A rich man’s world

 

oneA friend of mine that I used to work with in BOAC in the 1970’s, heard that Maureen & I would be sailing in the Majestic Princess, and that she would be visiting Dubai for a day on the way to Singapore.
Majestic
He suggested that we should meet so as to catch up on the last thirty nine years. I jumped at the idea at seeing him again, and ‘catching up’.

He’d left BOAC in 1978 to work for an airline in the Persian Gulf.
boac                  For those who can remember BOAC  :-o)

Over the years his life had changed, and he now ran his own company in Dubai.

During our e-mail chats he asked what we would like to see while in Dubai, and as we had seen a number of the popular sights during our visit last year,  we asked if it was possible to see inside . . .

DSC09070r

without actually staying there?

My friend picked Maureen & I up from the cruise terminal in his chauffer driven car – he hates driving – and took us to the Dubai Museum.

DSC09021r

DSC09018r.jpgI was able to read more about Lawrence of Arabia. The museum was cool (as in climate) and very interesting. I took a number of photos of various items on display, but for some reason only the above picture registered on the camera. At least the outside pictures worked.

DSC09020r

Leo & I meet again after nearly forty years.

Next stop was the 321 meter high  Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel, voted as the world’s most luxurious hotel. Leo had fixed everything.

DSC09025rThe main reception area where Leo introduced himself to the receptionist and a young lady came over to meet us and show us various areas of the hotel.

On the left of the above picture is the start of the wow factor.

DSC09022r

Computer controlled mini-fountains pointing upwards.

Escalators on each side of the water feature, but so as not to get bored in your travels the management have put in an a fish pond.

DSC09024rThere is another escalator & aquarium on the other side of the of the mini-fountains.

There is a reception on each floor and check-in takes place in your suite.

DSC09023rDifferent colours for various floors.

DSC09029r

More fountains as we reached the top of the escalators.

DSC09030rMaureen & Leo walk quietly to the lift.

DSC09031r

Reception at the restaurant as we step out of the lift.

DSC09032rWalk through the tunnel to the restaurant. The colour gold is everywhere.

DSC09034r We are in the Al Mahara restaurant and the whole wall is an aquarium – not sure if we are supposed to pick our fish for eating as it swims passed or do we just admire the view.

DSC09035r

DSC09036rPrivate dining room – I am not sure if the aquarium at the end is part of the restaurant aquarium.

DSC09037r The private dining room – view taken with my back to the aquarium.

DSC09038r

Close-up of the wall of water.

DSC09040rView of outside from the reception area.

DSC09042r

Shopping ??

DSC09043rCorridor to where, I don’t know.

DSC09044rLooking down on to a tearoom come bar area and below the bar area is the main entrance.

DSC09045r

Design of the various floors.

DSC09069r

DSC09046rThe walk area towards ‘our’ suite.

DSC09047rEntrance area of the suite – two floors, dining room, sitting room two double bedrooms each en-suite.
This bedroom suite has a gold iPad – who doesn’t? A 21 inch iMac, floor to ceiling windows, wide screen HD TV and don’t forget the 24 hour butler service. Nothing has been left out.

DSC09048eLeo & our guide in the reception area of the suite.

DSC09067rLeo felt quite at home, with his gold computer . . .

DSC09049rSitting room

DSC09050rDining room.

DSC09054rGeneral view back towards the reception area.

DSC09055r

DSC09056rMain bedroom

DSC09057rEn-suite bathroom.

DSC09059rDressing room for main bedroom.

DSC09060rSecond bedroom

DSC09062rSecond bedroom en-suite (also with dressing room)

DSC09066r

Both bedrooms are upstairs, but as you climb the stairs you can check the time, which is an image that is cast on to the wall of the staircase so that it doesn’t intrude. As you see we were there around lunchtime –  the clock was accurate.

DSC09068r

Sitting room , small bar & large TV.

DSC09051rView from the sitting room window. A little hazy due to sand in the air.

DSC09072r

As we left the hotel I saw the ‘sister’ hotel across the beach area, and noticed that the Rolls Royce’s engine was still running even though the car was empty – one doesn’t wish to climb in to a hot car.

DSC09073rc

If I start saving now, and live long enough, the suite that we saw is on ‘special’ for just over AUD $6,000 a night, but it does include a free breakfast.

It’s only money after all, and that’s what I want  if I plan staying at this hotel.

The hotel opened in 1999.

The smallest room is 169 sq mtrs – & I thought the E & O in Penang had large rooms at 53 sq mtrs. It costs about AUD $1300 a night for the smallest room.
The largest room is 780 sq meters – the Royal Suite costs about AUD $37,000 a night. It was listed as the 12th most expensive suit in the world in 2012.

