With the introduction of Abu Dhabi and the Emirates as a new destination for the 2011-2012 winter season, MSC Cruises is introducing a range of new shore excursions, “for guests to experience the very best of this enchanting region.”

The MSC Lirica will sail 19 eight-day/seven-night cruises from Abu Dhabi, departing every Sunday from Oct. 30 through to March 4, 2012 and alternatively from Dubai every Friday from Oct. 28 to March 9, 2012.

Calling at the ports of Khasab and Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman as well as Al Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, and with two nights in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, guests on the Lirica can enjoy the region’s most impressive attractions thanks to a comprehensive range of excursions, according to a press release from the cruise line.

MSC said it will be the only cruise line to call at Khasab on a regular basis, offering access to what it called a little-known paradise. Dubbed the “Norway of Arabia” for its rugged coastline, the area boasts fjord-like inlets dotted with fishing villages, which guests of MSC can visit in traditional dhows, stopping to swim in the turquoise waters around Telegraph Island. Alternatives include a coach tour to the town’s 17th century fort and a jeep safari to the mountain peak of Jebel Harim.

A similarly eclectic choice of outings is available from Muscat, from dolphin-watching and “dune bashing” in the Wahiba Sands wilderness to private dhow cruises and visits to castles and mosques.

From Al Fujairah, guests can choose between a desert discovery trip, a scenic and cultural tour of the coast or a half-day of relaxation on the beach between the Hajar Mountains and the warm waters of the gulf.

City tours are offered in Abu Dhabi, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit and a trip to the brand new Ferrari World Theme Park, where visitors can ride the world’s fastest roller-coaster. For a change of pace, there is also a visit to the oasis town of Al Ain, known as the “Garden City” for its lush greenery, a face-to-face encounter with majestic birds of prey at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital or the chance to enjoy afternoon tea at the Emirates Palace.

From the world’s tallest building and a seven-star hotel to a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, Dubai is not short of spectacular modern landmarks to visit. And guests of MSC can enjoy much more, like shopping in a traditional souk, swimming with dolphins or taking a romantic sunset cruise in a dhow.

MSC Cruises said it is confident of offering guests an unforgettable Arabian adventure.