Monday, April 30, 2018

Follow-up 14th June 2017

I am posting today, nearly 11 months after our holiday on the Majestic Princess and the 2 night stay in Dubai after disembarking. As I have mentioned UAE and other Arab countries closed their borders with Qatar on the 13th June which meant we were unable to fly out of Dubai to Doha in Qatar to connect with our flight back to Australia. Our flight was to leave Dubai at 8.30pm on the 14th June and it was not until the morning of that day that Ezair (Princess flight service) contacted us with alternative flights. We had a few uneasy 24 hours when we did not know how we would get home. Fortunately Ezair booked us onto Emerites flight directly out of Dubai, non stop the Adelaide, South Australia 5 hours after our original depature time. We arrived home safe and sound with firm convictions to book with Princess Cruises' Ezair again.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Abu Dhabi our day trip

Let me go back to last night just before we went to bed I checked my e-mails before turning in, to find a travel notice from Smart Traveller, the Department of Foriegn Affairs and Trade consular based in Abu Dhabi, advising me that all flights between UAE and Qatar will be suspended from 6th June until further notice. Our return flight is with Qatar Airlines and departs from Dubai to Doha on 7th June! Mmm...I will e-mail Princess eZAir, whom we booked our flights with to seek their advice and possible action which I did first thing this morning before going down to breakfast. Once e-mailed, there was nothing much to do until we get a response, so decided to go on our booked day trip to Abu Dhabi as planned.

We were picked up from our hotel and then called to two other hotels to collect 4 other passengers who joined us for the day tour. We were driven in a 7 seater vehical which was adequate but would have appreciated a bigger vehical or lesser people. Three people sitting in the middle back seat, one in the front with the driver and two in the rear. On the 1 1/2 hour road trip we called into a service bay jst before Abu Dhabi to use wc, exchange money and buy some water or sandwiches. The sandwiches and water we were told could be consumed in the car, away from the public eye.

On arrival to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque we were given some long black dresses to wear over our clothing. So with our scarves over our heads and these black over dresses on, we headed off to visit the largest mosque in UAE. Voted the world's favourite landmark for 2 years running by Trip Advisor, this stunning place of worship did not disappoint my 6 year desire to see it. When we were on our world cruise, back in 2011, our ship had engine problems and our planned stop in Abu Dhabi had been cancelled and then in 2014 when a planned cruise here had to be cancelled due to health issues, I am pleased to report my 'bucket-list' visit has been met.

And....I am not disappointed. Beautiful, stunning and spiritual. The mosque is built with pure white marble from Italy, East white and Ming green marble from China and makrana from India and took 11 years to construct. It opened in 2007. Once inside there are 7 chandeliers which are made from millions of Swarovski Crystals from Munich and a huge, did I say huge?.....yes a huge carpet made by 1200 carpet knotters from Iran of wool from NZ and Iran. Apparently the world's largest carpet.

Relieved from wearing our hot black over dresses and back in the car, we were driven into the city of Abu Dhabi to see various famous landmarks. Emirates Palace, Borniche Beach, the three spectacular Etihad Towers and the copper coloured Bab Al Qasr. Some beauitful architectureand must have been an architecture's dream to have a hand in designing these buildings.

I had some lunch with some of the other passengers on the 2nd floor of a hotel before seeing Ferrari World and heading back to Dubai. Our driver had been fasting all day, without food or drink (even water), so we were quite concerned about his sugar levels driving us at 120 kms per hour back to Dubai, but thankfully we arrived back to the hotel safely.  

Back in our hotel room I checked my e-mails to see if Princess had responded to my e-mail, but no, nothing. So my travel mate checked with her insurance company to be told that any cancellations due to political reasons will not be covered by them. Hmmm....Then rang the Princess port agent in Dubai who tried to contact their Princess contact but with no success. Then I tried ringing Princess direct in Seattle and Fort Lauderdale without the phone being connected. Same with our contact number in Australia. Bummer. What to do when we have not heard from Princess who we had booked our flights with.?  Mind you, our flights were for 24 hours time.
A decision was made to seek flights back to home ourselves. Which we did before going to bed.

Next morning my travel mate recieved an e-mail from Princess with the tickets for a non-stop flight from Dubai to home, replacing our cancelled Qatar tickets. Yahoo, Princess came through. Now our dilemma was what to do with our Malaysian Air tickets!. We ended up cancelling as they wouldn't allow us to use the money as a later travel credit and instead refunded us a third of the fare we had paid.

Hopefully we may get the money back with our travel insurance. We are yet to find out.


