Cruising the Middle East

Well as some of you know I’m a big cruiser…. I have recently completed my eighth cruise in four years with some friends and we travelled around the Arabian Gulf.  Arabian Gulf??  I hear you cry….a strange place to cruise.  Well I can tell you I wasn’t that much of a fan of the Middle East before but I am fully converted.  Beautiful weather (Yes in January!), stunning destinations and friendly people. 

We flew from London Heathrow with BA in Economy. Prior to the flight we splashed out for a little respite from the hustle & buste of Terminal 5 and took advantage of the Aspire lounge. A lounge is a great way to relax in comfort, with complimentary food & drinks. I was really disappointed in the Aspire Lounge at Terminal 5, half the lounge was shut and it was very small. I'd recommend paying a little extra and pre-booking the Plaza Premium Lounge. 
I flew in Economy to Dubai with British Airways.  A smooth experience with our national carrier, nice food (I ordered an Asian Vegetarian), good entertainment with plenty of the latest and older films to choose from. The crew were great and very helpful. 

Once we arrived at Dubai International Airport it was a quick and stress free process to clear immigration & collect our baggage and we were soon on our way to Port Rashid to join our ship. When you clear customs and enter the arrivals hall follow the signs for public transport and make sure you get an official Dubai Taxi. There are people in the arrivals hall asking if you need a taxi, but these are private chauffeur drivers and charge 3-4 times the amount an official taxi does. 

On arrival at Port Rashid we left our bags with the porters and checked in for our cruise in the terminal building. Check-in was quick for us as we have Premium Check In, but even the main check in looked like it was a quick process. I then boarded the ship, the Jewel of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) ready for a week of fun, laughter, food and drink.  Our Itinerary was an overnight in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas, Sea Day, Muscat Oman and back to Dubai for another overnight. 

Royal Caribbean is my preferred cruise company because it offers all the things that I enjoy on a floating resort due to the amenities and fun activities I love onboard including rock climbing, ice skating, adult only Solarium pool and bar, amazing restaurants with incredible food, West End theatre style shows, incredible destinations (some with a private beaches and exclusive islands) and personal service standards.  My cruise came with a free drinks package meaning all premium branded spirits, wine, beer and speciality coffees up to $12 were included. Royal Caribbean do offers from time to time with Free Drinks Packages, if not, then it can be added on for a supplement prior to departure and we would recommend pre-booking as the on board cost is higher. 

First impressions of the Jewel was wow!  The ship has 13 decks, has recently been renovated and is loaded with onboard attractions, the ship offers countless ways to spend your days between ports. Catch a dive-in movie on the poolside screen. Scale the Rock Climbing Wall. Go all-in at Casino. Savour dry-aged steaks at Chops Grille and embark on a varietal adventure at Vintages, enjoy the huge Schooner Bar (Royals signature bar available on every ship) the beautiful staterooms and a great welcome from staff!

We (my friends and I) enjoyed a few beverages at the many bars onboard and had a dance in the Vortex Club on the top deck of the ship.  The resident DJ was brilliant and keeping us on the floor, playing club classics, 80's favourites and the charts.  The bar tender Alba got to know us so well she had our drinks round poured before we arrived.

We enjoyed a visit to Atlantis Waterpark on Dubai’s Palm Island the next day.  A little cold, as it was a bit cloudy but a fantastic place.  The slides were out of this world and like everything in Dubai, this was also on a massive scale.  There are 30 slides and attractions, Dubai’s longest Lazy River and 500m of private beach.  Thrill-seekers can scream down world-record-breaking waterslides and young families will enjoy the safety of Splashers Island.  The Lost Chamber has a maze of underwater halls and tunnels, you’ll come face to face with the incredible 65,000 marine animals of Atlantis. As you make your way through the 10 various themed chambers of what was once the world’s most advanced civilisation you will find over over 21 exhibits with fish from all over the world flourishing in this magnificent environment. Sharks, stingray, piranhas, lobsters and the tiniest of seahorses are just some of the creatures you'll come face-to-fin with in this spellbinding underwater world.  

Abu Dhabi, wow!!  We went on a tour of the city and the Grand Mosque, the biggest mosque in the world.  There was no expense spared.  The mosque boasted the heaviest, largest chandelier in the world.  We visited the Emirati Historic Village and the change in the middle east in the last 60 years is incredible.  From a series of villages made of shacks on the shore to a true metropolis. 

Sir Bani Yas, a little island used by Royal Caribbean as a private retreat, is a quiet beach resort.  The ships crew bought all the food and drink to shore and this was all included.  We had a few bottles of Champagne (chargeable) and some lunch while having a proper chilled out day.  The resort had complimentary beach beds and umbrellas.

Our visit to Muscat was a little underwhelming after Abu Dhabi.  A smaller scale of Mosque and a visit the local souk completed the day.  Bargaining is a must and is expected.  In the souk you’ll find a vast array of silks, perfumes, trinkets, gifts and souvenirs.  

Overall a fabulous cruise.  I enjoyed it so much I booked my next cruise as soon I returned.  Contact me today to talk about your cruise holidays as your Cruise Designer I have a large knowledge base and can help you find and book your perfect cruise.


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