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Arabian Sea & Suez Canal Cruise on the Celebrity Constellation

4/22/18 to 5/7/18

Cruise Itinerary Map


Last year while on a Celebrity Alaska cruise, I visited the future cruise desk to see if there were any itineraries that we might be interested in booking.  Having traveled extensively in the past, it has been challenging finding a cruise to places we haven’t already been to.  It seems like most cruise line itineraries go to the same places.  When I saw a cruise that started in Abu Dhabi that went through the Suez Canal and ended in Rome, it really piqued my interest.  Especially since it stopped in Aqaba, Jordan, where we could visit Petra.  Petra has been on my bucket list, ever since I saw it in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie in 1989.  With the cruise being 15 days and 10 of them sea days, including the two in the Suez Canal, we decided that we would also spend 4 days in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of the cruise and 4 days in Italy following the cruise.  I am so glad we did, it made for an outstanding vacation.


Pre-Cruise in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Day 1
Getting to Abu Dhabi from south Florida requires flying overnight.  It was quite a challenge to find flights that arrived in Abu Dhabi at a decent time and with adequate layover times.  Unfortunately, there were no direct flights, so we had to fly to Atlanta, then to Amsterdam and finally to Abu Dhabi.  We had 17.5 hours of flying time and 4 hours of layover.  We left the house at 10:00 AM on Tuesday and arrived in Abu Dhabi at 8:00 PM on Wednesday.  We were glad we arrived at night, so we didn’t have to force ourselves to stay awake.

We booked all of our transfers and tours in Abu Dhabi through a large local tour company called EA Tours (  With our staying in Abu Dhabi for all four nights, it was much cheaper to use a local company.  Knowing now how inexpensive and easy it is to get taxis in Abu Dhabi, I probably didn’t need to use the company for the transfers from the airport or to the cruise terminal; but it was nice.  Plus, EA’s transfers were also quite reasonably priced, and we didn’t have to find a large taxi for Carol’s mobility scooter.

To make it easy to get to all the places we wanted to visit while in Abu Dhabi, I decided to book a hotel in the downtown area, the Crowne Plaza. 

A couple of months before the cruise, I was able to upgrade our room to one of their executive rooms, which gave us access to their club room and free breakfasts.  The upgrade cost us just $15 per day.  The breakfast buffet alone was priced at $23 per person.  Additionally, there were free water and sodas in the club room all day.  From 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, they provided hot and cold snacks that substituted for a light dinner for many.  They also had free beer and alcohol available during that time.  It was an outstanding deal for us.

The hotel is nicely appointed, clean and well taken care of.  On the top floor, there is a nice pool and bar area.


The room was very comfortable, except that our room only had a queen size bed, rather than king size; which we are used to.  King size beds are only available in their suites.



There are several restaurants in the hotel; but we only went to the Garden Restaurant for breakfast.  The restaurant is at the bottom of the tall atrium.


As expected, there were many middle eastern dishes on the breakfast buffet.  A most unusual one was an egg dish, shakshuka. 


Across the street from the hotel was a nice small LuLu Express super market that had anything you would need, including ready-made hot and cold foods.  Everything was reasonably priced since it is primarily used by locals.

Day 2
We had tours booked for each day of our visit with EA Tours.  After an enjoyable breakfast we went to the lobby to wait for our guide to arrive. Our guide, Shabeer, arrived a few minutes early.  He was a pleasant fellow and quite knowledgeable about the area.  He told us all about Abu Dhabi and the UAE. 

Since Carol would need to use her scooter, we had to book a private tour just for the two of us; otherwise we couldn’t have taken the scooter.  The pricing was still reasonable for the two of us.  We had a very comfortable Toyota Previa, which easily accommodated Carol’s TravelScoot, without having to fold it up.

Our first destination was to visit the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque (  When we came into town from the airport the previous evening, we were most impressed with the highway system.  It was wide with great lighting; and very clean with no graffiti anywhere.  We were also surprised at the size of the tunnel going into the main part of the city.  So, as we were leaving town, I had to take a photo of it.

There were so many beautiful buildings on the road to the mosque.  Shabeer pointed out one in particular that is referred to as the pineapple.  The covering of it does have a pineapple’s appearance; but the most unique feature is that the individual sections open and close to shade the building’s occupants from the sun.


As we approached the Grand Mosque, we could see the domes and minarets of the massive complex.  The mosque was a project of the late President of the UAE, Sheik Zayed. The groundbreaking was in 1996.  Sheik Zayed died in 2004, three years before the Mosque’s completion.   He wanted to establish a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art.  He is buried on the grounds.   Sheik Zayed was the person primarily responsible for forming the UAE in 1971 from seven separate emirates.  The building complex of the Mosque is huge, covering 30 acres not including any landscaping or parking areas.  It can accommodate more than 40,000 worshipers at one time, with 7,000 in the main prayer hall and the rest in the courtyard and two smaller prayer halls.

