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Setting sail from Dubai
For some Dubai, the most famous of the United Arab Emirates, is the ultimate glamorous holiday destination. Amazing high rise buildings, extensive air-conditioned shopping malls, and extraordinary man-made tourist attractions (such as indoor ski-slopes) abound. Some of the most glitzy and expensive hotels in the world can be found here, so for shopping, sunshine and fun for all the family, this is a great choice. For others, this is a cultural desert as barren as the sands which surround it. But if you search hard you will find the old souk-like centre around Dubai Creek - take a traditional dhow and you will begin to understand the magic of Arabia.
The historic Persian trading centre, the Bastakia Quarter, was a marketplace for pearls and textiles. Even then, this was the home of ‘tax-free', and the area is characterised by Arabian architecture, wind towers, and narrow lanes.
United Arab Emirates: Sir Bani Yas Island
Qatar's capital is a city on the up, with vast sums of money being poured into construction projects for the 2022 World Cup and cultural venues such as the spectacular Museum of Islamic Art. There are also plenty of more traditional attractions, such as the atmospheric souks and the lovely waterfront Corniche promenade.
Oman’s capital is low-rise and laid back, a far cry from the towering bling of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Take a stroll along the waterfront Corniche promenade, soak up the sun on one of the excellent beaches, or explore the mosques and forts of the atmospheric old quarter.
Salalah is Oman’s second city, and the capital of the southern Dhofar region. Many visitors are surprised by the pleasant sub-tropical climate, which turns the city into an oasis of lush greenery during the ‘khareef’ (monsoon) season between June and September, and in many ways it’s more reminiscent of Zanzibar than Muscat.
29 April - 3 May
Aqaba is Jordan’s principal beach resort, situated on the Red Sea coast close to the Israeli border. There is not an awful lot here in terms of sights; Aqaba's main attraction is the incredible diving, with crystal clear waters and some of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs.
Israel: Haifa (Jerusalem)
It's difficult to overstate the spiritual significance of Jerusalem, a holy city to three different faiths: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Whatever your personal beliefs, it's impossible not to be moved by sights such as the Wailing Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The volcanic island of Santorini (known officially as Thira) is one of the most spectacularly beautiful in the Mediterranean. The pretty village of Oia, with its whitewashed houses and windmills tumbling down the hillside, is particularly photogenic.
Greece: Athens (Piraeus)
Athens is a city awash with historical and cultural significance, but it's much more than an open air museum; this is a dynamic, bustling metropolis, and a place where history is still very much unfolding.
Hydra is unique amongst the Greek islands, blissfully free of motorised traffic; transport here is by donkey, water taxi or on foot. The island has attracted many artists, musicians and actors over the years, but retains a rustic and tranquil atmosphere.
Greece: Agios Nikolaos
The charming port of Agios Nikolaos, on the north east coast of Crete, offers a beguiling blend of characterful tavernas, lively bars and designer boutiques. The town is centred around little Lake Voulismeni, and nearby attractions include some lovely beaches and the Minoan ruins at Gournia.
Gozo is Malta’s laid back little sister, a sleepy island characterised by ruggedly beautiful coastline, medieval citadels and prehistoric temples. It’s also a popular destination for divers, with some of the most spectacular underwater scenery anywhere in the Mediterranean.
Malta’s tiny capital, established by the Knights of St John, packs in an awful lot of history considering its diminutive size. The atmospheric old streets, bathed in Mediterranean sunshine, are full of attractive honey-golden buildings, along with an impressive selection of bars and restaurants.
Italy: Florence / Pisa (Livorno)
The faded port town of Livorno serves as a gateway to Tuscany’s star attractions. Wonderful Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, is resplendent with beautiful architecture and unrivalled artistic treasures, while nearby Pisa is of course famous for its precarious Leaning Tower.
The colourful facades along Portovenere’s UNESCO-listed harbourfront make this one of the most picturesque villages on the Ligurian coast, and it has often been described as the ‘sixth town’ of the Cinque Terre. Wandering the narrow alleyways is a delight, and it’s worth the climb to the impressive hilltop Castle Doria.
Arriving in Barcelona
Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia, is one of our favourite ports of call. From the warren-like medieval streets of the Barri Gòtic to the fantastical modernist architecture of Antoni Gaudí, from the dizzy heights of Mount Tibidabo to the golden sands of Barceloneta, there's never a dull moment in this most beguiling of cities. Take a stroll along the Ramblas, soak up the wonderful art of Picasso and Miró, or watch Lionel Messi work his mesmerising magic at the Camp Nou. Barcelona is truly a city with something for everyone.
For the ultimate boozy lunch head to Can Paixano, also known as La Xampanyeria, where local residents, office workers and the odd adventurous tourist crowd around the bar and tuck into sandwiches washed down with Cava.
Your home from home
Once again Seabourn leaps ahead, expanding the most modern luxury fleet with the innovative Seabourn Encore and Ovation.
What we love
When Seabourn introduced the three sisters, they changed the face of luxury cruising. Seabourn Encore (and her sister Seabourn Ovation, due to be completed in 2018), with 604 guests on board, will take things a step further, with lots of new thinking and special additions, continuing Seabourn's magical ability to surprise and delight.
The contemporary décor appeals to a sophisticated and cosmopolitan crowd. With lots of outside space, you can enjoy an al fresco experience if you choose.
|Year launched||2016 (Seabourn Encore) / 2018 (Seabourn Ovation)|
Tailor-make your trip
Our favourite hotel in Dubai
So many to choose from! Our current Mundy preference is Al Qasr at the Madinat Jumeirah.
Private tours from Dubai
Head out into the desert for the lush valley of Wadi Hatta and Hatta Village, then travel by four wheel drive across the dunes.
Where to stay in Barcelona
The lovely Hotel Arts on the sea front is perfectly located for a pre- or post-cruise stay, and has great restaurants too.
Take a day trip to the attractive city of Girona, with its fascinating mix of Gothic, Moorish and Modernist architecture, as well as an exceptionally well preserved Jewish Quarter.