We were not much interested in visiting the Grand Mosque, the principal attraction in Oman, nor the Souk, and we booked day passes and a return coach journey to the Intercontinental Hotel which was on the beach, and about twenty minutes from the cruise terminal. Our plan was to return at 3pm and then have a walk into the nearby town, but in the event the coach taking us to the hotel got a flat tyre and we had to wait for a replacement coach. That arrived very promptly but it meant the departure from the Intercontinental was delayed and we had no time, when arriving back at the ship, to go out again. But our guide on the coach was a charming and humorous Omani and we saw a little of the city on our journey.
The hotel was lovely, with two very good pools, and lots of shade on what was a formidably hot day. The temperature reached 35 centigrade which was significant because the Port Lecturer – forever referred to by a table companion as “Useless Graham’ and whose research is partial and advice unreliable, told his audience that the peak temperature would be only 24.
The nearby beach was just a strip of sand, without shade and not really offering an attractive alternative to the pool. I had a quick wade into the waves believing there was a lot of floating seaweed. In fact the sea was coloured black, not by weed, but by millions and millions of small fish which immediately began nibbling at my feet. I’ve never seen such a density of living things.
We abandoned the pool and had a pleasant lunch on the terrace of the hotel restaurant. We both had some excellent Focaccia bread and Penne Arabbiata with beer and wine (unexpected because we believed Oman to dry) for about £50.
Later, back onboard, we sat on the balcony while a beautiful crescent moon and, I think, Venus emerged. Hard to capture in a photo, but here’s an attempt:
Then, still recovering from the heat, Jan resorted to stealing my beer in the Commodore Club:
This is, regrettably, the last of our overnighters. they’ve been a great success and, in our experience, almost everyone has loved the opportunity to stay out later.
We arrived at noon. there was some anxiety from the Hotel Manager that the face to face immigration required by the UAE authorities would mean heavy queues to leave the ship. But this was not like the process in Singapore – where the delays were severe – and each of us spent two or three minutes with an Immigration Officer. Instead there was the most cursory of checks and after a delay of little more than ten minutes we were on another Cunard shuttle bus, this time to the Dubai Mall.
It’s a while since we’ve been to Dubai and we’ve never been to the Dubai Mall. We anticipated something huge but full of international designer shops all selling overpriced luxury goods. Such shops were there but there was a much wider variation and with retail brands from different countries represented. There was a Hamleys from the UK; Galleries Lafayette from France and Pottery Barn, West Elm and Bloomingdales from the USA. Downstairs there were also lots of local shops selling local crafts including beautiful carpets.
I bought a very nice blazer from Banana Republic’s sale, replaced my first generation (and recently broken) Apple watch for Apple’s version 3 (saving quite a bit on the UK price) and we got a present for our daughter. But mainly we wandered around, drank coffee, and gazed at the quite incredible Aquarium into which you can see from the Mall.
As the heat of the day started to abate we wandered outside into what is known as the Old Town but which is, in fact, a recent creation but with traditional architecture and containing a small Souk and lots of restaurants. We searched for the highly recommended Rivington’s Grill which had good reports for some classic British dishes including what they describe as a Brick Lane Curry. But it had closed, presumably having gone out of business (despite its reputation). In its place however was a new branch of Shake Shack the US Burger chain which we like very much indeed. We sat on their terrace with a fantastic view of the Burj Khalifa as the sun sank behind it.
Later we watched one of the remarkable musically accompanied fountain shows:
We were back at the hotel for eight and watched an excellent film in the cinema, The Post starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, and sure to be in the Oscars reckoning next year.
For our second day I’d arranged a taxi to pick us up from the ship and take us to Le Royal Meridien Hotel at Jumeriah Beach. It was outstanding with three pools, four or five restaurants and on an attractive beach with excellent swimming.
We drank coffee, beer and had a simple lunch at our sun beds. Our day passes cost £40, but it was money well spent and we stayed all day. After dinner back on the ship, and as we made our way toward Aqaba, we returned to the cinema again and watched Beauty and The Beast.
Dubai has surprised us. There’s much about it which is vulgar, but we had a terrific two days.