We booked a fly/Hotel/Cruise package with Virgin Holidays Cruises, a sister company of Virgin Holidays but they wouldn't accept Tesco clubcard vouchers.
We flew out on the 25th overnight to Dubai with Virgin Atlantic and then stayed 4 nights in the Hilton resort and Spa in Ras al Khaimah, about 60kms north of Dubai. Nice resort but nothing else there and main Restaurant is buffet only and popular with families! I picked up a stomach bug on day 2 which lasted for the rest of the trip!
We were transferred to Dubai on the 30th arriving about 1400 but check in for the ship doesn't start until 1500. after some confusion amongst Costa staff about paperwork, desks and queues we boarded. We already knew our cabin wouldn't be available until 2000hrs so we left the ship and took the free shuttle to Dubai Mall returning about 1900hrs. We were then allowed access to our cabin and our luggage arrived soon after. Ship sailed on the 31st at 1300hrs for Muscat in Oman, worth a visit. The other ports were Fujairah, not much to see, Abu Dhabi worth a visit, Bahrain don't bother unless you want the trip to the F1 circuit, and back to Dubai arriving on the Friday 5th of Feb.
All ports had free shuttle to port gates and other options. "Hop on hop off" bus in Abu Dhabi is worth it, and probably in Dubai but we didn't try that one.
The ship is only 9 months old so in good condition. Some of the dEcor is a bit gaudy but then it's Italian. Automatic doors on the toilets are like a space ship but the fittings inside are cheap and bright yellow cubicle dividers.
The cabin we had was on deck 6 with balcony, no complaints. Samsara Suites have direct access to Spa but we didn't try that. Room service, breakfast was at no extra charge but often earlier than the time requested. We just had tea and then went to Taurus Restaurant for proper Breakfast.
Breakfast is free seating, directed by staff so you can be on a table with anyone. Buffet, including pork bacon, hot eggs to order from waiting staff. Toast on request. Lots of offers for coffee, tea more difficult especially if you want cold milk, although it is on the buffet for cereal. Staff tends to disappear after a while and it can be difficult to attract their attention -they don't look up! Breakfast in Taurus finishes at 0915, too early I feel. Buffet available on upper deck till 1100.
Lunch also free seating directed by staff, again could be any size table, finishes at 1400, buffet longer on upper deck. Dinner in 2 sittings 1830 and 2045. Allocated tables with "personal waiters", except for Saturday night.
Dining room cramp and meals felt a bit hurried at times. Two "Gala nights" on this trip where suggested dress was formal, other wise casual. Food generally good quality, staff not as good as previous Cunard cruises.
We bought in advance a J2 drink package which saved us a fortune on everything from bottled water and "proper coffee" to wine and spirits. Some staff confused by it and it was a bit of a hassle at times.