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55 Royal Caribbean Dubai Cruise Reviews

This was our third RCCL cruise and have sailed several times previously with Princess and Celebrity. We have been to Dubai before. Stayed in Dubai for a night pre cruise and went to the terminal about 12.15 walked straight to check in ... Read More
This was our third RCCL cruise and have sailed several times previously with Princess and Celebrity. We have been to Dubai before. Stayed in Dubai for a night pre cruise and went to the terminal about 12.15 walked straight to check in and was on the ship in about 5 mins. Was told our rooms would be ready by 1 o'clock which they were and we received our luggage mid afternoon. We both really enjoyed this size of this ship, we were on Navigator in November which is a lot bigger and more modern but this one had a much nicer feel to it and more open spaces to sit which we liked. We especially liked the sea view cafe area to sit except for one day that passengers moved the tables and put their sunbeds in place instead so there were no seats whatsovever outside even although the cafe was opened. This started to happen the next day when a woman sat in her sunbed in the middle of the tables but ourselves and other passengers sat at all the other tables and effectively blocked her sunlight and she gave up and moved to just outside the cafe where there was plenty of space in the sun. The hours of the cafe changed daily and sometimes didn't open until 4.pm. We did not find the ship dated and thought that a lot of the carpets had been recently replaced. They certainly were on our floor. Also we found the place very clean. Our stateroom was cleaned every day before we returned for breakfast and unlike a previous poster we did not find it a hassle to take our card from behind the door and put it in the card slot to say "make up room" I would have thought that it would be more of an inconvenience to have someone knocking at your door to check if you wanted the room done. You cannot please all of the people all of the time. I overhead a woman at breakfast one morning saying that the captain should really have made an announcement to say that we are now passing beside an oilfield (which was quite spectacular to see), which he told us over the tannoy twice during the day to look out for between certain times. By the way the time we passed was quarter past midnight!! I'm sure the guests retired for the evening would have enjoyed that. Highlights for us : Open spaces for eating/drinking, pre dinner champagne bar with canapes, sitting on our balcony overlooking a misty Dubai, the staff and Chops Lowlights : Service in Portifino, the singer (??)in Schooners and that it about it. We looked upon the days in Fujariah and Bahrain as sea days as there was nothing we really wanted to do there but we enjoyed Oman and Abu Dhabi and in fact I have been looking to book a hotel in Abu Dhabi this afternoon! Disembarking was easy and we stayed a couple of nights in Dubai on our return and having spoke to people who did the cruise package without any extra nights said they regretted not staying pre cruise. I would suggest that if you weren't doing a pre cruise to go to the "holding area", leave your luggage and check in, get your sea pass and then get a taxi into Dubai and see the sights, that way you are not wasting precious time there. If you get a chance have a look at the fountains in Dubai Mall which are on every 20mins from 6pm, it is also right beside the tallest building - two birds with one stone. Taxi's are extremely cheap and start from 20 dirhams from the airport or the port and note that the meter keeps running when you are stopped in traffic but even then our taxi to the city centre from the aiport cost us under £10. On the way back to the port you don't have to pay the charge and taxis start the meter at 3 dirhams. Having thoroughly enjoyed this cruise we will be recommending it to others. Please do not be apprehensive about this cruise, maybe a lot of the earlier negativity was because it was a completely new venture for RCCL but I reckon they are not doing too badly now!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We were really looking forward to this cruise and we were not disappointed. We had booked the cruise and flights separately. We flew overnight from Heathrow to Dubai landing at 8am. Collected our luggage and transferred to Port Rashid by ... Read More
We were really looking forward to this cruise and we were not disappointed. We had booked the cruise and flights separately. We flew overnight from Heathrow to Dubai landing at 8am. Collected our luggage and transferred to Port Rashid by taxi. The journey took no longer than 30 minutes. We hadn't been sent luggage tags from RCCL prior to the cruise, but this wasn't a problem as there was a gentleman with a supply of tags that he just wrote out and attached to the luggage. Porters are also available. We were using the new terminal at Port Rashid. Very nice with an ATM machine and a Bank where you can change money. We were on My Time Dining and were able to reserve a table for that evening at the desk in the terminal. We couldn't purchase a wine package at that time as RCCL weren't too sure what wines would be available. We did purchase the wine package that evening at dinner, and any choice of wine we picked throughout the week was never substituted Check-in was a breeze. We had to wait until 11am before boarding began. The time went very quickly. Guests either headed straight for the Windjammer or the swimming pools. Access to the staterooms was at 1pm. Our suitcase arrived at 2.10 pm - very quick. If you can manage it go out to Dubai ahead of the cruise and spend a night or two in Dubai, otherwise you will