A Travellerspoint blog

Modern Wonders of Dubai

Fantasia docks back in Dubai a little after 8am today. Luckily we don't have to get off until tomorrow. True our coach pick up time is 4am on Saturday morning for our 7.30 flight to Manchester but we won't worry about that now.

We have an excursion planned for this morning and so we shower breakfast and head down to the theatre. Tickets in hand we head outside to meet our coach and tour guide Miriam. She is slightly bonkers but a great guide nonetheless.

We leave the port and head southwards to the Jumeriah area (Jumeriah means flame in Arabic). Our first stop is the worlds first 7 star hotel the Burj Al Arab with its iconic and world famous sail design. Miriam regales with details of its construction and other gems of information. From there we head to The Palm and Atlantis Resort which is a sister resort to the one in the Bahamas. We are told it's practically identical. Again Miriam goes into detail on the Palms incredible construction process and the cost of living there (eye watering).

Heading back north we arrive at the Dubai Mall. Miriam warned us about its size and the myriad of things inside but we weren't quite prepared. It was pretty jaw dropping. There is a zoo and an aquarium contained within. The real reason for our visit was to ascend to the top of the Burj Kalifa. Currently the world tallest building. After waiting in line for a short while we cram into the elevator which ascends the 124 floors in 57 seconds. We emerge into the viewing platform for glorious views over Dubai and the distant desert landscape to the east and the Persian Gulf to the west. I cajole Peter into some selfies even though he is feeling some vertigo and gingerly approaches the glass windows.

After purchasing a souvenir photo we descend as quickly as we went up. We could have stayed on to look around the mall but we opt to return to the ship and come back on our own late afternoon to see the mall and the fountain show.

Once back we lunch and then started the dreaded packing. It's doesn't take long as we are not as careful folding everything. We snooze for an hour or so knowing we won't get much sleep as will need to be up at 3am to leave ship.

We head back into Dubai centre a little After 5pm and have time to explore the Mall a little more. Following a tip from Miriam earlier in the day we head outside to a spot she says has less tourists. We find a nice area without so many people and as evening descends and the Burj twinkles into life the fountain show starts. It's very similar to Bellagio fountains in Vegas.

Returning to the Mall I wonder if they have a Bath and Body works here. They do. When we visit the US it's one of our favourite shops. Prices as reasonable so we are able to stock up on shower gels and hand wash.

Back at the ship we finish the last of the packing and push our cases out into the corridor. Some cocktails in Il'Transatlantico and then dinner. Maureen and Graham don't eat with us as they went into Dubai although they do stop by and we all swap emails etc to keep in touch post cruise.

Compared to last night I enjoy the food much better this evening. Salmon Timbale to start (gorgeous) and then cannelloni for 2nd and Pork Escalopes for main. We round of with a white/dark chocolate parfait.

We say goodbye to our table mates for the week and enjoy one more glass of wine before retiring for our very early start tomorrow. The end of a fabulous cruise. Must admit felt some trepidation before this trip due to the location and the local customs, rules and laws but have been pleasantly surprised by friendliness of people, the exotic nature of the destination and the fact we have never cruised anywhere quite like this. We would definitely come back here.

Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab


Burj Kalifa

Burj Kalifa


View from the top

View from the top


Table Mates

Table Mates

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Sir Bani Yas Island

Fantasia is still at sea when we awake. She is due to reach Sir Bani Yas Island around 9am and it's now 7.30. I try a continental breakfast this morning as fancied something lighter. The buffet is very busy although we always manage to find a seat. After returning to our cabin Fantasia has reached the island and drops anchor about 1/2 mile offshore. From our balcony we can see a flurry of activity as staff load provisions into the tender boats ready to go ashore. The tenders take about 5mins to make the short trip to the island.

As Black Card members we have priority tender tickets which means we can turn up at anytime to go ashore. Other people have dedicated times in which they can board the small boats. We head down to deck 5 and are soon bouncing across the waves to the Island.

