CRUISE, DUBAI, OMAN, FUJAIRAH, ABU DHABI AND BAHRAIN
We left Birmingham airport 20 minutes late on an Emirates flight to Dubai. Landed just after midnight and transferred to the Arabian Courtyard Hotel near Port Rashid ready to join the cruise. Arabian Courtyard was classed as 4 star but in my opinion it was closer to 3 star. Regardless it was OK for one night, but I would not have wanted longer there.
Joined the Brilliance of the Seas and check in took around 10 minutes. Very organized. Grabbed something to eat in an overcrowded Windjammer Cafe and caught a taxi to the Gold Souk for that special treat ring. Got back to the ship and luggage had arrived so unpacked. Asked about upgrade to a balcony cabin and were told there had none, but various conversations throughout the week made me doubt this.
Supplies of toiletries were non existent in the bathroom cabins and I never failed to wonder how they had managed to obtain toilet paper so thin that it could not even have been classed as one ply. Counter productive on cost saving as you had to use 3 times as much.
First port of call was Oman. When we landed at 9am the temperature registered 41C. It was very hot. Went to the Souk which was well worth a visit. Currency is Rials but they accepted AED Dirhams. By the time we got back to the ship the temperature was approaching 45C. Never have I felt heat like it. This was my favourite port of call.
Second port was Fujairah. I had read the trip reports previously and didn't expect too much which was just as well because it was disappointing. We did the shuttle bus to the port gate and then paid extra for the shuttle to take us to the Lulu Hypermarket. Waste of time.
Third port was Abu Dhabi. What I saw I liked. Clean and modern. Again we paid for the shuttle bus that continued past the port gates into the centre. We got off the bus at the town centre mall. Unfortunately there was nothing much else around the same area to wander around other than the marina which had the bluest sea I had ever seen.
Fourth port was Bahrain. Again opt for the shuttle bus to part gates and paid extra for the transfer to the Mall hoping there would be souks in the vicinity. There were not so we ended up at the mall for 4 hours. We assumed that there would be an hourly collection from the mall as there was on the 2 previous ports, but there wasn't. We and other passengers felt as though we were just dumped at the mall. The items were so expensive I don't think anyone purchase anything. Then we called at the museum which was as boring as hell on earth. Not my cup of tea at all. A complete waste of a day and at $21 each, far too expensive for what was offered. Got 3/4 of the way back when the coach broke down. Groan!! All the passengers had to get off the bus and wait at the roadside in the heat for a replacement. Thankfully another coach occupied by BoS passengers stopped allowing us all to jump on for a lift back to the ship. Arrived harassed and disappointed.
There were only 2 ports of call (with the exception of Dubai) that were worth a visit and to be honest I had already gathered this from previous posts.
The cost of alcohol was extortionate. $12 for a glass that was not even full for a Chardonnay. Outrageous.
During the week the Iceland volcano erupted (damn the thing). I guessed straight away that our return flight home would be delayed. It turned out to be a nightmare situation.
RCL were absolutely useless. All they were interested in was making money. There were stupid pointless photo shoots. Photo with a cuddly toy, one with a member of staff dressed in arab outfit, one in front of the ship, one at dinner, one by the pool, one............... People were getting sick and tired of being asked to have their photo taken.
I enquired on Saturday morning (whole companies were still open in the UK) at the Guest Relations desk what their intention was regarding hotels and flights when it became apparent we would not be flying. I was informed that if it was a RCL package (which mine was) then RCL would locate us a hotel and alternative flight. As if!! So based on this information RCL were going to re-locate between 1,000 and 2,000 passengers in hotels, pay for them and re-arrange their flight home. I bet they will I thought!
While guests were at the evening meal and continued to the entertainment section of the ship RCL left in each cabin a note saying all passengers where to disembark at Port Rashid in Dubai and arrange their own accommodation and return flights. I was right!! Furthermore at the same time as leaving the distressing note envelopes were left for you to tip the staff. A mutiny occurred. A meeting was held on deck 9 whereby 3 passengers were elected to speak to the captain. The outcome was that no hotels would be paid for, no flights organised (although different carriers were more helpful than others eg. Virgin), so chaos erupted. The captain eventually agreed free access to the internet and cabin phones in order that the passengers could book accommodation, but you try getting the use of a PC on board that ship... you can't. RCL gave all passengers an Emirates contact number and told each passenger to keep ringing if for flight updates. You were left on hold for ages and still obtained no information. For me my 2 sisters proved saints. I text them and they managed to book me and hubby 2 nights in a hotel. I asked them for 2 nights assuming that this amount of time would be close to the delayed time it would take to fly back to the UK. We had to pay for the hotel and the taxi to it. I then found out that if you sought the assistance of RCL they would offer a FOC shuttle bus to a named hotel but they only started offering this facility the day before we were due to disembark and by this time we had already reserved our hotel.
