Cruise Arabia & Africa has found a way around the US’ ‘Muslim Ban’ and you don’t even need to leave the Arabian Gulf to experience America.
US President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entry to the United States for nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries means that at least one million residents of the UAE can no longer travel to the US for the next 90 days. There may, however, be a way around the ban (at least symbolically).
While Trump’s so-called ‘Muslim Ban’ (a name for the order that he insisted Sunday was not a Muslim Ban) will make it impossible for Iranians, Sudanese, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Libyans and Somalians to travel to the United States, the Middle East cruise market may present an alternative.
Of the several dozen cruise ships sailing from Dubai during the 2017 cruise season, thirteen are owned by American cruise lines, most notably Royal Caribbean International, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Silversea, Seabourn, Azamara Club Cruises, Windstar, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises.
While all of the cruise ships owned by these cruise lines are registered in Panama, Bermuda, Libya and under other flags of convenience, they offer the symbolic opportunity to visit a floating island of American culture without actually having to leave the Middle East, or indeed the Arabian Gulf.
Below is the list of the most American of cruise lines offering cruises from Dubai during 2017, ranked in order of ‘Americaness’, according to a highly scientific study based on a precise mix of fact and objective knowledge.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Don’t let the name fool you. Norwegian Cruise Line, known to American cruise aficionados simply as ‘Norwegian’ is as American as a cruise line can get without being Carnival.
America’s third-largest cruise line is visiting the Middle East cruise market for the very first time this year, with Norwegian Star offering her maiden cruise departure from Dubai Cruise Terminal. Disappointingly, Norwegian Star is also cruising from Dubai to Venice, but this 20-night itinerary takes in port calls along the coast of Egypt as she transits the infamous Suez Canal.
For Muslims in the Middle East banned from entry to the US by President Trump, Norwegian Star offers the chance to get a taste of Las Vegas without actually having to contend with American TSA agents and highly-strung border guards.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International, the second-largest cruise line in the world, headquartered in Miami, Florida, has its cruise ship Vision of the Seas based in the Middle East through the winter, sailing a series of 7-night Dubai to Dubai cruise itineraries.
Vision of the Seas is the equivalent of visiting New York or Las Vegas with its focus on glitz and putting the ‘wow’ in cruise holidays. It features an on-board waterpark, major Broadway style evening production shows and true American all you can eat buffets.
Vision of the Seas is cruising roundtrip from Dubai every Monday until April 3rd, when she will depart the Middle East cruise market on a repositioning voyage to Venice.
Royal Caribbean has two cruise ships cruising from Dubai this year. While Vision of the Seas is based in the Middle East for the winter, her slightly smaller sister ship Legend of the Seas will be doing a turnaround at Dubai Cruise Terminal on March 13th. She will cruise from Dubai the same day on a 13-night cruise to Barcelona.
Also in March, the all-American premium cruise line Princess Cruises will be offering an 18-night cruise from Dubai to Venice. The cruise departs on March 20th and offers Muslim cruise passengers banned from visiting the US a chance to experience American luxury on the high seas. Princess Cruises is the oceangoing equivalent to New York’s Four Seasons Hotel.
Princess Cruises have expanded their Middle East cruise operations this year and will also be sending their brand new cruise ship Majestic Princess to Dubai in mid-2017. Majestic Princess, fresh from her Italian shipyard, will cruise from Dubai on June 5th bound for Singapore. The 13-night itinerary includes some fabulous sea days and port calls along the coast of India and Sri Lanka.
Three days later, on June 8th, Princess Cruises’ ship Sea Princess will cruise from Dubai to Dover in the United Kingdom on the 32-night Middle East and Med segment of her 2017 World Cruise.
The luxury cruise line that pioneered yacht-like intimacy at sea is also cruising from Dubai in 2017. Twice in fact, Silver Whisper and Silver Spirit will depart Dubai Cruise Terminal on April 9th and December 3rd respectively. Silver Whisper’s 15-night cruise from Dubai to Athens will visit ports in Oman, Egypt and Jordan before arriving in Greece, while Silver Spirit’s 15-night cruise from Dubai will instead head east, visiting ports along the coast of India before veering westward into the depths of the Indian Ocean, calling at the exotic and remote islands that dwell there, including Male, the capital of the Maldives and Mahe, the primary cruise port of the Seychelles.
Silversea offers a taste of the famed Hamptons in New York State for Muslims that want to go upstate, but can’t get past Trump’s Muslim Ban (that isn’t a ‘Muslim Ban’).