The name Sir Bani Yas Island originates from the Bani Yas tribe, who first inhabited Abu Dhabi. Sir Bani Yas Island is the crest of a salt dome created millions of years ago by natural geological forces and is located 110 mi southwest of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Once ashore we quickly head to one of the many beach beds laid out ready for guests. However, they are wooden and very rigid and hence not very comfortable. The cruise beach area is basically a very long sand bar that has been transformed to accommodate cruise passengers. It is slightly separate from the main island which can be reached via a causeway.

I stroll along the beach to see what is on offer. There are large eating areas that the ships crew are able to serve food from. There are portable tiki bars dotted here and there serving cocktails, beers and soft drinks. The MSC Yacht Club is located at the far end and is solely for this guests who have paid extra for thenYacht Club.

We retire to one of the Buffet areas for some lunch. The food is very good. Mainly hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and various salads. The temperature has really risen by now and is pushing 30c (86f). After lunch we decide to explore the area and see what else is on offer. There are plenty of toilet cabins and they are spotlessly clean. We walk as far as the Sheikh Beds which are like a 2 person cabana you can rent for the day. You get a cool box as well that will keep water, soft drink, beers cold. With so many bars nearby though they are not really needed. The beach itself is quite coarse but the sea is crystal clear.

We return to the welcome area. There is free wifi provided and it's very good. On the opposite side to the beach is a mangrove swamp and people are kayaking and paddle boarding with some difficulty it seems in the breeze that has picked up. Said breeze is wonderfully cooling and belies the suns strength. We make sure we are amply covered in sunscreen.

Mid afternoon we decide to head back to the ship. Onboard we get an iced coffee in Il'Cappuccino before taking a wander around the ship taking pics. It's wonderfully quiet with most people ashore. We head up to the pool deck. Still plenty of people here. The solarium has pulled back the retractable roof and the aft pool looks very inviting in the late afternoon heat.

Map

Map


Sun beds

Sun beds


Buffet

Buffet


Fantasia offshore

Fantasia offshore


SYBCRUISEBEACH

SYBCRUISEBEACH


Late night drinks

Late night drinks


Quiet ship

Quiet ship


A quiet atrium

A quiet atrium

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Khasab and the Arabian Fjords

After a poor nights sleep I am awoken by a clarion call of different alarms at 06.15. So paranoid that we would oversleep and miss our excursion we set alarms on both our phones and the in-room telephone. They all went off simultaneously. Today we are in Khasab. Khasab is a city in an enclave of Oman bordering the United Arab Emirates called Musandam.

The Musandam Peninsula has an abundance of sheltered fjords, created by fragmented rock they stretch claw-like into the sea and massive overshadowing cliffs tower above. The coast juts into the Strait of Hormuz and extends some 600 kilometres. These spectacular fjords have given the area a second name "The Norway of Arabia".

We shower and grab a quick breakfast before heading down to the aft bar to collect our tour stickers (No 1) and wait to be called. Shortly afterwards we are guided to the tender area. Fully expecting to board a tender into Khasab town and then catch a Dhow to the Fjords we are surprised to find the dhows moored 4 abreast at the ship. We board the first dhow and clamber across it to reach the one that is furthest away.

The dhow itself is quite large with a lower level decked with nice carpets and lots of cushions for people to sit and enjoy the view. There is a smaller upper deck which is open air. As the sun looks quite fierce again today we opt to stay downstairs in the shade. We soon set sail heading eastwards toward the rugged mountain chain in the distance. These are the Western Hajar Mountains, the tallest rising to over 2000ft. The sea is a little choppy but once we enter the Fjords it's a lot calmer.

It's not long before we sight our first dolphins. The captain turns our boat around to get closer to them but they keeping diving out of view to pop up some 100ms away. We make our way slowly toward Telegraph Island, for a short time (between 1865 and 1868) the site of a manned telegraph repeater station on the cable section between Bahrain and Bombay. We drop anchor here to allow people to swim in the cool waters. There are many colourful fish swimming near and under our boat. One of the deckhands throws bits of banana in which they seem to love. We have a guide onboard but his English is not so good so only catch a few facts that he mentions. This area is mainly inhabited by fishermen who live in the few small villages dotted here and there.