be very sleepy on your first day. At the port there are taxis lined up ready to take you anywhere you desire. Also The Big Bus Company and free shuttle buses to the nearest Malls are available. Muscat was our first port of call. We took an independent tour with Arabesque Travel. www.Arabesque.Travel We highly recommend them. We had booked this with another couple and the cost was GBP40 per couple. Fujairah was our second port of call. We decided we wanted to enjoy the ship that day. I took advantage of the Spa offer. We did talk to people that had taken the Desert & Wadi Safari tour and they had really enjoyed it. Abu Dhabi was our third port of call. We were late docking due to the heavy fog. We were lucky to get in to the port. We took the free shuttle bus to the port gates and met up with a friend. We drove to the F1 circuit and had lunch at the Jaz Hotel there. Fantastic. After lunch a drive past the Mosque, which is huge. You are unable to go inside on a Friday as that is the Holy Day. The landscaping is now being done at the Mosque. We couldn't get in to the Emirates Palace Hotel for tea, as we didn't have a booking. Marina Mall is big and there is an observation tower there where you can go to the top and have a drink. The Corniche is very pretty. We would like to return to Abu Dhabi. Final port of call - Bahrain. The ship is docked quite a way from Manama the capital. Again there are free shuttle buses to take you to the port gates. RCCL had laid on a special tour to the F1 circuit for the Qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix. We would have been interested but not at USD500 each! The taxis do not seem to be so much of a rip off as they were a few weeks ago when Brilliance first started operating out of Dubai. We again talked to a couple that had taken the Bahrain Ancient and Modern Tour and had really enjoyed it. The guide was very knowledgeable, but the coach was dirty. That is down to the tour operator and not RCCL's fault. A few notes about the ship. We had been on Brilliance of the Seas last May. Her swimming pools are lovely. The casino is good. The Windjammer serves a wide choice of foods. Our cabin was immaculately clean. We only managed to see one show The Soul Sensation. A Tamla Motown tribute group is the best way of describing them. The whole theatre was rocking. That same evening it was the BBQ outside and everyone was dancing. We had the best cabin steward we have ever had, Svetlana. As a previous review has said, put your little cards in the key slot outside when you want your room made up or privacy. That really helps the cabin stewards, they are not mind readers. My Time Dining works very well for us and we made a reservation for the following evenings as we departed the restaurant each evening. The current Captain is Captain Henrik Loft Sorensen. He has a good sense of humour. The Cruise Director is Gordon Whatman, just love him. The Dining attire is as follows : - Day One - Casual Day Two - Formal (after departure from Dubai) Day Three - Casual/White attire (Muscat) Day Four - Smart Casual (Fujairah) Day Five - Formal (Abu Dhabi) Day Six- Casual (Bahrain) Day Seven - Casual (Dubai) One downside was the appalling way that many of the guests abuse the sun beds and place towels etc down to reserve them, against the policy of RCCL. We even found out that people were reserving them and then going on 4-hour tours. Disgusting and very selfish!! RCCL need to police it much better than they do. Having said that, it is now very difficult for them to just take the towels away as they swipe your key card when you are given the towels. For those that are interested you can depart the ship after it has been cleared by the Dubai authorities at any time, so that is about 3pm onwards. However if you wish to depart the ship before 6.30am the next morning you have to carry you own bags off. RCCL have started an experiment whereby you can pay to stay on the ship up till 8pm the day you get off. You have to vacate your stateroom by 9am and you cannot use the dining room to eat. Other than that you have a free run of the ship. They charge USD50 per person or USD80 per couple or USD100 for up to 4 people in a stateroom. This destination is not everyone's 'cup of tea'. You need to go with an open mind and enjoy it. We had a fantastic time and are looking forward to visiting The Gulf again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We flew out to Dubai to spend three days prior to our cruise- we have been there several times before so this time intended to be a bit touristy - we caught the abra across the creek for a few dirhams, went to the gold souk and the spice ... Read More
We flew out to Dubai to spend three days prior to our cruise- we have been there several times before so this time intended to be a bit touristy - we caught the abra across the creek for a few dirhams, went to the gold souk and the spice souk and visited my favourite diamond shop; with DH's pockets a bit lighter we rode the new skytrain, we watched the skiers in the Mall of the Emirates, sat outside The Address Hotel to watch the Burj Khalifa fountains, and we had probably the best meal of our lives at the Buddha Bar in the Grosvenor House Hotel - go there if you can! We also ate at the Madinat Jumeriah resort which is a complex of 3 hotels built around a waterway and a souk - there are dozens of restaurants here in a charming setting - we ate at Times of Arabia. The next night we went to JBR (Jumeriah Beach Residence) which is a new development called The Walk- lots of restaurants, shops and at least 3 Starbucks - we ate at a Turkish called Kosebasi. The restaurants and quality of food in Dubai is excellant - I don't think we have ever had a bad meal. The cost of wine brings a tear