The exterior views of this magnificent building were mesmerizing.  Carol makes fun of me for taking too many photos of the places we visit; but in this case, she was right.  I just couldn’t help myself, it was so beautiful.



There are strict dress codes that must be met to enter the mosque.  For men it is primarily long pants and some restrictions on shirts; but short sleeves are fine.  Women, on the other hand have to have long pants or a long skirt and long-sleeved shirts.  They also have to have socks covering their ankles and a scarf covering their head.  Carol complied with the requirements; but did not enjoy being totally covered up in the warm weather.

We enjoyed the building’s beauty as we walked around to the other side where we would enter.  Before we could enter, we had to take off our shoes and put them in the open racks. 

Once inside the building, we could see that it was covered in marble and granite.  The ceiling and floor designs were just gorgeous.



As we walked toward the main building, we could see into the main courtyard and along the colonnade of gold topped pillars. 


Looking out on the main courtyard was just mind blowing.  Too much beauty!  It is a massive area that can hold over 30,000 people for prayer services.

We continued down the colonnade, taking in the beautiful inlaid decorations on the columns.  There was so much attention to detail.

I loved the main courtyard’s floor decorations.

As we entered the main building, we were again blown away by the beauty.  This time, in addition to all the colorful inlaid decorations, there was a gorgeous chandelier.  The chandelier and the others in the mosque were made with Swarovski crystals.



Shabeer pointed out a special clock on the wall, that provides the times of day that Muslims would be called to prayer. 

We next entered the room with the largest hand-woven carpet in the world and the third largest chandelier in the world.  The carpet is over 60,000 square feet and weighs 35 tons.  The chandelier is 33 feet in diameter and 49 feet high.  I wish a photo could show how beautiful the chandelier is in person.  The thousands of twinkling crystals just don’t show up in a photo.       



The walls filled with decorations, coupled with the beautiful carpet is quite a sight.



We continued down the walkway appreciating all the eye candy.  There was just so much to take in.  I was so glad that people were restricted to just the designated areas, so that we could appreciate the beauty more.  The paths had been set up nicely where you could view everything and take photos; but not take away from the views of the vastness of the building.



We came to another room that had a chandelier that looked like a twin of the largest one; but was a smaller version.  We could look down through the rooms and see the large one in the center and the two smaller ones on either side in separate rooms.


As we left that room, we came to a room similar to the first room we visited with the lovely blue chandelier.   I really liked the floor decorations.


When we left that room, we were heading back toward the entrance down another colonnade.   The views were just amazing.

Shabeer pointed out the tall structures around the mosque that contained the lights that would illuminate the mosque at night.  I had seen photos of the illuminated mosque and had already planned to return to see it later that night.


I continued to take photos of the grounds and lovely exterior all the way back to our car.



On the drive to our next destination, we continued to see beautiful buildings along the highway.  One is particularly unusual in that it is the most leaning building in the world at an 18-degree angle.  From the first view we saw of it, the angle didn’t appear that extreme; but Shabeer, was taking us to where we could see it better.


The sun was behind the building; but it was obvious that this was a most unusual building.

We continued our drive seeing more buildings, when we came to a large gate that looked like an entrance to a royal palace.  It was the Emirates Palace Hotel.  Rather impressive.


We pulled into the grounds of the Emirates Palace Hotel, the most expensive one in Abu Dhabi.  The grounds were most appropriate for a hotel of this stature.


We pulled into the underground parking lot and took an elevator back up to ground level, where we could enter the building.  In the entrance was a room with paintings of the important sheiks of the UAE.


We then walked into the grand foyer area, which was indeed quite grand.  It was a massive room with exquisite floors and. ceilings.   What was surprising to me was that there were very few guests anywhere to be seen.  It did make it easier to take photos; but it did seem strange.


We left the grand foyer and walked over to some of the shops and the conference room area.  We didn’t go downstairs to see the rooms themselves.


As we were leaving the hotel, we got a good view of the Ethiad Towers.  There is a nice hotel in the towers, as well as a viewing area on the top floor that is supposed to provide a very nice view of the city below.  Since we would be going up to the tallest building in the world in Dubai in a couple days, we passed on that experience.

We passed by the entrance to another royal palace; and could see Fairmont Marina Residences in the distance.