We then leave Telegraph Island and slowly sail along the rugged shoreline. The dolphins make a reappearance but are intent on being as shy as before. Still it's always a pleasure to see them, however briefly. We head up top for part of the return journey and Fantasia slides into view as we round a headland. The ships tenders are plowing back and forth to the mainland but there doesn't appear to be much to Khasab town itself and so we decide not to visit.

We lunch early in the buffet. There is a nice varied choice today. I have moussaka and some lamb kebabs with rosemary roasted potatoes and veg. I then have an hours kip. In my defence I was up very early. We then head to the pool deck for a beer at the bar situated near the aft of the ship. It's extremely busy. The sun is not so hot at 4pm buts it's still very warm.

We decide to eat at the Tex Mex in the evening again but will do Mex rather than Tex tonight. We begin with complimentary nachos and dips. Peter orders the Tacos to start and I have the Tostados. We both opt for the chicken&beef fajitas for main. We are both so stuffed afterwards we have to skip dessert.

A drink in Il'Transatlantico afterwards and I am feeling tired. Determined not to go to bed just yet we head up to the top deck to enjoy some drinks underneath the starry open air. The pool bar is still open and plenty of people are enjoying drinks al fresco. There is quite a lively playlist playing over the speakers (Rihanna, One Direction, All Saints) which along with the sea air perks us up.

We soon tire though and retire to bed. Tomorrow we are Sir Bani Yas which is a private island that MSC have recently opened. Will be interesting to see how it compares to the Caribbean ones.

Fantasia at anchor

Fantasia at anchor


Dhow. Cool and comfortable

Dhow. Cool and comfortable


Dhows await

Dhows await


Fjords

Fjords


Captain of the Dhow

Captain of the Dhow


Proud goat

Proud goat

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

Muscat

We awake a little earlier today. Just before 8am local and we have just docked in the Port Sultan Qaboos. This is located in the old district of Muscat called Mutrah. I step onto the balcony and the air temperature is already very warm. It's going to be hot today.

We don't have any excursion booked and plan to just go ashore and stroll around to see what we can see. We breakfast and then head back to cabin to apply plenty of sun screen. Cameras in hand we head ashore. Shuttle buses ferry us to the port entrance where we are immediately set up by a large group of taxis drivers. They are very persistent, polite but firm 'no thank you' seems to have little effect and one follows us for some distance before he gives up. Once away from the port entrance we are not bothered further. We stroll along the Corniche which is a pedestrian walkway that hugs the port for quite a few miles. All the while we are taking pictures of the boats, the domes and minarets of the mosques and even the impressive castle which sits above the port.

We stop at a small cafe for some soft drinks before venturing into the Mutrah Souk. Its small narrow passageways are filled with vendors selling a myriad of wares. The air is perfumed with the scent of burning incense. The vendors are not in your face like some places and although we don't buy anything it was a fascinating place to visit. We have been walking for close to 2 hours and the temperature is starting to build as we approach noon. We decide to head back to the ship and brace ourselves to get through the throng of taxi drivers again. They completely ignore us this time. Seems they are only interested on guests leaving the port which makes sense.

A short shuttle ride back and we enter the cool underbelly of Fantasia and take the lift up to deck 12 for our cabin. Lunch beckons and although the desserts in the buffet are nice you can't beat the cakes from the Piazza and so once we have eaten our burger and fries we head down to deck 6 and order the Sour Cherry Cake. It's so nice. They serve very good coffee here too.

I spend the afternoon catching some sun on the balcony but the heat is a little too intense and so I beat a retreat to the coolness of the cabin. Fantasia leaves Port around 5.30, our first daylight departure of this cruise so we head up to the top deck to take some pictures and enjoy the sunset.

We learn we have a very early start tomorrow for our Dhow Cruise to the Fjords and are glad we are eating in the speciality TexMex tonight as we are eating earlier than we have been at 20.30.