to your eye though....! Anyway, relaxed and refreshed and with the tan started, we went to the port around 2 on Monday. It literally took about 5 minutes to check in and then we were on board. We boarded from the 'tent' building and not from the new terminal as Costa seemed to be there. We were sorry to see the poor old QEII looking unloved and run down docked next to us. This was our second cruise on Brilliance and I have always deemed her to be my favourite ship of the RCI fleet so we were keen to see if she lived up to our expectations and memories. Cabin: We were in an aft with the larger balcony - plenty of space for two chairs, small table and a sunlounger. The cabin itself was looking a bit dated, the sofa definitely sagged a bit, the decor was a bit dark and there was sometimes a bit of a pong from the pipes in the bathroom - think tomcat... Beds were as comfy as always, service from Thomas was prompt and efficient - we put the little card in the slot whenever we left for breakfast and he would appear instantly. Only 4 towel animals this cruise. Bathroom had good hot water pressure but the shower curtain was useless and we (that should be I) always managed to flood the floor! Bedroom had two curtains that separated the bed from the sofa so it would be suitable for sharers. Balcony was in need of a paint and the balustrade needed a varnish. I must hasten to add that the rest of the ship was spotless and we could see no evidence of recent reports that she was looking run down or shabby. Food: Always subjective, but IMO the food on this cruise was the best out of my 3-4 recent RCI cruises. Honestly. The fillet and the ribeye in the MDR on formal nights was delicious and the steak in Chops you could cut with a butter knife it was so tender. We had MTD and our food was always beautifully presented, promptly served and piping hot. To avoid the smash n' grab nature of the Windjammer we had lunch either in the Solarium, good club sandwiches, or in the Sea View Cafe, which no one seemed to have found as it was always very quiet when we ate there, good made to order pizza, pannini and pasta and great outside tables with aft views. OK, and then there was Portofinos: I have not had a good experience with Portofinos for my last 3-4 cruises - ever since they stopped doing the whole roasted garlic I feel - and I'm afraid again it seemed to be lacking in the finesse and quality of Chops. My Caesar salad was prepared in approx 10 seconds in a ceramic bowl, my shrimp risotto was not as good as the one I had had earlier in the week in the MDR, and my mushroom pasta was a bit dry. The first bite of 'mushroom' turned out to be some sort of twig.....the people on the next table had to send their well-done steak back to the kitchen twice as it was so rare it was still mooing. So sorry Portofinos, Chops wins hands down. We had room service breakfast once and this was delivered spot on time. We also had the Diamond breakfast in the MDR once but we were seated in a section right in the middle of the dining room all by ourselves, we felt we were in the 'naughty' room so we didn't go again! There are canapEs in the Champagne bar in the evening which is not normal on RCI ships so remember to stop by there. The new wine list is also much better than before with a far wider, global selection. There are now only about 10 wines they do not have in stock fleet wide but they hoped to have full stocks by the time the ship is back in Barcelona. We had a lovely Spanish rosE and an Italian Falanghina amongst others. There is a wide range coming in under $50 a bottle. Staff: As usual they were excellent. A mention must go to Gordon (the CD) and Cuddy, who really suited the British audience on board - they weren't over gushing like some CDs I can think of; Idris and Natalia in the MDR MTD section who were excellent; the famous Rusti in the Champagne bar who has been on board as long as the ship has been in operation I believe, and finally the wonderful Angela in the Diamond Event who kept our glasses filled to the brim every night. Entertainment: Again, a subjective topic, but given the wide ranging demographic on board, then I felt they covered all corners. The majority on board were Brits, there were a lot of Gemans, Europeans and Eastern Europeans and only about 100 from USA and 150 from Canada. There was an excellent, very young, Danish magician who made women disappear and bottles appear and had an amazing knack with numbers; there was a Brat Pack tribute group and there were the aerial artists - worth it ladies for the 6-pack of his stomach alone! A very funny act was Erky from Turkey with his Who Wants to Be a Royal Caribbeanaire quiz - don't miss this one! Rules: The chair hogs were out in force, the chair next to me in the Solarium remained empty for 5 hours. I kid you not. Dress code was mostly adhered to and I saw only a few non-conformers on formal night. Suits outnumbered tuxedos 2:1. The man wearing the lurid green trousers should have been reported to the fashion police! As there were quite a few Europeans on board most nights were dressy. There was a 'white' night the day we left Muscat. Activities: We always mark off what we are going to do in the Cruise Compass and then we don't do a thing! So we didn't go to bingo, art auctions, dance classes, quizzes or towel folding lessons. I did go to the spa area and had a lovely sauna and steam (free) which is in the ladies locker room. And I did spend a lot of time on my balcony enjoying the wake with a good book. That is what cruising is about. Ports: As Gordon kept telling people, this was not a cruise like the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. You could not just walk off into town, there were different cultures to be respected, dress