Gleaming skyscrapers, stunning beaches and excellent food and shopping – no wonder Dubai is so popular for a pre- or post-cruise stay, says Liz Jarvis

Located on the southeast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai is a former fishing village that has been transformed into a cosmopolitan, state-of-the-art metropolis, resplendent with glitzy malls and extraordinary architecture.

What to do:

Modern must-sees include the Burj Kalifa (the world’s tallest building), but to explore the more traditional side of Dubai, head for Bastakiya and the Al Fahidi Historic District, which is where the pearl and textile traders used to ply their wares. You’ll find restored merchants’ houses, art galleries and cafés, as well as the Old City Wall.

Dubai has several first-class golf courses, and sports fans may want to coincide their visit with the Rugby Sevens in November, or for culture of a different kind, the Dubai Film Festival takes place in December. And if you want to see the sand dunes or go for a camel ride, take a desert safari.

One thing to remember is that when you’re out and about there’s a fairly strict dress code – your hotel will offer guidance but as a general rule, everything from your shoulders to your knees should be covered if you’re in public and swimwear shouldn’t be worn away from the beach or pool.

Where to shop:

The Dubai Mall is home to just about every major fashion brand in the world, and also has an aquarium and ice rink. Mall of the Emirates has a massive family entertainment centre and an indoor ski slope – the perfect place to chill out after all that sun. It’s also worth taking a stroll through the Gold Souk, just for the experience.

Where to eat:

You’re spoiled for choice, because Dubai has a thriving culinary scene with some outstanding restaurants. Bastakiah Nights is located in a restored courtyard home and is widely regarded as one of the most romantic restaurants in Dubai, with an old Arabian-style atmosphere. Or try Bayt Al Wakeel, where you can soak up the atmosphere of Dubai Creek.

Meat lovers will enjoy the Center Cut steakhouse at the Ritz-Carlton, and Gordon Ramsay and Gary Rhodes both have restaurants in Dubai. You can drink freely in Dubai at the hotel bars (unless it’s Ramadan, in which case you’ll have to wait until after sunset), and you’ll find many Champagne brunches on offer.

When to go:

July and August are the hottest months of the year, with temperatures as high as 45°C, and Ramadan (a month of fasting) is observed during this time (dates vary according to the sightings of the crescent moon) so many restaurants and bars will be closed during the day. The best time to visit is from October to May, when the weather is still balmy, but more pleasant.

Where to stay:

Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort and Spa (leroyalmeridien-dubai.com) is a luxurious five-star hotel in an enviable position on one of the most beautiful stretches of beach. The hotel offers stunning rooms, three pools, an excellent spa, a kids’ club and very good restaurants – including the modern Mexican restaurant Maya, created by renowned celebrity chef Richard Sandoval.

United Arab Emirates Cruise

Virgin Holidays Cruises offers a seven-night United Arab Emirates cruise on MSC Lirica from Dubai, calling at Abu Dhabi, Khor al Fakkan, Muscat, Khasab and Dubai, departing on 23 November 2013. Prices are from £819pp based on two people sharing on a full-board basis, and include flights from a London Airport and resort transfers. For more information visit virginholidayscruises.co.uk or call 0844 488 3084. For Dubai see dubaitourism.ae

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