France, Spain, Egypt, Jordan and UAE 2013
This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.
Mark just commented that we have never been so far away from home.....
18.05.2013 - 20.05.2013 30 °C
Day 15 of cruise
Sadly, today is the last full day on board the ship. We have just finished going through the info flyers about departing tomorrow, and it looks like we'll be leaving the ship sometime around 8:45 a.m., after picking up our passports (and, hopefully, the visa we had to turn in).We then get off the ship into the terminal where we will pick up our luggage, and then our final adventure starts: finding a taxi, communicating with the driver to get us over to the car rental place, figuring out how to drive in Dubai and find our way back to the hotel we are staying at, and hoping that they meant it when they told Mark that they have parking....then we will need to determine what to go look at for the next 2 days, and hope that we will find our way to the airport on Thursday night. Then 'home'...
Most sea days, I start the day walking my mile around the deck. A couple of days ago, we sprung $10 and played air hockey in the video arcade. That day, I beat Mark the first game, and he beat me the second. Yesterday, we took V& T there, and I beat Mark again, then I played Val and beat her. I would have liked to play again, but it was REALLY hard on my shoulder and it is still sore today. Plus I have bruises all over my right leg from my knee to my hip from bumping into the table as I lunged for the little yellow disk. Mark and I also have played several games of mini-golf, including this morning. Despite Mark's crowings about beating me, I play mini-golf more against myself than against him, and am just happy to see improvements in my score. However, my game is very up and down, from game to game, and even within a game. Anyway, my best score was 28, which I achieved a couple of times, and Mark did better than that only once. I think that was under par on the 9 holes, too. A non-stressful fun way to kill a half hour or so.
Val and I also killed time throughout the cruise by going to little half hour events around the ship. We learned how to fold napkins and turn towels into animals. Our stateroom attendant, Carol, had a magnificent piece on our bed last night—two swans facing one another. I think I sent in a picture.
We have gone swimming a few times in the pools. It is very comfortable to just float in the sun in the warm salt water. Last time I did that though, it was after already spending an hour in the sunshine and it was too much for me—I ended up with a burn on my arms and a bit on my legs. Not serious, but it made me stay out of the sun for the past two days... :-( The reason I overextended was because of staying inside the day I wasn't feeling well and I wanted to make up for lost time. Since I haven't had a burn in years, I thought I could push the limits a bit. Silly me.
Last night was the final formal night for this cruise. Because of luggage limitations, we did not bring really formal stuff (I probably mentioned that already), but Mark had a dress shirt and tie each night and I had a dress. We met Val and Troi at the theatre and watched the show put on by the ship's cast of singers, dancers, and musicians. It was full of energy and they were certainly trying, but we were underwhelmed by the production on the whole. NCL certainly is ahead of the game as far as entertainment goes.
Then, we went to our final specialty restaurant dinner, at Chops Grille. This was the freebie for booking a balcony state room, ordinarily an additional charge of $30 each. The meal was delicious. Val and I had filet mignon with lobster tail, Mark had his 18 oz porterhouse steak and Troi opted for Alaskan halibut on a cedar plank. There were various side dish choices, served 'family style' so that all of us could eat some of everything. WAAAY too much food. My steak was perfectly cooked (medium rare) and just melted under my knife and in my mouth, and was SOOOO flavourful...Unfortunately, I could not eat it all and Mark would not take any more than a small bite to try it out. The baked potato I ordered was enough for a Bedouin family of 5 and I was the only one who took a small portion of it. I had butter, sour cream and chives on it, and ate only a small portion of the small portion. We couldn't even think of dessert—except for Mark, who had the mud pie and ate it all—however he did offer to share with the rest of us but as we had no utensils by this time, we were easily able to say “No”. I had asked that the remaining 2 or 3 ounces of my filet mignon be wrapped so I could take it home with me, as I was certain Mark would eat it either before we went to bed, during the night, or when he woke. Mark was completely embarrassed by my request. Our waiter brought me a clean plate with a domed cover and a new set of linen napkin wrapped silver ware. Mark didn't want to bring it home, I said I would carry it, as at this point it would be more embarrassing to not take it, after requesting it. So Mark had to tell our waiter thank you very much for preparing this, but we would not be taking it. He is getting some very weird ideas in his old age. (Mark,not the waiter.)
After dinner, we stopped at a couple of spots as Val wanted to take some pictures, then we headed to bed, completely full up beyond the “maximum” mark. Nice meal. Nice night. Nice sleep.
Today, both of us woke up with irritated stomachs again. So we have been taking it very slow. We played golf. Went to a lecture on Dubai and the Arabian Peninsula we have been sailing around. Then came back to our room for another rest. Have to pack up at some point today, which I think means separating out our few remaining clean clothes and putting them in one suitcase for use in Dubai,and tossing the rest into the remaining suitcases, using them as padding around the few things we have purchased. If anyone in customs in any country we pass through wants to search through those cases, they are welcome to go ahead!!
21.05.2013 - 21.05.2013 39 °C
Well, we have arrived in Dubai. We got our car, killed some time in a local mall until we could check in to our hotel, found our way to our hotel without incident, checked out the Dubai museum (really worth seeing, only two blocks from where we are staying and only about $1 per person entry fee), and are now sipping Mint lemonade on the rooftop of The Local House Restaurant as we await our spicy camel meat burgers! How is that for a day?