codes, no churches or archeological sites - it was a very different itinerary. I got the impression that many did not realise this or appreciate it. If a cruise ship is visiting 5 Muslim countries then it is obvious (to us at least) that things won't be open on Friday. Mutterings were heard that 'we should have gone somewhere else on a Friday..' - where exactly would they suggest in a Muslim region? Dubai: this was easy port - many taxis waiting - there was AED20 port surcharge during the day, and AED25 at night. So it was always cheaper to come back than it was go to anywhere! There was a free shuttle bus that took you to Dubai Mall too. Muscat: we had a private tour booked with MARKTours www.mark-oman.com - it was a half day tour and cost $105. We shared with a couple from our CC roll-call. We were met at the gangplank - many tours were not allowed into the port, so you would have to catch the free shuttle to the port gates. We were taken to the Mosque- a fabulous building with the largest chandelier in the world made by Swarovski . Ladies must cover their heads and must be covered from neck to wrist otherwise you will not be allowed in. Then we went to the fishmarket and the vegetable market - the biggest spring onions we have ever seen - then to the souk, and finally out to a little museum called Bait al Zubair which was in a restored private house and was small enough to keep your interest, there were displays of weapons, dress and house hold items; and then to see the royal palace before returning to the ship. We actually got out off the car at the souk and had lunch at a restaurant called Turkish Lights - it is right up the stairs by the souk entrance, and was delicious, pitta, hummous, fattoush and a chicken kebab, a few pepsis for $20. From the souk there was meant to be a shuttle that ran you back to the ship, but we took the stroll back to the port gates, which was along the sea front, and only took 10 minutes. Muscat, and the Omani people were charming and we would love to return. Fujairah: I am sure that travel journalists could call this port 'underdeveloped' or 'untouched' but you have to admit that the 2nd largest bunker port in the world is not very scenic. We took a ship's tour here - the Dibba Dhow cruise and it was very good - pricey at $159pp but I think our Fujairah experience was more positive than others. It was an early start at 7:15, and you were given a copy of your passport picture page as you were actually going to go back over the border into Oman again. As an aside, make sure you have lots of spare pages in your passport as you get stamps for entering and leaving each port! It was about an hours drive to the port, then you climbed across a few dhows to get to our dhow. There were 2 toilets, a shower, plenty of seating on large cushions, shade and sun, towels, plenty of water and juice, a delicious lunch, snorkling, swimming and generally a fun day jumping off the side of the dhow into the water. We were back at the port by around 3 and just had enough time to run across to the duty free shops. We went to the first one so have no idea how prices compare but 200 Marlboro were $16 and a litre of Gordons was $12. The downside was they only took cash so we could not buy as much as we wanted. Of course the spirits were impounded as we went on board and the xray machine guy spotted them -but we got the bottles back on Sunday morning. Abu Dhabi: another day, another industrial container port! Free shuttle to the port gate and then we got a taxi to the city. We were insistent that the meter was turned on but he still ripped us off! The meters are like little computer screens showing the driver's name and licence number but somehow we now realise he now got a little popup to cover the cab fare. He charged us AED40 for the ride to the Emirates Palace hotel where as the honest cabbie on the return charged us AED11.25! It was quite a long journey along the Corniche, so it does show how cheap the taxis really are. We loved AD - it was spotlessly clean, and the development was more thought out than in Dubai. The whole Corniche waterfront area is being developed as a beach and restaurant area, and it had a very European cosmopolitan feel about it. The Red Bull air race trials were on so the place was jumping! The Emirates Palace Hotel was stunning - huge - over 1km from one end to the other and well worth a visit. Bahrain: I'm afraid to say we didn't get off. This was to be our sea day, relaxing in the sun. Of course the weather co-operated with firstly rain, and then a sand storm which blocked the sun completely! And then we were back in Dubai again. Because of the one day in port at the start and the end of the cruise it seemed to lose the chaos of disembarkation as people left at all hours day and night. We strolled off at 6:45 and caught a cab to the airport for AED45. All in all a very very enjoyable cruise and yes, we agree that Brilliance is still our favourite ship in the fleet. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
PRE CRUISE. This cruise started with a planned night parked in Dubai, before actually setting sail early afternoon on Day 2. This provided flexibility for arrivals and people had a larger window for embarking than would be found on a ... Read More