                                          Dressed in our appropriate clothing


                                          Enterance to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque


                                    photo just after entering the covered walkway


                Out of sequence, but the fence which runs alongside the 6 lane freeway.                                                     Behind it is the Sheikh's hunting ground


covered walkway with marble pillars and domes


beautiful marble courtyard, surrounded by buildings


                                                      in foyer to inside of mosque



                                                  close-up of section of carpet



                            one of the 7 chandeliers, decorted with Swarovski Crystals


                                                some of the carpet in the mosque


                                                    close-up of part of chandelier


                                                                 Etihad Towers


                        Etihad Towers & Bab Al Qasr (hotel opened 2016 cost USD 375)


                                                           Emirates Palace


                                                                    Date markets


                                                                  Ferrari World
                                         

                             6 lane Freeway, approaching Dubai. Train Station with
                                        a/c covered walkway and elevated tracks


Well that is the final post of Majestic Princess Rome to Dubai cruise. Hopefully move cruise blogs will follow.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Dubai

Since leaving the port of Aqaba, Jordan, and sailing through the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aden, the ship kept an average speed of 20 knots in order to stay in close proximity to a US War Ship ahead of us. If think the captain wanted to keep us protected from any potential pirate attacks often experienced in this part of the world. Mainly from Somalia. Only when we were off the coast of Oman and in the Arabian Sea did the captain reduce speed and distanced us from the war ship.

During this time we were sailing through a sea fog which reduced our visibility to about a kilometre. We could just make out the shapes of ships passing us not far away from us. So of course when I went outside to take a photo, not only did my camera lens fog up, (the result from moving out of the airconditioning to the heat), I still had the sea mist obstructing my vision!  This mist stayed with us even when we we in Dubai.

In Dubai we were exposed to the heat of the deserts which we had been protected from whilst in the airconditioning of the ship. We disembarked in Dubai and caught a taxi to our hotel, Rove, situated close to the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall in what is called Downtown Dubai. Once unpacked and refreshed in our room, Jill and I walked the short distance to the Mall. Fortunately I wore a hat as the sun's rays were intense, Jill ended up wearing her scarfe over her head as protection. Boy was it hot! and thankgoodness the Mall and a/c wasn't far from the hotel. An easy 44C day.

The plan was to exchange some Aussie dollars and  head for the railway station to travel to the Gold Souks. As it is UAE's Holy Month of Ramadan, there is a strict code of conduct adhered to by everyone. respectful attire (no transparent clothing, knees and sholders covered), no smoking (not that we need to consider), chewing gum and eating in public between sunrise and sunset. 'Ramadan Kareem' is signed in shops and public areas, much like our 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays' at home.

From the Mall to the station we walked through airconditioned overpasses which were equipped with almost continuous travelators. I was surprised to find how distant the station was from the Mall. Thankgoodness again for the airconditioning. Once we arrived at the station we bought a one way ticket to the Gold Souks and we didn't have long to wait for the packed train. We were fortunate to meet up with a couple from the Majestic Princess who had been to Dubai quite a few times previously and knew their way around. They were spending their day in Dubai on their own and were returning to the ship to continue their cruise to Shanghai. So once we left the station we followed along with them (I had no idea of how to get to the Souks and there didn't seem to be any signage around to indicate which way to head).  Like I said thank goodness we were able to walk with this other couple.

Once in the Gold Souk we said our goodbyes and experienced our gold shopping. I bought DH a gold ring, whereas Jill had a great time 'negotiating'. I think she did well with her purchases.  From the Gold Souks we headed to the Spice Souks. My aim was to acquire some almond stuffed, chocolate covered dates which I had tasted before when in Dubai and decided this time I was taking some home. Yummo. By the time our purchasing was over we were famished, ready to find somewhere which had just opened to eat. The call to prayer had started, indicating the end to the day's fast, so everyone was out in the streets and restaurants eating. We found a little cafe/restaurant which had an Arabian food smorgasboard for 20 Dirham (about $8). It was packed with Europeans, Africans, Indians and Arabs and very local. An enjoyable experience.

We decided to catch a ferry across the Dubai Creek, tried our luck in exploring the shops on the southern side of the creek, without success, then caught a taxi back to the hotel.  The road system in Dubai is mainly freeways, so I think we only stopped at a traffic light once before we arrived back at the hotel. The speed limit on these freeways is 120 kilometers in most sections where the lanes close to the left travel at a slower speed. The cars weave through the traffic, breaking often to change lanes before speeding back up to 120 kms per hour. A bit hairy.

Exhusted but happy we settled in our a/c room for the night,,,,,,,,The room got cold during the night and we turned the temperature down. It amazes me to see the effects that money can have on what would be a hot sandy expanse. Unlimited desalinated water to keep the hedges and many plants lining the roadways alive, the incredible freeway systems, neat and tidy paved pathways, cheap electricity for continuous airconditioning in public places, a great efficient rail system. The tall modern architectally designed, different shaped buildings. All amazing.


                                         Map taken from our tv screen in cabin


                                         Skyline of Dubai through sea mist


                    Our hotel room faced to back of the hotel, note the sandy blocks.