RCL was sailing on a repositioning cruise from Dubai to Barcelona. Hardly any new passengers were joining the ship yet they still dumped all the existing passengers. They preferred to leave us all with no flight and no accommodation and sail to Barcelona best part empty. Words fail me especially bearing in mind that today on the news we hear that a new cruise ship sailed from England to Spain with the sole intention of collecting stranded passengers. We had already paid for our cruise and RCL couldn't have cared less. I sailed to the Baltics 3 years ago with RCL and was satisfied with them, the service and the food. How things change. As I previously said everything came down to money, the service was OK but the food poor. The Windjammer food was cooked at least a couple of hours in advance and by the time we ate it, it was fit for the bin. Seating in here was also insufficient.
The Minstrels dining room menu was poor. For the last 3 days I hardly ate anything. The choice was dreadful. On the last night I walked out in disgust. What with the dumping of us planned for the following day and then rubbish food it was too much.
The entertainment in the theatre was satisfactory but dated. Nothing has changed from all the previous cruises we had done over the years. I must give the Beatles Tribute Band an award as they were absolutely outstanding. Went to see them at the first show and returned for the second show.
Got off the ship on the day of disembarkation and transferred to the hotel to accumulate my maxed out credit card. Thankfully I did have a credit card though as people both old and young were put off the ship with no card and no money.
Overall I was very disappointed with the attitude and service offered by RCL.
When to see Emirates in the Town Centre Mall who gave us a return flight date of 6 May. It's dire. How on earth could we afford to stay in the hotel for this amount of time, buy food, arrange clean laundry and survive? While it is easy for people to say we should think ourselves lucky to have been stuck in Dubai, they are really missing the point. The whole holiday was spoilt and not just by the volcanic activity, by the attitude of Royal Caribbean not assisting us. We both needed to get back to the UK as soon as possible. We had not catered for 2 weeks and had commitments back in the UK and I also had a sick mother. On Tuesday we went to the Mall of the Emirates (my favourite mall) and visited DNATA. They were helpful and through them we started to agree our route home.
The following day we moved out of the hotel because of the cost and went to the airport to start our way home. We slept fitfully at the airport during the night and at 5.55am left Dubai airport for Doha. Then caught the connecting flight to Tunis with Qatar Airways. A very satisfactory service and I would say an improvement on Emirates.
Arrived in Tunis and dashed to any of the ticket desks that would provide us with a flight over the sea to Europe. Nothing available at most of them. Went to check at Tunisair who were flying to Paris at 14.55 and were put on standby. Was asked to return in one hour to see if seats were available. Returned in 40 minutes and were told the flight was full. Felt like crying after the length of journey we had already made and the thought that we may be stuck here for another 3 days for the next flight to Madrid. Went to enquire at the business class desk and inbetween the language barrier problems we found out that they had 2 seats left in economy. Hubby checked in the bags while I ran over to the ticket desk to pay for them at which point the system went down. Explained the urgency of the matter (only 20 minutes now until anticipated flying time) and the person at the next desk assisted. Dashed round to pay the cashier (it's not all done at the same desk), grabbed hubby and ran from one end of the airport to the boarding gate. Caught the plane with minutes to spare. Although hubby and I were not sitting together at least we were on the flight and as hubby said to me when we got off 'that plane wouldn't pass an MOT'. I had to agree.
Arrived in Paris and paid the extortionate rate of 245 euros each for Eurostar to London arriving at St Pancreas Station. Again was tight on time and almost missed it.
Arrived in London, caught a taxi to Victoria Coach Station to transfer back to Birmingham and the bus had left 10 minutes early. How ironic that we had got from Dubai to London just managing to catch all connections only to find National Express had left early. Waited an hour for the next one and arrived at Digbeth Coach Station at 3.30am absolutely shattered. Arranged for a taxi to home and arrived here safely at 4.10am.
We consider that we didn't go on holiday. We had 2 weeks of stress and a cruise ship that was sub-standard.
Now we are in the process of going through all invoices and receipts with a view to trying to reimburse ourselves an estimated £3k that we did not allow for.
The outcome of all this is...............I'm never going on holiday again!!