PRE CRUISE. This cruise started with a planned night parked in Dubai, before actually setting sail early afternoon on Day 2. This provided flexibility for arrivals and people had a larger window for embarking than would be found on a normal 7 day cruise. We took a non-stop 14 hour flight from Australia, which had us landing at the sparkly clean and very efficient Dubai international airport at 10am, perfect for our midday check in time for the Brilliance of the Seas. We took a 30 minute taxi from the airport which set us back about 60 dirhams ( USD$16). We were quite pleased with ourselves to have travelled halfway around the world seamlessly, arriving at the terminal just as boarding was starting. EMBARKATION. There were long lines when we arrived at Port Rashid. We had not printed out bag tags, but were quickly given some by the many porters running around at the front of the terminal. Apparently, there had been a computer glitch which had delayed the start of processing, so there were a few grumbles. Fortunately, we were directed to the suite line, where we were processed quickly. There were stalls set up selling the soft drink packages, wine packages, and a table for those wanting to move around their assigned dining times or tables. After the obligatory sail away snap, we headed up the ramp to start exploring the Brilliance of the Seas. FIRST IMPRESSIONS. It quickly became apparent that the blend of both passengers and crew on this cruise were very different to other cruises we have taken. Most of those have been out of the USA, so the majority of guests have been North Americans. The passengers on this sailing were largely from the UK and other parts of Europe. There was a broad mix of ages with some families, young couples, middle aged, and older. The crew, we found out, came from all around the world, and represented some 60 countries. The first few that we spoke to were from Turkey, India, Ukraine, and Russia. My instinct with blending so many nationalities had me suspicious that there might be some tensions and difficulties due to cultural differences and languages, however it was very pleasing that everyone got along, did their job, and provided the adequate service where they could, most with nice big smiles. THE PUBLIC AREAS: We found the public spaces to be large, clean and uncrowded. The artwork around the ship, though not masterpieces or of a consistent theme, was modern and attention grabbing. On our floor, there were framed pictures of things like the London underground, and aged advertisements for Guinness beer. The carpets all looked clean and may have even been new on our floor. The colours around the ship varied from dark woods in the Schooner Bar/Colony Club area, to sultry pink desert hues in the solarium pool area. The Atrium which runs through the entire centre of the ship and is 10 or 11 stories high is very impressive and there is a nice buzz there as people marvel at its grandness while moving from one part of the ship to the other. We had read some reports of wear and tear, however it did not seem this was a prevalent problem on this ship. While we did spot a few rust patches here and there, it was obvious there is constant maintenance. All of our deck furniture was brand new, so RCI obviously have some sort of enhancement program in action for the Brilliance of the Seas. THE SUITE: For this cruise, we were in a grand suite. We had booked only 2 weeks before sailing and asked for a suite guarantee. The suite itself was very spacious with a large open lounge room, separate bar area and wardrobes. The marble bathroom with two sinks at the vanity and a huge shower was very spacious with many more cupboards and drawers than we needed. The sleeping area had its own nook and could be curtained off, so was really like a separate room, meaning there was no guilt if one of us wanted to get up early. The television, though not flat screen, was set up so that the audio could be heard from speakers around the cabin. There was also a video and dvd player. Outside on the balcony, we had a table and chairs as well as a lounger. This furniture was new, but not cushioned. Some other guests said they used the cushions from their rooms to make this furniture more comfortable. All in all though, this was a very comfortable cabin. The bathroom amenities were Gilchrist and Soames at the start of the cruise, but changed to a cheaper brand mid cruise for replacements. We wondered if this was a common theme when the bathroom tissue went from 2 ply to single ply. Additional privileges also came with this room, including access to the Concierge club. There was a 24 hour tea and coffee machine, continental breakfast each morning, and complimentary bar with hot and cold canapEs available each evening. We made good use of this and enjoyed meeting other passengers from around the world over a drink or two each night. The actual concierge had hours in the club where he would sit behind his computer and say hello as people came and went but did not seem to do much else. We all wondered what was on the computer that was so interesting. THE DINING: Overall, we found the food to be quite good. We tried several options for breakfast including room service, the Windjammer, The Minstrel dining room and the Concierge club. We were not disappointed with any of these, though the room service breakfast card choices seemed a little limited. We wrote in a request for some extras and they were brought without a problem. The bran muffins, fresh fruits, and orange juice were daily favourites. For lunch, we chose between the Windjammer and the Seaview cafe. The Windjammer has an outdoor seating area with large, very comfortable lounge style furniture, which we found ourselves drawn to. There were plenty of drinks waiters and the food choices seemed to change each day. The Seaview cafe had strange opening hours which changed from day to day, but we managed to sample some of the sandwiches they offered. The pizza which is made to order looked really good but we didn't get a chance to try it. On some days, there were barbeques and entertainment, which were welcomed as expanded choice. The Main dining room menu each night offered enough variety to keep us happy and the quality was pretty good, but not