Cruise & Ferry Itinerary Planning 2022

8 3 Abandoned in the 1980s, Al Ula old town was on the pilgrims’ itinerary in the 13th century. Its recent revival as a tourist destination will protect the 900-odd buildings and five mosques for future generations. This will be a day tour for cruise passengers as it requires a one-hour flight from Yanbu to Al Ula. This inconvenience is rewarded by a visit to Hegra, an ancient Nabataean burial site comprising 110 tombs carved into rocky outcrops. Over 2,000 years later and 12 miles away, Maraya opened and provided a contrastingly contemporary architectural marvel to captivate tourists. Designed by Giò Forma, Maraya is the world’s largest mirror-clad building and appears invisible at certain angles. Back in Jeddah, our last night was celebrated with a desert experience. Arabian horse and camel rides, buggy races across the dunes and traditional music provided the entertainment, which was followed by a lavish buffet dinner under the stars. This was a prototype event that still requires some polish, but the concept has the potential to become a truly memorable conclusion to a Red Sea cruise. While Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours delivered a flawless experience onboard the new Scenic Eclipse, on land there were minor shortcomings – yet nothing that will derail the nation’s vision. The guides were wholly charming but unsurprisingly inexperienced – notably they haven’t yet grasped how needy cruise passengers can be! Our appetite for information and anecdotes wasn’t entirely sated and we were occasionally left with no direction. However, these are minor teething issues that will be solved in a flash. The residents of the places we visited were welcoming, engaging and curious. In the regenerated old town of Yanbu the locals took as many photographs of the tourists as the tourists took of the location. It was perhaps here that it was most apparent that Saudi Arabia is changing and will surely evolve into a very desirable cruise destination. CFIP Walking cultural tours, remarkable architecture and desert adventures feature in Saudi Arabia’s shore excursion offer