The Delights of Dubai

Got up this morning feeling quite sad that this was our last day on board the good ship Constellation and we would be flying home tomorrow.  😦

We went and had our breakfasts in the Ocean View buffet, then wandered out on deck.  We had a couple of hours to spare because we weren’t due to dock in Dubai until 11.00am where we would remain in port until 11.00pm – a good 12 hours to explore this amazing city.

We spent some time packing stuff into the cases that we wouldn’t need again this cruise.  Then we had to go along to present our passports and cruise cards to the UAE immigration inspectors.  We then sat out in the sunshine and watched as the pilot boat came alongside the Constellation and the pilot climbed up the ladder to board our ship.  We got the same lift as him to the topmost deck.  🙂

As the Constellation slowly manoeuvred herself into port, we immediately spotted the distinctive red funnel of what is probably the world’s most famous ocean liner, the Queen Elizabeth 2.  She has been in retirement in Dubai since October 2008, and we wondered what condition she would be in.  Originally they were going to turn her into a floating hotel, but the project ran out of money and the QE2 has had to go through the indignity of just sitting there like a ghost ship, slowly rusting.

We were privileged enough to have had a couple of transatlantic voyages on this great liner, once in 1997 and once in 2000.  It was really quite poignant to see her just sitting there, although we were pleased to see that she didn’t look too bad, and indeed we spotted a number of men on the decks, seemingly working on the ship.  So maybe they have some plans for the good old QE2 after all – let’s hope so.

Although the Queen Elizabeth 2 is a proper ocean liner (rather than a cruise ship) and is 70,000 GRT in size, she looked quite small next to the modern ships, including our own 91,000 GRT Constellation.  The difference, however, is that her lines and clean, sleek and classic, rather than looking like an ugly floating apartment block.  We couldn’t take our eyes of this great old ship, and we noticed lots of other people taking photos of her as well, particularly as the distinctive Dubai skyline, including the Burj Khalifa, formed the unmistakable backdrop.

Meanwhile, the Constellation had berthed by now so we made our way to the Celebrity Theatre to await the call for our city tour.

We were allocated bus #13 and we disembarked the Constellation and made our way through the passenger terminal to the buses waiting outside.  I can’t remember the name of our guide, but he did have a very annoying way of speaking, punctuating every other word with yeah… yeah… yeah.  In the end we weren’t listening to what he was saying but rather how many times he kept saying “yeah”.  In any case, we were engrossed in looking out of the window at all the amazing buildings and other sights.

As we were leaving the dock area we passed by the QE2 and got some good photographs of her.  Then we made our way through the slow-moving Saturday morning traffic for our first destination, the famous Dubai Mall, which is the largest mall in the world by total area. It is part of the 20-billion-dollar Downtown complex, and includes 1,200 shops. It attracts over 54 million visitors each year.

Inside the mall, our guide showed us where we would be meeting after we’d had our free time, as he issued us with tickets to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.  We were next to a roped-off selection of luxury cars; we spotted a Lamborghini,  McLaren F1, Maserati, Ferrari and others.  Trevor said there would have been well over a million pounds worth of cars there.  After all, Dubai just reeks of money and luxury so even out on the roads every other car was a luxury one.

The guide showed us where to go to get the lifts to the top of the Burj Khalifa, and told us we had about an hour and a half.  We joined the inevitable zig-zagging queue and, when we got to the head of the queue, presented our tickets.  However, the time shown on the tickets for our visit was 23:00 hours which was obviously incorrect.  The lady then took our tickets away and said we’d have to be issued with new ones, so we had to stand back in the queue to let other people past us.  We hoped it wouldn’t take too long, as this waiting was eating into our time.

After about five minutes the lady returned with new tickets for us and we thankfully made our way to the high-speed lifts to go to the 125th floor.  The Burj Khalifa actually has 148 floors but the viewing area, shop, restaurants etc are on the 125th floor.  The massive lifts sped their way up, and the ascent made my ears pop.

At the top, we all spilled out of the lift then looked around in awe at the incredible views.  The tops of other sky-scraper buildings were way below us, and we could see for miles and miles as it was a clear day.  Cars and trucks, far below us, looked like lines of ants as they crawled along the highway.  It was fantastic – here we were at the top of the tallest building in the world.  🙂

After we’d seen all we wanted, and bought some postcards and other souvenirs in the shop, we made our way back down again and along to where the luxury cars were, to meet up with our guide and the rest of our party.  We then continued back through the mall and back onto the bus for the scenic coastal tour.

We passed many luxury apartment blocks and hotels as we made our way through this bustling, affluent city.  Eventually the bus pulled up along the coast, at the famous Jumeirah Beach, which is a popular place where ex-pats live.  We could see another famous Dubai landmark, the Burj Al Arab hotel, which is shaped like the sail of a boat and has a helicopter landing pad at the top.  We got out of the bus for a photo stop, and walked along the shoreline in the pleasant sunshine.

Continuing on our way, we also passed another famous luxury hotel, Atlantis, The Palm.  This was opened in 2008 at a cost of 500 million USD. It was set in lush, immaculate lawns and flower beds, and had a pristine sandy beach, which I believe was part of the artificial beaches created in The Palms at the turn of the millennium.

We arrived back at the Constellation around 5.00pm, after a very interesting tour indeed.  We made our way to the stern to the Sunset Bar, and I enjoyed a cold prosecco as we looked across at the QE2 as the sun hung low in the sky.  Then it was back to cabin 6098, to get showered and changed and ready for dinner, and put more of our stuff in the cases.

We enjoyed a good dinner in the San Marco restaurant, washed down with prosecco and finished off with a glass of Amaretto and some coffee.  Then we went back to the cabin to finish our packing, and also to get changed into the clothes we’d be travelling home in, as our cases had to be outside our doors by 10.00pm.

Afterwards, we went along to the Celebrity Theatre to see the final show, called “Funny Bones”.  It consisted of two guys, one British and one Japanese, who performed old-fashioned mime sketches that were really funny and original.  Certainly a show with a difference and, as I’ve already said, we have been extremely impressed with the entertainment on the Constellation this cruise.

Around 11.00pm the ship weighed anchor and set sail for Abu Dhabi once again.  We then finished off the evening by going to the Rendez-Vous lounge, where we enjoyed some cocktails as well as the peace and quiet, as there was no band on tonight.  We then reluctantly made our way back to cabin 6098 for our last night on board.

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