruises are also a much more intimate experience, taking place on smaller riverboats versus big cruise ships.
Israel, although geographically located in the Middle East, is typically offered as a separate "Holy Lands" itinerary or part of Mediterranean itineraries, also calling on ports in Cyprus, Greece and Italy.
Here are our best tips for finding a cheap cruise or cruise deal to the Middle East. If you book a “guaranteed cabin” (they select for you), a cabin on a lower deck or sail on an older ship from a brand you like, then you can get the best price for a specific cruise to the Middle East. Last minute cruises deals to the Middle East appear as you get closer to the sail date, usually 1-2 weeks in advance. Taking a cruise to the Middle East in the shoulder season (before or after the peak season) can also be a great way to find a cruise deal.