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the world’s most underrated luxury cruise line, consistently overlooked because of the dominance of Seabourn and Silversea in the upscale sector, but this cruise line is about the launch the world’s most expensive cruise ship ever built (on a per ton basis). A subsidiary of Norwegian Cruise Line, it is to the bells and whistles of this all-American brand what Lexus is to Toyota.
Regent’s cruise ship Seven Seas Voyager is a frequent visitor to Dubai and 2017 will be no exception, with Voyager cruising from the city on November 14th on 33-night grand voyage to Hong Kong via India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and China. For those without a month of time to kill, there is also a 21-night option, allowing you to disembark in Singapore (which has no beef with Muslims).
Another country that has no visa or travel bans against Muslim-majority nations is South Africa, which is lucky for Middle Eastern cruise passengers, because Oceania Cruises’ ship Nautica is scheduled to cruise from Dubai to Cape Town on November 6th.
The 30-night cruise itinerary takes passengers to India and across the ocean that the country gives its name to, following a path that is vaguely and ironically shaped like a question mark. Apart from India, port calls also include the Maldives, Seychelles, Zanzibar, Madagascar and the iconic cruise ports of South Africa, such as Cape Town, also known as the Mother City, where the cruise ends.
Oceania Cruises is also owned by Norwegian Cruise Line and this American luxury line is firmly opposed to the building of walls, because its cruise itineraries are singularly global in nature, very few are less than several weeks in duration and none of them visit less than three continents in a single grand voyage.
Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises is the direct competitor to Oceania, and is owned by Norwegian’s biggest rival, Royal Caribbean International. It even operates the same cruise ships (Nautica is identical to Azamara Journey externally, but they have significantly different interiors). For a start, Azamara Journey was recently refurbished from top to bottom to give it the feel of a topnotch American guesthouse (rather than anything so pedestrian as a hotel!) and it offers itineraries that focus on the destination not the journey.
As such, Azamara Journey’s 10-night roundtrip Dubai to Dubai cruise on November 14th will only visit six ports (Dubai, Khassab, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Bahrain) but it will do it well, staying longer at each port to really let passengers get a sense of the local culture. This is less important to Middle Eastern cruise passengers, but who doesn’t love a port day spent lazing by the pool?
Azamara Journey will depart the Middle East on November 24th on the staple Middle East cruise itinerary, the 14-night Dubai to Singapore cruise. Although it’s a common itinerary offered by most of the cruise lines operating from the Middle East cruise market, its one Cruise Arabia & Africa never gets tired of!
Seabourn Cruise Line
Cruise Arabia & Africa has already written extensively about Seabourn’s commitment to the Middle East cruise market, to recap for newcomers, they are sending their brand new ship Seabourn Encore to Dubai, marking only the second time ever that a brand new ship has cruised from Dubai (after Ovation of the Seas).
Seabourn Cruise Line is the Waldorf-Astoria of the seas, the St Regis, New York of the cruise industry. This cruise line did for ocean travel in the 1990s, what Belmond did for European train travel in the 2000s with the Orient Express. It made it glamorous again. The interiors are individually designed to exacting detail, the staff are some of the best trained in the world and the ships are achingly beautiful and Encore is no exception!
Seabourn Encore will cruise from Dubai twice in 2017, but with four different cruise itineraries on offer. Her April 17th cruise departure can be booked as a 26-night cruise from Dubai to Rome, Italy, or a 19-night cruise that ends in Athens. She’ll return on October 25th for a 40-night cruise to Sydney Australia that can also be booked as a 16-night cruise ending in… you guessed it, Singapore!
Then there is the venerable Windstar, an independent luxury cruise line based in Seattle that has since 1984 been taking guests on unique and boutique cruise voyages aboard small sailing cruise ships that carry just 150 to 300 guests. In 2015, the cruise line has entered the all-power cruise ship segment with the purchase of two of Seabourn’s older cruise ships.
Following a thorough refit costing tens of millions of dollars, it is bringing one of those ships, Star Legend (formerly Seabourn Legend) to Dubai for a 16-night cruise from the Middle East to Singapore. Star Legend will cruise from Dubai on November 15th, 2017.a
So there you have it, nine American cruise lines sailing from Dubai this year that will let you experience the various cultural riches of the United States without actually having to go there – and you can board despite the ‘Muslim Ban’. Happy cruising!