We boarded in Dubai following a night flight with Virgin airlines. It seems there were several flights with mixed reaction. Our flight was cramped and uncomfortable; I would not do a night flight again. The reception at Dubai airport was shambolic. Nobody was taking charge and we had to wander round trying to find a rep and our coach 7am in the morning after a sleepless night. We arrived at the embarkation shed; the coach driver just waved to the trolleys and drove off. No Cunard staff was available to offer advice or even a bottle of water. We sat in the grubby shed until 12.30 before we could board the ship. Our luggage was in our balcony cabin on deck 11 when we cleared reception. Grabbed of few hours' sleep. The ship is very big, but without the on deck facilities we have found on other cruises, that's because it's an "Ocean liner" the staff would constantly remind us. We found it difficult to find our way round the ship even when sober! Asking the staff for directions proved fatal on a number of occasions, as we often ended up going in the wrong direction. As always the cabin steward was helpful and courteous. I gave him our normal $50 tip when we met and he could not do enough for us. We removed the compulsory tips at the Bursars desk, along with many others, tipped dinning and stewards again when disembarking. The Buffet restaurant was not very welcoming, although the food was OK. We had our breakfast brought to balcony very pleasant and efficient free room service staff every day. $1 tip was all that seemed necessary. I would recommend that as a nice start to the day, or if you want free tea and cakes during the day. We dined in the Britannia fixed time restaurant. Good quality food, lots of choices. Wine was expensive $40 for a Â£10 bottle screw top plonk, plus the compulsory service charge. You don't have to have wine of course you can just have free tap water with a coffee to follow if you like. The dinner guests on your table are chosen by the restaurant manager so they and you get who you are given. We do not mind dressing for dinner, in fact my wife spent hours asking "does my bum look big in this" before changing into yet another evening dress. The ladies do look nice though. Good job you can have as many cases as you can carry on returning to Southampton.
Dubai proved to be a disaster as we took an open top bus trip, paid Â£80 and got off after 3 stops to join a Dhow cruise, 50 yards from the dockside the Captain turned back and ordered us all off. To windy he said. No mention of a refund. We ended up getting taxis which we should have done in the first place. Some people really enjoyed it, having spent a couple of days settling in before their excursions.
The next stop was Muscat, clean a less pretentious that Dubai. We took a beach trip. I t was very shallow and clear, having to wade out 100 yards to cover your waist. Hot and pleasant excursion.
Then we set off to "pirates alley" escorted by various naval ships, one of which came close and gave us a helicopter demonstration. Very good to see, made us all feel more comfortable. The ship itself can really travel at speed and had armed guards, so I don't think the pirates would be silly enough to even come close. Not to mention risking a tongue lashing from the blue rinse brigade. From Sohkna we joined the ships excursion to Cairo and the Pyramids. We were very anxious as we set off in an armed coach convoy across the dessert to Giza. We found we had no reason to be anxious. As all the Egyptians were very friendly and pleased to see us. Not many other tourists around and no sign of Egypt's troubles. We were forced to drive through a sandstorm, which was quite exciting, the driver could only see 10 yards ahead, and he was being led by a police escort. Cairo and the Pyramids were filthy, but at $400 it was the best excursion of the whole cruise. You must go there once!
Suez Canal was interesting and took all day to transit. Worth the trip.
Next was Athens and the Corinth can trip ending at Ancient Corinth nice sunny day in pleasant company. Like all these trips you have to endure the visit to a store owned by a family member to make your purchases of the local tourist tat.
Then to Malaga to see the Flamenco dancers, that was quite good, but the trip was expensive. Having had the trip to Lisbon cancelled we settled down for the long run to Southampton.
The Bay of Biscay was rough, and the ship did not ride it as well as expected, many spare places at the dinner table in the evening as a result. Disembarkation was easy.
Would we go on this trip again? Probably not. Too many sea days, not enough ports. Smoking allowed in some areas. Cunard make a big thing of the white star service and its former glories. Truth is, it does cater for a niche market, but the ship was built by the French and the ship, crew and history feel a little tired. Cheaper that many of our previous cruises. We might try Asia next