All during our visit in the UAE, we saw signs celebrating the Year of Zayed.  2018 is the 100-year anniversary of the sheik’s birth.  He is a much-loved person and appropriately so since he is responsible for doing so much for the country and the people.


Our next stop was at Heritage Village.  The sign at the entrance shows the traditional Bedouin greeting method of rubbing noses.

The village shows about the culture of the Emirates people with demonstrations and museums.  It is in a nice setting along the water.



One of the museums was small; but it did have interesting displays.  I was fascinated by the very old Quran, which was broken into separate strips on each page.



There were also displays of old guns; but the sword and dagger displays were more interesting to me.  They were like weapons used in the Arabian Nights tales.


They had old homes set up as they would have been in olden times.


There was just an awful lot of things to look at, even the shops had interesting items to purchase.  I did control myself though since we didn’t have any poundage to spare in our luggage.



We went down to the water’s edge to see the antique boat displays.  From there we could see the Abu Dhabi skyscrapers on the other side of the blue water.


In one section, it was set up like a Bedouin village.  The contrast of the stone buildings against the skyscrapers, showed how life has changed in the UAE over the years.


After finishing with Heritage Village, we continued our tour.  We drove to the marina area, where we saw more interesting and beautiful buildings, including a royal palace.  Abu Dhabi does have a lot of royal palaces.


On the way to our next destination, we went into a tunnel with lovely decorated mosaic walls.

Shabeer stopped at a large market area, with sections for many different products.  The one we were going to was the date market.  There were so many individual shops selling dates.  We went into one, where we got to try samples.  They were quite delicious.  Inside the shop, they had a display of dates stuffed and/or coated with various sweets or nuts to entice you to buy them. 


Driving around Abu Dhabi is most enjoyable since there is so much to see, especially the statuary and corner decorations.  


 I got a kick out of the signage on some of the street lights that made a section of the pole look like a serpent, bamboo or a tree with a woodpecker on it.


I wanted to see the unique Alder Corporation headquarters building, which looks like a giant coin.   On the way, we passed over the new Zayed Bridge; but the photos didn’t show how the design makes it look like three waves. 

When we got to the building I got out to take photos; but we weren’t allowed to go into the grounds to get a better angle on it.  It is a beautiful and most unique building.  The side view was interesting also.


On the way back, I was able to get a photo of the Zayed Bridge.  This photo shows the strange design; but I never could get a clear side view of the bridge.

After the tour, we were dropped off at the hotel.  I walked across the street to see if the Lulu Express store had something for a light lunch.  They had a huge selection of hot and cold items. 


After lunch, I had decided to walk down to the Corniche, the area along the water.  It was a few blocks away; but I did want to see what was there.  On the way, I passed by the Capital Garden Park, with a huge decoration in front of it.

When I finally got to the Corniche road, I saw the signs that said no pedestrian crossing.  I should have realized it since I had seen very few traffic lights on the road earlier in the day.  So, I headed back, having gotten more exercise than I had planned with no reward at the end.   We relaxed in our room for the rest of the day.  At 6:00 PM, we headed to the club room to see if the food items would be adequate for the evening meal.  Since we had a late lunch after the tour, we weren’t very hungry.  What they had, especially the beer, was quite adequate. 


The view from the club room allowed us a different view of the city, especially a mosque next to the hotel.


I was very excited, since I would be heading back to the Grand Mosque soon to see it illuminated.  Around 7:00 PM, I jumped in a taxi that was waiting outside of the hotel.  The ride was about 15-20 minutes and only cost 40 Dirhams, or about $10 US.  Very reasonable for that long of a ride.  As we approached the mosque, it wasn’t totally dark; but the blue illumination looked amazing.

The exterior was just breathtaking.  It was a totally different experience from the daytime one.  I will include some of my favorite photos below.



As we entered the mosque, I was blown away by the courtyard.  So gorgeous! 

Even the colonnades had a different appearance with the dark background.


When I entered the main building with the many chandeliers, the blue hue entering the open areas gave it a different look also.

I am duplicating many of the photos I included from our earlier visit, since it is almost like visiting a different mosque.  Since there is no glare from the bright sun, the wall and floor decorations show up better and are more vivid.  Plus, since most people that visit Abu Dhabi don't visit the mosque at night, I want to show them what they missed.








As I was leaving to catch a cab back to the hotel, I looked back and saw the reflection of the colonnade in the reflecting pool.  I was so glad I came back to experience this amazing mosque in the evening.  If you visit Abu Dhabi, do yourself a favor and come back in the evening.  You will be glad you did.

On the way back to the hotel, I saw the illuminated leaning building.  We probably should have taken an evening illumination tour of all the Abu Dhabi buildings.  It is an amazing place.


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