There are only 28 double story floors, to create 202 bedroom suites. The shape of the hotel represents the sail of a dhow. The owners wanted an iconic design to show place Dubai in the way that the Opera House does for Sydney, Big Ben for London or the Eiffel Tower for Paris.

The idea of using hotels as symbols of a country seems to be growing with Dubai’s  Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel,

one

and also Singapore with

sin  Mariner Bay Sands Hotel

There is still talk of converting QE2 in to a Dubai hotel, but will she ever make the grade.

DSC09017rAs the Majestic Princess docked I took the above picture of a grand old lady alongside in Dubai – she has been in Dubai since 2008.

 

 

 

 

We’re off !

Our driver arrived five minute early, I do love efficiency, and at 3.00 am we had the fastest drive ever to the airport, which was just over twenty minutes instead of the normal 45 minutes.
Check-in went smoothly and our bags checked through to Rome. We were given vouchers for a hotel near Dubai airport, Le Meridian.
We had been told that Sydney airport didn’t open until 4.00 am, but it actually opens at 3.00 am, but emigration & security didn’t open until 4.00 am so we had to hang around for about fifteen minutes.

DSC08365r

DSC08366r.jpg

I’ve never seen Sydney airport so quiet.

Once in the emigration line we inserted our passports to a scanner and stood while our photograph was taken, and I suppose compared to the passport. The whole process took about thirty seconds, and we had existed Australia.
Next stop was security – due to my pacemaker I couldn’t pass through the normal X-ray machine, but was asked to stand in a see-through box with my arms up and I was checked out. I was told that this security system did not allow any forms of ‘waves’ to pass through the body so was safe for pacemakers.

A five minute walk had us at the entrance to Emirates Business Class Lounge – a beautiful spotless waiting area with a large choice of food and drink. I had some very nice coffee, fruit and juice, which was all that I wanted, and of course a glass of Moet Champaign. After all, one doesn’t want to waste the opportunity of a glass of Moet even at 4.00 am!

DSC08374r
DSC08369r

DSC08373r
The call to board was made around 40 minutes before take-off, not a problem as the aircraft was not full, and we had to use the lift to go down to the boarding level.
Maureen had a window seat and my seat was behind. The layout is such that the business class seats are not behind each other, but staggered. My seat was behind Maureen’s stowage areas, which was also where my TV screen was located and my footrest area. This allows each seat to be converted in to a flatbed if the passenger wishes to sleep. Before we had taken off the cabin crew were offering mattresses for those who wished to sleep once we had reached cruising altitude.

DSC08376r

The area to the left of my screen was the rear of Maureen’s seat, which was next to her window.

DSC08382r
The above picture was taken from my seat, showing that I was not next to the window. The unit to the right of the picture is the rear of Maureen’s seat.
Once at cruising altitude the crew came around to take our breakfast orders.

DSC08391cr

DSC08390r

 I chose the granola with vanilla yoghurt & pomegranate seeds.

As I write this on my laptop (universal power sockets located at each seat) we have been flying for 4.5 hours and we are still over Australia.

DSC08398c

The sun is chasing us as we fly north west over Australia.

Breakfast went well, after which we all settled down to watch films, read or sleep.

DSC08389r
I couldn’t help but watch The Magnificent Seven, just one more time.

Maureen & I had our window blinds ‘open’ to watch the passing scenery as we flew over Australia. I found it strange that all through the fourteen-hour flight many passengers, a little further back from where we were sitting, never opened their window blinds throughout the flight, and just sat in the dark.

DSC08395rQuite often Maureen prefers to watch the pasting view rather than watch TV.

The toilets were in the rear of the upper business class section, so when visiting the facilities and walking through the darkened area, I found it slightly depressing that so many were sitting in the dark when it was full daylight.

DSC08406r

The one happy area after the darkened section was the bar. It was never crowded, with just six to ten people sitting or standing around chatting. I had a lengthy conversation with the Chinese barman (he took this photograph), who had worked for Emirates for over three years. He was interesting and in my opinion an asset to the airline.

DSC08407rLater back at our seats it was lunchtime.

DSC08392rc

DSC08408r

DSC08409r

I forgot to photograph the first course and decided to have cheese instead of something sweet.

DSC08413r

After floating in the air for just over fourteen hours we approached Dubai.

Although I enjoyed the overall experience of flying business class in an AB 380, I think I prefer business class in a B787, which is much smaller, and for me, a more personal experience. Flying in a B787 allows the cabin staff to be attentive to each individual passenger that one can be addressed by name, without interrogating a iPad before speaking.
On our flight, there were seventy-six business class seats in our section, so is it any wonder we hardly saw a cabin crew member other than rushing back and forth with trays of food.
The B 787 has twenty-two business class seats and even with far less staff they managed to build a small personal relationship with each passenger. If you would like something in between the AB 380 and the smaller B787 try the B777/ER business class with forty-two seats. Having experienced both the B787 and the B777/ER I enjoyed both, and the largest toilet I’d ever seen, after flying with over fifty different airlines, the B777 wins hands down.

