Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Another Day In Dubai

Today is our last day in Dubai and we fly to London tomorrow morning. Our friends left this morning, so we have been on our own for the first time in a month.

Dubai Museum is just across the road from our hotel, so that was the first call of the day at around 8.45am. Built into Al Fahida Fort, the oldest building in Dubai, it provided an interesting hour's insight into this city's long history and rapid modern development.

Then it was a short walk to the creek where we caught the Abra (20p), across to Deirra, the location of the historic gold and spice souks.

After another short walk to Al Ras we picked up the new Metro train to Dubai Mall for lunch.

The Metro only came into service in the last couple of years, and is still under construction, as is everything else in Dubai. It provides an efficient over and underground service across the city, and is completely automated, without drivers! We purchased our day travel card for 2 UAE Dirham, followed by a further 14 UAED to complete our travel anywhere in the day travel card. That is very good value at under £3 each in total, even though the system is already overcrowded and running at over capacity.

After lunch we caught the spectacular periodic fountain display to music before returning to our hotel tired by the walking and heat.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Fabulous Dubai

We arrived in Dubai on schedule at around noon on the 27th January, with an overnight stay on board ahead of us, before our planned disembarkation at 0845hrs on the 28th.

We used the free shuttle bus provided by P&O Cruises to visit Dubai Mall during the day on the 27th.

As arranged by our chauffeur driven limo arrived on time the day after to transfer us to our hotel, the Arabian Courtyard, in Dubai old town. No sooner had we checked in than we were collected by Margaret's cousin and family, who took us on yet another fabulous day out.

After collecting our friends from their hotel, it was off for a drive down the famous Palms development before moving on to Madinat Jumeirah, where, after a pleasant cruise on the Abra, we had lunch in one of the many restaurants.

The day finished with coffee at the Heritage Village near the creek.
Back at our hotel, we walked around the old town before turning in.

We now have a full day on our own to explore on the 29th, before we fly home on the 30th courtesy of Virgin Atlantic. All in all, a fabulous holiday.

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Sultanate Of Oman And Dubai

The next country we visited was Oman. First, Salalah in the South after four days at sea from Aqaba, then, after one further sea day, Muscat.
Salalah, has a tropical climate, with a Summer monsoon, whereas Muscat is dry and arid, which gives each location a completely different feel.

The town of Salalah is 10 miles from the port, which, being commercial, doesn't offer much for the tourist, so we took the easiest option here and booked one of the ship's tours. The taxi drivers operate a cartel and the price from the port to town was fixed at around $28US each way, but our own experience told us the return journey could be priced at whatever they chose to charge, as they would then have us 'captive', as there was no public transport. I later heard reports of $100US being asked for the return journey, so it appears my suspicion was right. We encountered this type of price fixing by taxi drivers at Bali in 2012, where there was also no public transport to and from the port. Action by taxi drivers on that occasion also affected P&O Cruises ability to offer free port shuttle buses.

Muscat is also some distance from the port, but the interesting village of Mutrah, a district of Muscat, with it's large souk is within walking distance of the ship. This is what we did, as we have been here before and we knew the lie of the land. All sorts of interesting goods can be bought here, from traditional Arab head coverings to the dish-dash and pashmina, at very reasonable prices and bargaining the name of the game.

Dubai followed the day after, and the ship docked with an overnight stay here, allowing us to meet family from Abu Dhabi for a day out. The ship docked at the Port Rashid cruise terminal, near to the creek which is the location of the spice and gold souks. There are also many other attractions in this fabulous city which can't be matched anywhere else in the world. Yet again we had a fantastic time in this area. It is far better looking around a foreign city with someone who has lived there for years, and we consider ourselves lucky to have several relatives spread around the world who are always kind enough to accommodate us when we are near their location.

During the last week we have been entertained by Jimmy James, the soul star from the 1970's, but without his 'Vagabonds'. On the 22nd we had our loyalty tier cocktail party, (free drinks), before a wonderful dining experience in the Sorrento restaurant, albeit with a small cover charge.

At £5 each, we thought worth the extra, although I then went on to choose a hot stone fillet steak from the specials menu at an additional £6.95.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

On Though Suez To Aqabar

We departed Malta at around 6.00pm on Tuesday after another great day ashore. We did an open top bus tour, with warm sunny weather until lunch time when light cloud cover came in.

It was then back to the ship for a late lunch, taking in the waterfront shops first.

After leaving Malta we had two days at sea before heading into the Suez Canal and our revised full daylight transit. However, there was a dense fog In the morning, clearing to hot sunshine by lunchtime. During the Suez transit there was a deck party and BBQ.

The next port was Aqabar. From here we had a full day's tour booked to the ancient city of Petra, with a hotel lunch half way through the day.

Both Petra in Jordan, and our next port, Salalah, in Oman, are ancient places, both with biblical references, and hold much interest to us - the historic aspect that is.
As happened last time we cruised in this area in January 2012, we entered into a heightened state of security as we approached the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea, implementing anti-piracy measures. During the evening of the 17th we watched as we embarked our ex-military armed security by launch at sea off Port Suez, complete with their weapons and ammunition cases. We also have a Royal Navy Lt Commander aboard until Sri Lanka in the role of liaison officer between the ship's crew and the International Task Force which we will come under the protection of during our transit of the internationally assigned protected shipping corridor. This will include the Royal Navy, and other National forces assigned by a United Nations mandate to protect merchant ships from pirate attack. A security plan will be implemented which will include a nightly lockdown during the hours of darkness. We undertook 'pirate drill' for both passengers and crew on Thursday the 16th. These measures will last through until 4th February when the security guards will be taken off at sea.
Unfortunately, due to the extortionate cost of worldwide mobile data, and the sparseness of free wi-fi through the Middle East, posts may now become less frequent. A selfie taken during our Suez transit to finish with today......