Cocktails in Il'Transatlantico. Pre dinner wine in Toscana. The tapas we get with the wine are excellent and the waitress is very friendly. She remembered which wine we like which is very impressive considering the amount of passengers on this cruise.

We are seated in the TexMex and are given Nachos with dips to start. Some of the dips are really spicy which I love. We have Quesadillas to start and the New York Strip steak for main. It's not as good as a fillet but as black card members it's complimentary so we are not complaining. The dessert is mango cream which is lovely. We have a different wine than usual but it's better so might be ordering that in future.

For the first time this cruise we decide to have flutter in the casino. Lady luck is not on our side but we don't lose too much and we retreat to the bar for a cocktail before retiring early. Well earlier than we have done since we arrived.

Fortress

Fortress


Corniche

Corniche


Fantasia

Fantasia


Souk

Souk


Sunset Seekers

Sunset Seekers


Sunset over the Arabian Gulf

Sunset over the Arabian Gulf


Tex Mex Restaurant

Tex Mex Restaurant

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

At Sea

We awake late and almost miss breakfast. Fantasia is slowly making her way through the Straits of Hormuz as we round the Oman Promontory before heading southeast toward Muscat. The gulf is a flat calm, perfect sailing weather. A few white clouds dot the hazy blue sky and the air temperature is a pleasant 28c. There are plenty of ships about. The straits are the only way in and out of the gulf and many an oil tanker can be seen as well as smaller fishing Dhows. Large flocks of white sea birds bob gently on the calm waters no doubt after the silvery shoals of small fish I can see just beneath the surface. I even spy a group of 9 or so stingrays in formation heading northwards. I'm not sure what the collective term is for that? Will keep my eyes peeled for more marine life.

We take a late lunch in The Zanzibar Buffet. 2nd seating for dinner is not till 21.15 which is quite late even for us. First seating at 18.30 is way too early. The Buffet is really busy which is not unusual on sea days. We find a seat easily enough though near the aft windows with a view of the ships wake. We have now rounded the promontory and are headed southwards with Iran to our port side and Oman starboard.

Afterwards we stroll up top in the warm sunshine. Empty sun beds are rare as everyone seems to be enjoying basking in the sun. We stop in the Solarium for ice cold beers and people watching. Speedos on middle aged portly gentleman really need banning. The afternoon is spent on our balcony reading and listening to music. There is a cool breeze as the ship leisurely slips through the calm waters.

It's formal night tonight or gala night as they call it on this ship. We dress appropriately and head to Il'Transatlantico for cocktails. We are feeling very relaxed. To say we have been lazy today is an understatement but that's what holidays are for to relax and recharge. Next stop is La Toscana which is the wine bar. Two glasses of our favourite Woodbridge Chardonnay are ordered which is delivered with a full plate of delicious tapas.

They have a special Gala menu in the main dining room tonight. We arrive first shortly followed by Maureen and Graham and then the Irish couple (forget names) and then Colin. After catching up on each other's days (mostly similar to ours) we order food. I have a salmon and prawn starter followed by what I thought was going to be a Greek salad from the description, was more like a Caesar salad as the cheese was not Feta. Still good though. I had leg of lamb for main which was cooked to perfection and the chocolate dessert was tasty. Dinner conversation was varied and often raucous due to the copious amount of wine we were downing.

Following dinner we embark on our usual routine of visiting as many bars as possible and trying a variety of cocktails and drinks. My new favourite is the Jamaican Paradise. Looks like something Bruce Banner or Shrek would drink but is delicious. By midnight we are giddy kippers and visit the buffet for a late night snack. Up to midnight you can get a variety of pizzas and even have it delivered fresh to your cabin. As it's past that time we make our own sandwich which is served by a guy whose face tells us he really doesn't want to be doing it at this hour of the night. Stomach lined we head back to The cabin before falling into bed.

Calm seas

Calm seas


Peroni

Peroni


Cabin 12223

Cabin 12223


Jamaican Paradise

Jamaican Paradise

Posted by Patch64 17:00 Archived in Oman Comments (0)

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