Flight EK010 is boarding at London’s Gatwick Airport, destination Dubai. This is an Emirates Airlines flight aboard the latest generation of aircraft, an A380-800, the world’s largest airliner that will transport me from the cold to the warmth of Dubai, largest of the 7 Emirates. The food and on board service is superb, a choice of entertainment to satisfy the most discerning passenger and even wi-fi.
Arriving at Dubai International 6 hours later it is quickly through immigration and customs to board a coach for the short trip to Le Meridien Dubai Hotel for ship check-in formalities and breakfast before being taken to my home for the next 8 days, Royal Caribbean’s ship, Vision of the Seas moored at Port Rashid. If only all cruise terminals were this well equipped with shops, café, mini mart, money exchange and free wi-fi that works.
Within minutes of arrival I am on the ship and in cabin 3019, a large interior with double bed set up, lots of hanging and drawer space complimented with a bathroom that appeared newly refurbished sporting bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and moisturiser cream. Time for a shower to freshen up before going on deck to enjoy some of the sunshine that always seems to be available in Dubai.
6pm with the sun sinking fast into the west its 3 long blasts from the ships horn as we slip our moorings and head out of the harbour to our first port of call, Kasab in Oman. We are on our way.
Having selected ‘Freedom Dining’ it’s time to attend the Aquarius Restaurant for dinner. The menu is quite extensive but one thing noticed is that starters, soups and salads are now all put together instead of being separate items on the menu giving the impression that you only have the choice of one item. Certainly, some of the people I sat with didn’t realise you could still order one or more of each. If people don’t realise then the cost saving to Royal Caribbean is probably immense. The food however was always excellent, matched by the service. In the mornings, I preferred to use the Windjammer Buffet. In true Royal Caribbean style the choice was very good and hard to imagine someone wanting something that was not available. Most lunchtimes would find me on tour so never sampled any of the lunches.
On arrival at Kasab, Oman, capital city of the Musandam Peninsula on the Straits of Hormuz we moor in the small harbour amongst dhows and yachts some way from the town and a taxi ride is probably the best way to reach it unless you are an avid walker. Kasab is entrance to the Omani Fjords where you can board a traditional dhow to cruise along the longest fjord, past small fishing villages and Telegraph Island. The island gets its name from the telegraph repeater station built there in 1864. 5pm we slip our moorings and head out into the main passage and set our heading for arrival in Muscat the following morning. That night is the Captains Welcome Aboard Reception in the main atrium where despite noisy people at the bar Captain Marek Slaby manages to be heard and introduce his officers.
Day 3 sees our arrival in Muscat and its beautiful Corniche. Moored close by, is what resembles a small cruise ship but turns out to be the Sultan of Oman’s private yacht, one of two. Breakfast finished its time to leave the ship and board the Ho-Ho bus of bigbustours.com for the first of the trips. Leaving the port, we travel along the Corniche, past the giant Riyam Monument before turning north to another part of the city passing mosques, churches and the business district prior to arriving at the Parliament Building. From here it is onwards along roads giving wonderful views of the Marina, the Al Alam Palace, Mirani Fort and harbour before once more emerging onto the Corniche and heading back to the ship. The trip lasts a little short of 3 hours but time well spent seeing and learning about a culture going back thousands of years.
That night is spent in Muscat as is the following day allowing passengers to visit the various souks along the Corniche. For me, it’s a day on the ship and time to take in some of that warm sunshine that is in abundance before sailing early evening for Abu Dhabi.
Due to the distance the next day, day 5, is spent at sea and sunbeds come at a premium. Passengers rise early to reserve them with towels and books unaware that the policy of not reserving sunbeds on the ship is enforced. Arriving on deck at 8.30am I managed to find a vacant bed opposite two unattended ones covered with towels and books. At 10.15 two deck attendants arrive and place stickers on the beds giving the time they were affixed. At 11.15 they return, the sunbeds are still not in use so they remove the towels and books. At just before 12 noon a couple arrive and want to know where their towels and books are complaining they have only been gone for a short while. They are directed to the security desk by the swimming pool.
Day 6 sees our arrival in Abu Dhabi the capital of the Emirate. A modern city with high rise buildings, spotlessly clean with friendly people. The mercury is hovering at 27c and our Ho-Ho bus awaits. In Abu Dhabi, there are 2 routes, the City Tour and Yas Drive. I have opted for the City Tour. Boarding the bus and climbing the stairs I find a spare seat as we make our way from the terminus at Marina Mall and head for Etihad Towers, 5 towers that sparkle in the sunshine with their mirrored surfaces reflecting everything about them. Continuing to the Sheikh Zayed Centre and Etihad Museum we finally arrive at the world famous Sheikh Zayed Mosque, its white structure looking exquisite against the azure blue sky. Four minarets at the four corners rise 351 ft. into the sky, the courtyard with its floral design in marble considered to be the largest marble mosaic in the world. The mosque can accommodate over 40,000 worshippers and the carpet in the main hall measuring over 60,500 sq. ft. is considered to be the largest carpet in the world. After a short stop it’s on to the Eastern Mangroves, Abu Dhabi Corniche, Al Hosn Fort, Heritage Village and finally back to the Marina Mall. This trip also offers a dhow cruise along the Corniche but on this occasion, I didn’t, it gives me an excuse to return.
Back on board it’s time for a shower, something to eat and a nap before dinner. 8pm, we slip our moorings for the last time as we head for our final port, also our departure point, Dubai.
8am, day 7, we arrive at our berth in Dubai from where it is impossible to see the tops of the sky scrapers due to heat haze as the temperature climbs quickly through the mid 20c’s. It’s time to board the shuttle bus to the Dubai Mall to board the Ho-Ho bus for our final trip with this excellent company. This time there are 3 routes to choose from, City Tour, Marina Tour and Beach Tour, I select the latter. Leaving Dubai Mall, we pass the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building standing over 2,700 ft. high with an observation platform on the 124th floor. From here it’s on past the large Jumeirah Mosque, along the main Jumeirah Beach to the Burj Al Arab hotel, commonly known as ‘the Sail’ standing out on a small peninsular where rates start at 6,500 DHM (£1,400) a night plus taxes, gratuities and tourist fee. We continue our journey, taking in the Souk Madinat before entering the long under sea road tunnel and emerging onto The Palm, home to the worlds rich and famous together with Atlantis the Palm, the world renowned hotel with its marine and water parks. The area is abounding with tourists taking in the sights that to many are just dreams seen on television programs. The final stage takes us back through the tunnel onto the main land, to the Mall of the Emirates and finally the Dubai Mall. Dubai Mall houses all the names associated with fashion and quality and as someone suggested, leave your credit card at home before entering. Dubai may be tax free but certainly not profit free. The shuttle bus delivers me back to the ship for the job that signifies the end of a trip, packing.
This was a trip that enabled me to visit and see what until then I had only read about and seen on the media. A trip to see other cultures and how it is possible to have modern cities mixing with the old. Cities that were graffiti free with clean streets, friendly people and a very low crime rate. This is an area that I am keen to re-visit in the not too distant future. Thank you, Oman, and the Emirates.
Alan Fairfax -
is a travel writer for
YOUR HOLIDAY TV
Alan also writes for the
Ashford Advertiser Media Group with regional papers across Kent with regular holiday & travel sections in all editions
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View Alan's video of his cruise to Oman and Dubai
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