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

On To Malta

Today's port is Valletta, Malta. Last time we were here we did an open top red bus tour of the island, and that is what we intend to do again today. This is the best value way to see the place, with the option of hopping off and on at places of interest.
On Sunday the Captain announced that due to renewed political unrest in Egypt, our full day in Port Said would be replaced. The new itinerary includes a full daylight transit of the Suez Canal, Aqaba as planned, and then Salalah, Oman as a new port, before the next planned Oman call at Muscat. Not an issue for us, as Port Said has deteriorated severely over recent years due to the troubles. We last visited in 2012, and felt uneasy then. It will however be a disappointment to those who had tours booked to Cairo and the pyramids, although, in my opinion, that trip is also currently unsafe.
The weather has improved no end, and we have had warm sunny days recently, with hotter weather to come in the coming weeks.

After our Suez Canal transit, when we dock at Aqabar we have a full day tour to the lost city of Petra booked.

Our days at sea are spent at quizzes, talks, cooking demonstrations by the chefs of the speciality restaurants Sorento and Marco Pierre White's Ocean Grill, and line dancing for the ladies, amongst the lounging on deck in the sunshine followed by pre-dinner cocktails in our (new to us), balcony cabin or Anderson's, a plush lounge cocktail bar. There are then various show options for the evening.
There are around 150 people on board who will complete the whole grand voyage through Asia, covering over 30,000 nautical miles, visiting 45 ports in 27 countries.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

First Port Of Call

After three days at sea from Southampton, we have now arrived at our first port of call, Ceuta, pronounced 'Sue-Ta'. This is a small port on the African side of the Straits of Gibralter, and is a Spanish exclave, the same as Gibralter is to the UK.
During our sea days we had the usual Captain's welcome party, and got to know this beautiful ship Adonia.

Our next port is Valletta, Malta. Although we have been here before, we are looking forward to our next visit on the 14th.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Adonia's 2014 World Cruise - P+O Cruises

The view from our port side restricted view balcony cabin on B deck 
Well, would you believe it! Here we are in Southampton again, aboard P+O's bijou cruise ship Adonia, which is about to sail on her 2014 world cruise.
This time last week we hadn't even considered the idea of doing a cruise this year, let alone a world destination, but I happened to stumble across this advertised as a very last minute deal on the iglu cruise website and completed our booking on New Year's Eve. It would have been plain stupid to let it go, costing less than £50 pp per night to be on here, and it became unavailable on the iglu website as soon as we had finalized our booking. It was the thought of all those forecast winter storms coming in again that clinched it, and hopefully, after we get through Biscay during the next couple of days we will be in much warmer climes once again.
Our last world cruise, a full circumnavigation on that occasion, was completed in April 2012 on Oriana, a mid-sized ship of around 69,000 tonnes, carrying a maximum of 2000 passengers. We then cruised the Mediterranean on Ventura in October the same year, a much larger ship of 115,000 tonnes and 3000 passengers, launched in 2007. Adonia, will be something completely different at 30,277 tonnes, 592 feet, [180m], long, and around 750 passengers. (Titanic was 882 feet, 42,000 metric tonnes, and 2,500 passengers). Built at the yard of Chantiers de l'Atlantique at St. Nazaire, France, in 2001 at a cost of £150 million, Adonia is the smallest ship in the P&O Cruises fleet, but is exquisitely fitted out in a traditional style, reminiscent of a large English country residence. Being of such a relatively small size, she can access ports others can't reach, giving us the opportunity to make some off the beaten track excursions - the highlight of this one for us being the Lost City Of Petra in Jordan, from the port of Aqabar, after completing our 2nd transit of the Suez Canal. The Valley of the Kings and Pyramids can also be done from Port Said for anyone brave enough! Our excursion is already booked, with an inclusive hotel lunch half way through the day.
We drove down to the Reading area on Sunday to stay with Margaret's sister and husband, who then very kindly drove us here today. The best part of this for us is that we have friends from home, who we introduced to P&O Cruises in 2012. They are doing this voyage and booked it weeks ago, but don't yet know we are also aboard! We have talked about it with them for weeks now during their own planning, then our chance came just days ago, based on price. Eventually, we intend to spend a couple of days in Dubai, meeting Margaret's cousin again, who lives in Abu Dhabi. We have already done this three times before on our way through the Middle East, and this will be our fourth meeting since November 2010. Before that Margaret last saw her cousin 25 years ago, and I had never met him.
For those with a maritime interest, Adonia's call sign is Zulu Charlie Delta Victor 2, her IMO number is 9210220, and mmsi number is 310530000. There are many websites on the net where you can track her voyages with this information.

Our cabin for the duration of this trip is a restricted view balcony, as can be seen above. Not too intrusive, and at that price who cares? We usually have insides! It was all that was left at this late stage, and we had no choice in the matter. Have a look at Adonia's opulent interior by taking a tour of the ship by video below. It is around 8 minutes long, and in a strange way, very relaxing.