Often undervalued as cruise destinations, exploring Africa and the Middle East by boat is a great way to experience the highlights of these richly cultural lands. From big game wildlife along Africa’s East Coast, to Egypt’s tomb-laden valleys and the gleaming towers of Dubai, there are countless adventures to be had, both off-shore and inland. Here are just a few of the best places to make port.

Typical Middle East itineraries take you all the way from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, and often include parts of North Africa as well. Dubai is a popular starting-point, and while the glamorous Emirati city might not be to everyone’s taste, the opportunities for desert safaris and bartering in the old Gold Souk certainly merit a trip on-shore.

Around the Middle Eastern peninsula, Red Sea cruises often flaunt Aqaba in Jordan as the main attraction and rightly so: visitors can disembark here for the magical sandstone city of Petra or snorkel amongst a blaze of colourful corals and tropical fish. Egypt’s ancient sites can be reached via the famous Suez Canal, or some ships stop at Safaga for Luxor, where you can happily tick the Valley of the Kings off your bucket list.

One of the most common African cruise destinations is Cape Town, with its access to animal reserves, glittering coastline and the iconic summit of Table Mountain. Routes from Mediterranean Europe to the tip of South Africa often halt along the West Coast, at places such as Dakar in Senegal. The port’s distinctly French flavour makes this a very fashionable stop.

East coast highlights include the Kenyan port of Mombassa, beyond which the plains of the Maasai Mara offer once-in-a-lifetime excursions to see anything from black rhinos to giraffes. For something really different, find a cruise that heads out to Mauritius; seaside capital Port Louis has its own brand of colonial charm, while providing a gateway to those heavenly island beaches.

Many cruise lines offer multi-destination trips that combine parts of both continents and stretch on for 20 or 30 days. Some companies put together no-fly options direct from Europe, for those who want to take their time and enjoy the journey. Middle East and Africa cruises bring new meaning to the phrase ‘voyage of discovery’, so if one thing’s for sure, they won’t remain undervalued for long.

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