On arrival in Dubai I could not fault Emirates Airlines for the efficiency of their operation. We had been given fast track cards that saw us through immigration very quickly.

Our main suitcases had been tagged all the way to Rome, so we didn’t have to worry about baggage on arrival. Once through the normal procedure we were shown where to go for our chauffeured car to the Le Meridian Hotel for our overnight stay. The driver was waiting, and we were quickly on our way to the hotel. At the hotel, where we were guided through a dedicated Emirates check-in area.
As one staff member checked us in another offered us vouchers for lunch, dinner and breakfast. We didn’t require lunch having eaten during our flight.
We followed a porter to our room in a special section of the hotel for transit Emirates passengers.

DSC08415r

DSC08416rThe two above pictures show our room.

Our onward flight was scheduled to depart the following day at 9.10 am.

DSC08418rInside the Dubliner – Guinness :-o)

Later we had a look around the hotel and a complete area was set aside for assorted styles of restaurants from an Irish pub (called the Dubliner), to Thai, Middle Eastern and other types of food. Clutching our dinner voucher, we wondered through each area and were shown special menus that listed various dishes for transit passengers.
The only thing that we paid for was my beer, Guinness of course, in the Dubliner, chilled, thick and tasty and Italian beer in the outside restaurant that we picked for our evening meal. Soft drinks for Maureen were included in the voucher. The burning heat of the day had passed by the time we sat down and the warm breeze added to the enjoyment as evening turned in to night. With such a wide choice of food it was funny that we both chose a New Zealand steak and salad.

DSC08419rFor breakfast, before being taken to the departure area for the next leg of our journey, we had a large choice of food.

Transport in and round Dubai.

DSC06357rMetro station entrance – note the lack of graffiti, litter and rubbish, nor did we see anyone constantly cleaning so the locals must have been well educated with regard to litter etc.

DSC06358rMetro platform, well designed and marked out to let passengers off the train before new passengers enter the coach.

DSC06359rTrain about to leave

DSC06360r

Believe me, this is an air-conditioned bus stop. One is hardly uncomfortable in the heat at 41 c , while moving from cold shopping centres to cool metro station, and comfortable trains, even when crowded.

DSC06361rThe old way to transport people and goods.

DSC06285rr
Local river boat, the fee to cross the creek is about $0.30 so the boat leaves when it is full.

DSC06376r
Floating restaurant getting in position for the evening trade

DSC06377r

When I first visited Dubai in the early 60’s the creek was quite wide.
The dhows ran aground on the creek bank or tied alongside small wooden piers.
Over the years the creek bank has been pushed closer to each bank to create a river rather than a creek.
I just wonder what would happen with heavy rain up river, would the Creek over flow its banks as did the River Seven after that river banks were ‘squashed’ closer to each other.

DSC06380rAnother ‘water taxi’ which we hired for an hour to check out the views of Dubai from the river. The cost was about AUD $24 per person and we had the boat to ourselves.

DSC06381rTaxi area that reminded me of Venice.

DSC06386r
Many more restaurants boats from dhow shapes to Chinese junk shapes.

DSC06402r
Not sure if this is a private or public boat.

We passed the home of the Sultan, which was hidden behind a high wall and protected by signs that photographing any part of the wall was forbidden. The area of the home was very large and took up a great length of the ‘river’ front. Obviously I didn’t take any pictures because I’d heard of 28 days lock up for small offences, before one can see a solicitor.
I wasn’t sure that the people on the roof that I could see, on some of the buildings, were guards or just staff relaxing – I wasn’t going to take the chance of being wrong by taking any pictures.

Our last port of call

We docked in Dubai, UAE, the largest man made harbour in the world, our last port of call before we left the ship.
As we entered the harbour I could see a familiar sight ahead, the vessel with the red funnel, in the middle of the picture.

DSC06259rThe other white vessels along side belonged to various UAE dignitaries – more weekenders.

DSC06264rThe cruise terminal with the city in the background.

DSC06270rA closer view of the vessel with the red funnel – Queen Elizabeth 11. She was bought to convert in to a floating hotel similar to the Queen Mary in Los Angeles, as yet it hasn’t happened. I must admit she does look like a ship and not a box boat or a block of flats . . . . sign of age I suppose.

DSC06276rThe view from our room at the Pullman Hotel.

DSC06277rOur hotel is built on top of a shopping centre . . . .

DSC06279rc

A short metro ride to the nearby Dubai Creek we found the ‘Old Souk’, which we thought was not as attractive as the souk in Muscat.

Tomorrow we will visit the largest shopping centre in the world, I don’t know if I am looking forward to the visit or not . . . . .