                                View from front of hotel. Lots of modern tall buildings


My travel mate 


In front of aquarium in Dubai Mall


                              View of train and railwy system, all the tracks are elevated


                                                              on board the train


                                                One of the many jewellery shops



                                                                Yummo dinner


                                          View across Dubai Creek whilst on ferry


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Life on board 2

For the first time Princess hosted a Captain's Farewell Cocktail party. There were about 400 of us who disembarked in Dubai. The cocktails flowed and flowed, however we didn't see any food. It was hosted around the airconditioned Hollywood Pool area at night so the blue lighting made a lovely ambience.

I still can't believe how friendly and helpful the members of the crew are. Honestly they couldn't do enough, all we had to do was ask.


                                          Cooking demostration in Princess 'Live'


                              Inteview with Pete Best, First drummer for the Beatles


                                                       a/c Hollywood Pool area


                                                            Bar tender in Sky Bar


                         Table Tennis in a/c Hollywood Sanctury at bow of ship, deck 16



                Light Show on deck 16 held every 15mins after 9.15pm between movies


Deck 16 outside sitting area on the other side of the ship is a similar one for smokers

Life on board the Majestic Princess

This ship is the biggest and newest ship of the Princess lines and has the fame of being the biggest ship to traverse the Suez to date.

We were very fortunate to be upgraded from an interior cabin to an obstructed view balcony, just aft of mid ships on deck 8.  Wha Hoo! Great deck, great location and cabin. E801. It can be made into a four person cabin with bunks which drop down from the ceiling.  The fridge worked a treat as it had a good area around it for ventilation. As I am Elite status our mini bar was set up ready when we arrived. The TV is positioned on the wall facing the head of our beds which is ideal for watching TV whilst in bed. I don't know how it would work if the bunk beds were down, as I don't think anyone would see the screen.

The ship has quite a few speciality restaurants, Le Mar, Alfredo's Pizzeria, Harmony, Crown Grill plus 2 dining on decks 5 & 6 with a set dining retaurant on deck 6, aft. The usual buffet on deck 16 which has lots, and I mean lots of serving areas for passengers to place the food on their plates. A lot of these areas are repeated throughout the buffet area. In the middle of the buffet is what is called The Bakery which serves buns and various pastries at breakfast, then pre made sandwiches, various bread rolls and cakes for lunch then at dinner time cakes and rolls. There are the outside grills and free swirls icecream.

The Princess Theatre holds 1270 people for the shows with the Vista Gaming hosting similar. The Vista Gaming actually has tables set up permanantly to cater for those who play cards/games. There is no bar here to serve drinks.

The Atrium on deck 5 hosted a lot of dance classes and trivia events. There is a small theatre which would set about 300 people for (televised in the cabins at a later time) events, be it cooking demostrations, who am I and trivia.


                       Wakeview area at aft of ship. Deck 16 where food can be taken out from
                            World Fresh Buffet. Note the clear glass sides of railings, as usual                                                                          for the Majestic


                                                             Our cabin interior


                                              Our balcony, obstructed view


                             Balloon drop in Atrium, everyone waiting for the event


                                                           

                Princess Theatre, new production which we were first to witness

                                                               View of Sky Walk


                            Wine Bar on deck 5 in Attrium. Can attend a tasting event

Friday, June 2, 2017

Aqaba, Jordan. 29th May 2017

Situated on the north-eastern tip of the Red Sea and flanked by Israel and Saudi Arabia. Within sight is the coastline of Eygpt which makes for an unusual blend of cultures and maybe potential conflicts.

Today's temp in the ity is expected to reach 40C, the advice is drink water, wear a hat and as it is the Muslim sacred period of Ramadan, we can not eat and drink in the streets, except water, have knees covered, no dancing, singing and intoxication, no smoking and chewing gum in public between sunrise and sunset.

I had chosen to tour the Wadi Rum but heard the vehicals used were simple old and open 4WD with no seats belts. We would be seated in the back on a plank-style seating. This in mind, I cancelled the drive and elected to catch the free shuttle into the town of Aqaba.

I noticed the effects of the GFC when visiting Greece and Italy and jordan was not immune from this financial crippling. A lot of buildings, be it resorts or city offices lay dormant, still under construction and vacant blocks which were cleared for development left empty. No longer is the potential vibrancy I felt in 2011.

The shuttle bus drop off area in the near heart of the town is close to one of Aqaba's beautiful mosques, Masjid Al-Hussein Bin Ali. I walked north past the early Islamin Ayla (city ruins) to the ruis of the oldest Roman Catholic Church, then back to the main street to the Hilton Hotel. There I bought a latte and water which enabled me access to their 'free' wifi. Wahoo.....2 hours updating my internte blog and emails. Whilst in the cafe I had to endure the cigarette smoke from several smokers enjoying the cafe's wifi as well. It is amazing how I have become used to living in smoke free public areas at home.


                                                          Ayla, site of first Islamic City
                                       

                                              Site of First Roman Catholic Church


                                                  Ladies Only Internet Site


                                           View over Ayla, across the gulf to Israel


                            View of buildings in Aqaba with mountains in background


                   Fourth largest flagpole in whole and Majestic Princess in background


                                                       again, view of Israel


Hooker Pipes


                                                        Mural on brick wall