terribly consistent. Stand outs were the salt and pepper calamari, white truffle linguine and the lamb chops. Low points were the pea and ham risotto and the breaded cheese sticks. Our table agreed the best night for us to have gone to one of the specialty restaurants was day number 4, as the menu seemed most limited that night. We had two great waiters looking after us and liked that they looked after drinks as well. One night we tried Chops Grille and had a lovely time with excellent service and outstanding steaks. The company was as good as the menu as we were joined by a delightful Scottish couple we had met each night in the Concierge club. The laughs were a plenty and we were the last table to leave, though the professional staff insisted we take our time and enjoy the night. THE ENTERTAINMENT: There were several full scale production shows in the Pacific theatre, which were enjoyable and a step above high school musical type shows, though on one night a computer glitch cancelled the show halfway through. Another night, Martin Brock performed magic tricks and illusions to gasps of surprise from the auditorium. He was very good and kept people on the edge of their seats. The show times changed each day for one reason or another and were either at 715pm and 9pm, or 9pm and 1045pm. This variance seemed to be when there were big functions like cocktail parties for repeat cruisers early evening, or karaoke late in the evening. The Colony Club hosted bands and other entertainers and was very popular. There was a karaoke night with some great talent, including a Gloria Gaynor impersonator with a wonderful rendition of "I will survive". Music and dancing was available in different places around the ship each night and had big audiences. The crowd on board was a very social bunch and there seemed to be plenty to do in the evenings. We were surprised on the second to last night when the atrium burst into a disco party. The entertainment staff performed tracks from Village People and other songs like disco inferno. It really got the ship rocking and it was a wonderful utilisation of the space. OTHER ENTERTAINMENT: This is the first ship we have been on that had a water slide and rock climbing wall. These were tucked away on the top deck and the only time we noticed them was when we went looking. They are much smaller areas than they appear to be in the advertising, which was a bonus for us, as there are large parts of the top deck for other things such as a jogging track and plenty of sun lounging. Park West looks after the art auctions and they had plenty of "embellished prints" available for those inclined to buy an expensive souvenir. There were also interesting activities that catered to or entertained specific groups such as the international belly flop competition, trivia, bingo, and crafts. THE PORTS: MUSCAT, OMAN: Cruising into this port was very scenic. The black cliffs and mountains lining the entrance to the harbour provide a stark contrast to the desert that we left in Dubai the day before. The ship docked at the main container port of Mutrah, a few kilometres from the city of Muscat. As the container port is active, buses were provided to the port gate, and a little further to the Mutrah souk. There are literally hundreds of taxis at both of these drop off spots, but no information centre, which makes it a little difficult to know where to go without prior research. We escaped the throng of taxi drivers by heading into the souk and looking through the various shops and beyond. There is a money exchange shop in the souk which is convenient as some of the stores will only accept the local currency, the Omani Riyal. We found a barber shop, spice shops selling every imaginable spice and wonderful fragrances, as well as typical clothing and jewellery shops. After a little treasure hunting, we decided to get a taxi for a few hours to show us around Muscat's sites. We really hoped to find someone who spoke clear English, so talked to a few of the drivers and negotiated a deal of about USD$25 per person for a 3 hour trip. We saw the palace, a beautiful grand Mosque, international hotels, the public beaches, ancient forts and the fish markets. The city is very well kept with excellent roads lined with sculptures. We stopped at a traditional Omani restaurant and tried some of the typical dishes including hamour, a white fish, in a tamarind curry sauce, Omani bread in milk, and other treats. We had hoped to visit an internet cafe in Mutwah before returning to the ship, however it had closed for the afternoon break, as had most of the street front stores. We later found out they close from 1 - 4pm. FUJAIRAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: The city of Fujairah was billed as being an "ultra modern" urban development. Tall mountains around the city meet the desert, which in turn meets beaches and the sea. For those without planned tours, there were options of a complimentary bus to the gates of the port, or a $5 per person shuttle to the LuLu Hypermarket in the city. We chose the latter as we wanted to see the town itself. Driving in, there was evidence of many new buildings and quite a few that looked as though they had commenced construction, but suddenly stopped. There seemed to be a swirling dust storm, but we found out later that this is normal and occurs because the sand and dust in the area is so light. The city seemed a little eerie as the shops and buildings looked deserted. The hypermarket was what appeared to be a standard supermarket and a few shops. There did not really appear to be much around at all. We set out down the main street in search of something interesting, but we didn't come up with much, though we did find an internet cafe, ticking that off the "to do" list. One of the crew on the ship had told us that the Hilton Hotel was a nice place to visit, so we took a cab there and had a coffee looking out over the beach. The beach was clean and some people were swimming, but the hotel pool and bar looked more inviting. We took a cab back to the port, which worked out to be cheaper than what was being charged for the port transfers at about $3. Overall, this was not a very exciting port for us, however we spoke to some ladies who said this was their favourite stop. They had taken a ship tour and raved about their guide and what they saw. If we were to visit this port again, we would try and book a ship's tour. ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: The Emirate of Abu Dhabi accounts for over 80% of the land mass of the UAE. As such, it has control over the most oil. We were not sure what to expect of this city as it has always seemed to be dwarfed by Dubai in the media. We were very pleasantly surprised. The planning and construction of this city has been very well thought out and it seems like a very clean, safe place to visit. Like all of the ports on this itinerary, we arrived at the city's container port. A makeshift, luxury air conditioned, carpeted welcome centre awaited. Without pre booked tours, there were options to take a shuttle to the gates, or a big bus tour around the city. This seemed pricey at $50 per person, however it promised a tour and information/commentary about the city during the trip. We liked that you could get on and off as you wished, and it was great to hear an explanation of how this recent desert to city creation occurred. The City has some magnificent architectural creations, the beaches are pristine and clean, and it is easy to get around, as the streets are in a grid like system similar to NYC. We visited the Emirates Palace Hotel which is jaw dropping in its opulence. Entry into the hotel requires respectable dress (no shorts), but there was no problem with wondering around the grounds and taking photos. We also visited the Grand Mosque, which we were told was one of the largest mosques in the world and can take 40,000 faithful at prayer time. Apparently, the chandelier in the main prayer room is one of the largest in the world and cost 36 million dollars. We thought it was spectacular. We enjoyed sitting on the upper deck of the big bus, however after talking with others about their day in Abu Dhabi, it seemed it would have been much more economical to get a taxi and ask them to drive you around all the sites. The only problem with that idea would be missing out on all the info provided in the audio tour, though a knowledgeable driver would perhaps be just as good. KHALIFA BIN SALMAN PORT, BAHRAIN: Prior to arriving in Bahrain, there were many stories from the staff about the previous week's visit and how many people had been ripped off by taxi drivers. One story went so far as to say that the Captain had bailed an elderly lady out of prison as she refused to pay the outrageous fare a taxi driver tried to charge her. We were assured that the local authorities were on top of it and given information about how to manage the taxi drivers and their fares. The ship offered either transport to the gates, where taxis awaited, or a paid shuttle service to the city for $21 return. When we asked about the shuttle, the first spaces were not until the afternoon, so we decided to give the taxis a go. When we got to the gate, there was chaos, as many passengers were lined up and waiting as the police escorted each to a waiting taxi, ensuring that everyone knew the rates, and exchange rates etc. There was a lot of arguing, and it looked to be a long wait. One of the problems seemed to be that the currency is the Bahrain Dinar, which most passengers would not have on them. Subsequently, the offered exchange rate by the taxis is ridiculous. Instead of waiting, we went back to the pier and asked about getting the ship's shuttle, which we were able to get a ticket for straight away. The bus ride into the city was about 45 minutes. It was clear that Bahrain has not benefited from the infrastructure and development enjoyed in the United Arab Emirates. Most buildings looked old and run down. We were dropped at the city gates in the middle of the city, and wondered into the souk, enjoying the contrasts of fruit and vegetables, tacky electronics, and spice stores. The majority of the store owners and vendors seemed to be of Indian origin. We found some treasures and left the area just as everything was closing down for the long afternoon break at 1pm. We ventured into a 5 star hotel for refreshments and some pampering. While there, we took the opportunity to read the local English language paper which was filled with stories about exploitation of low paid foreign labour, disputes between locals and foreigners, and other undesirable issues such as children being promised into marriage. One case going through the courts involved an 80 year old man having married a 12 year old girl in neighbouring Saudi Arabia. While these sorts of stories might have been sensationalist, they highlighted some of the differences between this region and our own. Leaving Bahrain, it seemed that this kingdom is not really comparable to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, as far as what is it offers for tourists. On return to the ship, there was a long line of people at the excursions desk complaining about the tours they had taken that day. DUBAI: The sailing times in and out of Dubai give the impression that this itinerary allows for a large amount of time in this port. The departure on the second day had been at 2pm, with an all aboard time of 1130am, due to the muster drill. For those that had boarded the first afternoon