Myself and my partner chose to pay for the J2 package before we left out. We could take any drink we liked from the minibar excluding super alcoholics (not sure what they were actually - but we took cans of beer, bottles of Prosecco, water and soft drinks)and these were all included in the J2 package.
It was nice to be able to raid the minibar as in hotels we always have to stay well away!!! It was great not having to think about how much each round was costing when we went out in the evening - as the drinks were all included (provided they were under 6.99 euros - but most things - glasses of wine, bottles of beer, pints of beer, cocktails - were under this price). We spent £450 for 2 people on this package and would have spent well over £600 if we had paid for each drink separately - so this was well worth it. We often stayed out until 12 - 1am and had a few drinks in the day - so if this sounds like you, I would recommend this drinks package.
The ship was sparkling clean and the cabin stewards never seem to stop working. All the bar staff were polite and helpful and I did not come across one grumpy member of staff in the whole of my stay.
We had a balcony cabin which was lovely. To be able to sit on the balcony and just watch the world going by was amazing.
I thought the entertainment team were great - yes they try to get you up on the dance floor to play games etc., but that is their job and there are plenty of other bars to go to if this is not your thing.
The swimming pools are a bit small however I have never seen a picture of a decent sized swimming pool on a cruise ship - so this did not surprise me one bit.
The food in Restaurant Albatross was amazing. We missed the first couple of nights and ate in the buffet - but after eating in the restaurant once - we never went back to the buffet for dinner - the food was just gorgeous. Buffet however is fine for dinner and late night munchies!!
Embarkation was quick and simple. We could embark any time from 3pm but visited Dubai in the afternoon so got to the ship around 5pm. We went through all the formalities and then just walked straight on - no queues!!
Disembarkation was the same - we left our cabin at 6.40am, collected our passports and disembarked and were on our transfer coach by 7am.
I honestly cannot fault one thing about this cruise. I would not choose to go back to Fujairah or Abu Dhabi which were two places on our itinerary - however this is nothing to do with the cruise itself - and would have no qualms about choosing Costa again.
PS - Hi to Susan, Paul and Jack in Holland if you read this!!!!!!!!!
Port 1 - Muscat (Oman)
Rating - 5+
The first port we visited after setting sail was Muscat (Oman). The cruise ship provided a shuttle bus to the edge of the port and when we left that we walked the short distance to the nearby souk. This was amazing! Rows and rows of stalls/shops selling typical middle eastern souvenirs and the people are all so friendly!
We spent a happy few hours wandering around until our feet started to hurt(!) - so then walked back to the shuttle. I would definitely recommend visiting here for presents and souvenirs!!
Port 2 - Fujairah
Rating - 1
Second port of call was Fujairah (UAE). Very disappointed with this. We paid 6 euros each for a shuttle to the LuLu Supermarket - which was basically a tiny shopping centre - the main focus being a shop a bit like Tesco!!
We were not sure what to do here and got a lot of hassle from taxi drivers and people trying to sell you excursions to the forts, mosques etc. This is not really our thing so we declined.
The kind shuttle bus driver agreed to drop us at the marina - but when we got there, there was nothing there either! We then got a taxi to a "beach" which was more like a building site and then the taxi driver refused to take us back to the LuLu so we had to flag ANOTHER taxi to take us back - he told us the price would be 10 dirham - only to change it to 10 euros when we got out!!! Beware of this - I have read this a couple of times from other people.
Unless you have an excursion booked - or there is something you know you want to visit here - I would probably recommend just staying on the ship!
Port 3 - Abu Dhabi
Rating - 2
Third port of call was Abu Dhabi. Again we paid 6 euros each for the shuttle which took us along the main road along by the sea - this was a lovely journey with nice scenery. We were dropped at the Marina Mall - but were hoping there would be other little shops about.
There weren't really any other places to go so we were a bit disappointed as we were hoping for little shops like the ones in Oman. If you enjoy your shopping centres though - I am sure you would like it.
There are beaches around which would be great for sunbathing but unfortunately we had not taken towels and swimming stuff - so we went back to the ship.
Port 4 - Bahrain
Rating - 5
We nearly did not leave the ship to see Bahrain as the last couple of stops had been disappointing however we made ourselves get up and were really pleased we had!! We again paid 6 euros each for the bus - the journey was about 25 minutes though - so not too bad.
The bus took us to Manama City which was amazing!! A bit more built up and modern than Oman - but the same kind of nik naks and market stalls! We were able to stock up on more presents and were really pleased that we visited.
Rating - 5+
We absolutely loved Dubai which we had already visited before we started the cruise.
We paid for the 4x4 Dune Safari Dinner.
We left the ship at 3.15 in a 4x4 land cruiser. We drove for about 40 minutes before we reached the desert and then went on a hair raising drive through the sand dunes!!!!!
We stopped a couple of times for photo stops and then reached the Bedouin camp where we rode a camel and you could also try sand boarding!!!
There was a barbecue which was delicious and free drinks from the bar. There was free henna tattooing and a small stall selling gifts. There was entertainment too - a hilarious clowny dance act - which is hard to describe! and a wonderful belly dancer!
We returned to the ship about 9.30.