As only my Samsung (super smart) phone can connect to the Wifi at the hotel and the NetBook has once again "quit", I have to blog with my phone and it is a pain as I hate texting on these tiny keyboards. So this and any subsequent entries will be short and sweet.
That is all for today anyway I think. Tomorrow maybe the big mall which is right at the big building., and maybe a drive along the beach to see the big hotel.
(Additional entry later--sitting in the Dubai airport waiting to check in to go home. Netbook is back up and running.)
Just a little more on this day. We got off the cruise ship at about 9:00 this morning. When we got into the terminal and found our bags and then went out into the hot white light of day to find a taxi, we found that we had to hunt for the end of a huge lineup of people waiting for taxis too. We were all, old and young, standing in line without a speck of shade to be seen, and no one offering water to us--not even at a price! It was a very long hot hour or more that we spent idly doing nothing except shuffling forward a few feet once or twice a minute. It was heaven to finally be allotted a taxi and to climb into the air-conditioned interior. Surely Dubai could afford to put a canopy over that line-up area! Or someone should work on the logistics of the taxi line-up and assignment. I'm sure they have cruise ships in there several times a week, and it would NEVER be raining or cold.....
Our driver did not seem to know the building that we directed him to where we were to pick up our car, but he contacted his base and was obviously eventually given directions as he seemed to get us their without any wrong turns. I dug out my map and was able to follow where we were going and there was no funny business. When we got to Budget Car Rental, the car was not there, and there was some sort of miscommunication as they were not even expecting us and our reservation wasn't in the system. This was what I was afraid would happen as Mark's last few emailsto the Budget contact in Dubai had gone unanswered. We showed them to the woman at the desk and she read through everything and was able to get us a car--sllightly upgraded from what we had wanted, at a reasonable compromise for the rate--and so we were on our way.
Getting to the hotel was a bit of an effort. We knew that the place we were staying was not really on a street, but you had to walk down an alley to get to it, but its parent hotel was just a few blocks away and we knew we could go there if all else failed. We went around several blocks several times, knowing we had to be in the right area, but couldn't see our hotel And then when we decided to just go to the larger place, we couldn't figure out where to park to go into it. Finally, we pulled into the small space for taxis and buses right in front and Mark stayed in the car while I ran in. It took several minutes for the concierge to help me, and in the meantime someone else went out and chased Mark away! I then spoke to that guy and he told me to have the car brought in to the front of the hotel and someone would drive us over to the other place and then park our car (free valet parking.) I told him he had just sent the car away and who knew if my husband would find his way back..... But we had discussed this possibility happening, and we had gone around the same circle 3 or 4 times, so the landmarks had been noted. To my relief, a few minutes later, he showed up, someone jumped in and drove us the couple of blocks to our hotel, and then took off with the car.
The place we stayed at, the Orient Guest House, had been a family residence originally. It was a one storey square building, built around a courtyard. There was access to the roof top as a lounge area but not likely anyone would ever go up there during the day as it was way too hot. I didn't notice any chairs or lounges though that would indicate people went up in the evening either. There were 8 or 10 rooms of varying sizes. The receptionist/butler/cook (for breakfast) was a very nice, obsequious, helpful woman. She said the room we had was her favourite and she hoped I would like it--it was for ladies. The bedding was aqua in colour and had applique in sequins, and it was a four poster with hangings of the same fabric on three sides.
As mentioned above, after we checked in, we walked over to the Dubai Museum to go through it. It was only $1 a piece and we spent about half an hour or so on the walk through. It was quite interesting and informative, without making you have to exert yourself. After that, we went back to our room again to cool off, then we walked the half block or so over to the Local House Restaurant for our camel meat dinner.
We chose to go up onto the roof to eat. It was about 5:00 or so by this time. We were the only ones in the restaurant. As per the Tripadvisor info and the YouTube video, there were several offerings, but mostly variations of a camel burger. Mark and I both chose the spicy burger and it came with french fries. It was very tasty--for texture quite a bit like moose burger, very dark lean meat. We enjoyed it a lot, along with our mint lemonade, which was very refreshing, and which we had with each subsequent meal in Dubai (no beer, wine or cocktails served anywhere but at hotels which are licensed to do so. We didn't bother trying this out: we read too much that indicated buying alcohol in Dubai was hugely expensive. If an $8 bottle of California wine can end up costing $90 in Dubai, what would a glass cost??) After we were finished our meal (still no one else joined us on the rooftop) we waited and waited for the bill to come. Finally, we decided to go back downstairs to ask for it. We learned that, for whatever reason, and we don't know what it is, every restaurant meal we had they wanted to get and then bring your order very quickly, but then would let you sit idly after you were finished your meal, probably forever, before bringing the bill. We always had to ask--and it was not that they were constantly trying to get you to order drinks or dessert--they just left you alone. Anyway, we jumped the gun just a bit as just when we left, someone came up to turn on all the little twinkle lights as it was just dusk. It might have been nice to sit for a llittle while longer. It was still really warm, but not scorchingly sweaty hot. So we had our camel meat on our first day in Dubai, walked back to our little room, had a drink of duty free vodka* from the ship, figured out the TV/Satellite and found English Al-Jazeera, then finally went to sleep.
Well, that's it for Day 1 in Dubai. It's a pretty neat place.