and spent the first afternoon/evening on board, this only allowed for a few hours in the morning of day 2. At the other end of the sailing, the ship arrives into Dubai at 2pm on day 6 with disembarkation the following morning. We took advantage of the complimentary shuttle services to the shopping malls from the pier. The taxis are reasonable and drivers friendly so it is easy to get about and some of the buildings are unbelievably spectacular. We visited the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, as well as the spectacular Burj Al Arab hotel at Jumeirah Beach. The Atlantis Hotel at the Palm is open to all and there are shops and restaurants as well as a movie theatre. It is quite spectacular just how large the palm development is. There was more than enough to do in Dubai and the malls all had amazing shopping. We had good luck with our timing as the Dubai Shopping Festival had just begun and there were huge savings and promotions in all the stores. Dubai seemed to have the most activities of all our ports for tourists. THE WRAP: As this cruise was our first time with RCI, we were not really sure what to expect. Despite the few grumbles mentioned here, we were happy with the good value we got from booking this cruise. Few cruise lines have weekly itineraries in the Middle East region and we felt as though RCI has made a good go of showing a variety of ports over the 7 days for this trip. Our advice to others taking this cruise is to research the ports and think about where organised shore excursions will provide a better experience than doing it on your own. As far as the ship is concerned, it seems to be in a very good condition. Though some of the staff need a little persuading, there are others that are shining stars. We met some lovely new friends and they made this cruise a whole lot more fun. We would not hesitate to cruise RCI again, particularly if the itinerary and price are both right!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
We were on the first cruise out from Dubai. We have posted a letter that we sent to RCI which is somewhere in TA. This is our thoughts and experience in one liners. Please feel free to follow up with any questions. Boarding: Arrived on ... Read More
We were on the first cruise out from Dubai. We have posted a letter that we sent to RCI which is somewhere in TA. This is our thoughts and experience in one liners. Please feel free to follow up with any questions. Boarding: Arrived on schedule @ 6.45 am. Taken to a derilect theme park until about 12.00 noon. Outside seeting on wooden benches or wrought iron seats... no cushions but loads of sunshine . Dockside: Queued for about two hours. All checkin terminals working just too many passengers to cope. Those who had NOT checked in on line got through in about 15 minutes... they had a different queue. Stateroom: Level 7 in the middle of the ship with a balcony. First time on any ship so no previous experience to compare it to. We were pleased with our choice of cabin and thought the extra we paid for the balcony was worth it. Power sockets in room are US style so UK passengers need an adapter or travel plug. Food & Drink: Buffet: Windjammer resturant was good with many options. Hot dogs & burgers, fish, pasta, carvery salads or pizza. Some fresh fruit but the fresh fruit salad was the usual apple & melon mix. Normal evening meals: Minstral restaruant American food i.e. mash with roast turkey. A little disappointed as dishes lacked imagination. My wife has an intolerance to wheat & dairy and was given baked potatoes four meals out of six. This despite giving the kitchen 24 hours notice. Formal: Chops Grill. You pay $20.00 pp for a slightly better menu. Fillet steak was very good. Wife had the fish, cooked without sauce, but cold and raw in the middle. Re cooked but no apology! Late night pool party: Loads of fresh fruit available. We asked why they could not supply more choice of fresh fruit during the day. Their answer was that this fruit was loaded on board especially for this party! Drinks: We bought one soda package on the www but probably would not bother in the future. Coke & Sprite were $2.00 each so we think you would need to drink 5 per day to break even. We bought Evian bottles in a 24 pack which almost lasted us the trip, although we did use it for making tea in our cabin. Going ashore: Your passports are held on board and passengers issued with a local border pass at each port as you leave the ship. The border police board the coach at the gate and you all hold your card up to show you have them. When the passports are returned they have entry and exit stamps for each stop. You return the pass when you get back on board. Generally three transport options. Shuttle to dock gates. - Usually free. Shuttle to town. - $5.00 pp each way. (Bookable on board). City tour. - Bookable on board or before you leave on the RCI www. Note... if you book an official tour the ship will wait for you to return. If you do your own thing the ship goes without you. The ship docks in Abu Dhabi on Friday morning but leaves about 6:00 pm. Not a great deal of time to explore the best stop on the cruise. Friday is their Holy day so most shops do not open until after 2:00 pm, even in the malls. Also the city tour includes a conducted tour of the biggest mosque in the UAE. Guess what... everyday except FRIDAY! Enertainment: Excellent team although I suspect it is the standard package on other RCI ships. Not a lot of info on the RCI www before you leave the UK. Good choice of live music in various bars. Overall we enjoyed our first cruise on the BOS but would probably trip a smaller ship next time. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
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