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Soak up a little more luxury by adding 3 extra nights in two of the Emirates’ most glamorous playgrounds. First, you’ll experience a different side of Emirati life with three nights in Abu Dhabi, where high-end luxury meets sophisticated culture. Here, modernist architecture is taken to new heights with gorgeous buildings that seem to defy gravity, while the old, tribal traditions of Arabia are still expressed in the atmospheric souks, Arabesque houses, intricate mosques, and stunning desertscapes. Abu Dhabi has also become an art mecca, with the fantastic new branch of the famous Louvre, whose design is as visionary as the artwork inside. Then, enjoy a day in Dubai, where a highlight will be your visit to the observation deck of needle-like Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on Earth! You are already traveling this far…Why not spend a little extra time to let yourself be truly amazed?
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Fly to Abu Dhabi
Today you’ll fly overnight to the United Arab Emirate of Abu Dhabi, arriving on Day 2.
Arrive Abu Dhabi, UAE
If you purchased your airfare from Vantage, upon arrival at the airport a Vantage representative will meet you and arrange transfer to your centrally located hotel, where you'll enjoy a guaranteed sea-view room. Abu Dhabi is a sparkling metropolis set on a T-shaped island. Settle into your luxurious hotel, which boasts its own beach and a variety of world-class shops, restaurants, and pools. Dinner is on your own tonight.
See the jewels of Abu Dhabi
After breakfast you’ll have a briefing in the hotel, then set out to explore. Cultural Discovery: First up is the majestic Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque. Its bulbous domes may remind you of the Taj Mahal, but officials say the mosque “unites the world” because it incorporates design motifs and materials from scores of countries. The prayer hall boasts 96 marble columns inlaid with mother of pearl. It is not only the most imposing landmark in Abu Dhabi, it is arguably one of the most important modern architectural treasures in the Arabic world.
Cultural Discovery: From here, proceed to the Emirates Heritage Village, which re-creates a traditional oasis town. In addition to the goat hair tents, falaj irrigation system, and campfire area, there are workshops where traditional craftsmen demonstrate their skills.
Back at the hotel, you can rest before our Welcome Dinner at Le Vendôme in the luxury 5-star Emirates Palace hotel.
Go inside Abu Dhabi life at a falcon hospital
After breakfast you’ll visit the fascinating Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, a unique avian veterinary center that treats about 6,000 of these revered raptors every year. Cultural Discovery: You’ll learn about the falcon’s importance in Emirati culture, observe the lab and intensive care units where birds are being treated, see some falcons flying freely, and have the chance for a photo opportunity with the birds. You’ll also learn about the other veterinary programs offered here, including a shelter for the rare Saluki breed of dogs.
You’ll return to your hotel in time for lunch on your own and an afternoon at leisure. Perhaps you’ll peek into the new Louvre Abu Dhabi or poke around the food souks on Al Mina Road.
On to discover Dubai!
After breakfast you’ll check out of your hotel and transfer to Dubai along Abu Dhabi’s spectacular Corniche and Yas Island. Crossing the border, you’ll enter Dubai from the south, getting a good view of its futuristic profile. More views await at the Al Dawaar revolving restaurant, where you’ll enjoy lunch. After checking into your hotel, the afternoon is free for you to enjoy the city on your own. You may not want to leave your hotel, where we've secured guaranteed creek-view rooms, and whose rooftop pool overlooks the Dubai Creek and city skyline.
This evening you’ll visit Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. It rises 2,717 feet into the sky, clad in 26,000 shining glass panels with a spire that can be seen 60 miles away. Its double-decker elevators will whisk you to the 124th floor at a speed of 22 miles per minute. You’ll be entertained by a multimedia presentation on Dubai’s history, then have time to explore the Dubai Mall, the largest in the world. Across the way is Souk Al Bahar. With a multitude of different eateries, it’s the ideal place for dinner on your own.
Tonight marks the start of your main Arabian peninsula cruise tour. Throughout the evening, your fellow cruise tour travelers will be arriving. You’ll meet them tomorrow (see Day 3 of your main program), when you attend a morning Welcome Briefing.
The stark beauty of the Dead Sea is almost extraterrestrial, with its barren backdrop of rocky mountains and flat sandy plains, and its bright blue shock of water, ringed by bands of white, crystallized salt. But beyond these natural marvels lies a trove of historic and cultural relics that predate biblical times. Discover them by adding a few days to your cruise tour on this fascinating extension that features the Roman ruined city of Jerash; Mt. Nebo, where Moses died after laying eyes on the Promised Land; the UNESCO site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan; and the mosaics of Madaba. While your itinerary is rich with discovery, your Dead Sea resort spa accommodations ensure that you’ll also be fully relaxed.
Roman ruins of Jerash, Dead Sea experience
Departing after breakfast, you’ll ride to Jerash, an extensive archaeological site that has been called the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. Explore the remains of this amazing desert city, including the Forum, a plaza surrounded by 160 columns; Hadrian’s Arch; the Hippodrome; and the Cardo, a colonnaded street that runs nearly a half-mile through the site.
From here we continue southwards into the wilderness region of the Dead Sea — a low-elevation salt sea that rests at the lowest elevation on Earth. It is among the world’s saltiest bodies of water and one of its first health resorts. The remarkably high salt concentration allows for effortless floating, while its rich mineral content is believed to offer therapeutic and cosmetic benefits and tomorrow you'll get the full floating experience!
Dinner is included at the hotel tonight.
Discover biblical history in Bethany, then enjoy a Dead Sea experience
This morning you’ll do some biblical time traveling as we ride to the east bank of the Jordan River and Al-Maghtas, also called Bethany. It is believed to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, thereby beginning his ministry. Excavation only began here in 1996 and since then archaeologists have unearthed some 20 treasures including several churches, a prayer hall, baptismal pools, and a water reticulation system that dates back to Roman and Byzantine times. The area is also associated with the prophet Elijah, who was said to have ascended to heaven here on ”chariots of fire.”
Cultural Discovery: From here you’ll return to your Dead Sea resort for lunch on your own, and with time to swim in the Dead Sea (or the hotel pool filled with Dead Sea water), enjoy a traditional hamman bath treatment, or relax with a mud facial. Dinner tonight will be here in one of the resort’s nine restaurants.
Mount Nebo and Madaba, return to Amman
After breakfast you’ll depart to explore Mount Nebo, the biblical mountain from which Moses was said to have glimpsed the Promised Land prior to his death.
After lunch in a local restaurant you’ll visit the market town of Madaba, renowned for its exquisite mosaics from the Byzantine era. The most famous is the Madaba Map, a 6th-century mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land that is preserved on the floor of the 19th-century Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. From here we proceed to Amman, traveling along the King’s Highway — an ancient route that has been a pathway for pilgrims, traders, soldiers and Crusaders for centuries. Once we reach Amman, settle into your hotel before we adjoin for a final dinner.
Depending on your home city, you may be departing for home this evening on a late flight, or some time tomorrow.
Return flight home
After an included breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.