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Spectacular dunes in the Liwa Desert - United Arab Emirates.

This fabulous picture of Liwa Desert has been taken by a Costa Cruises Photographer during ship's visit to Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. An increasing number of cruise ships are visiting ports in the Persian Gulf. While just a few years ago cruise lines used to include these ports at a part of world voyage, another long itinerary or repositioning of ships, now several cruise lines are operating in the region for the entire season. Costa Cruises ships visit United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujayrah Khor Fakkan) and Oman (Muscat and Khasab) on regular basis. This is a great opportunity for crew members, who otherwise would have spent their contract cruising either the Mediterranean or the Caribbean, to visit these exotic ports in the Gulf.

Liwa Oasis is quite far away from Abu Dhabi (even further from Dubai). In order to visit this fantastic place, crew members need minimum 5-6 hours. The best option is to sign as an escort with organized by the cruise line passenger tour. While in most ports this is not a big problem (passengers are transported by buses and in most cases there are free seats for escort staff members), the desert safaris in the United Arab Emirates are done by 4X4 vehicles and space for staff members escort is a rare event (the same as helicopter tours in Alaska). Nevertheless it is advisable to check with the ship's Shore Excursions Office on regular basis for available spots. The other option to visit Liwa Desert while the ship is in Abu Dhabi is to organize several fellow crew members and hire 4X4 vehicle along with an experienced desert driver. These tours are not cheap, but when shared with other crew members, the cost would go down to about 70 to 100 dollars per person. The trip is worth every penny, though - the scenery is fantastic, the dunes are a lot larger than in the desert near Dubai and there aren't crowds of other tourists around.