One of the trendiest destinations in the world, and Jaime’s number one “must visit” travel places was Dubai, which happened to be only a few hours away from the Netherlands!
So we decided to sign up for the adventure! Since it was December and Jack had a longer vacation in school, we decided to cross off Jaime’s number one bucket list of countries, and head off to Dubai – one of the seven cities that make up the United Arab Emirates!
It had been a while since we had gone off for a cruise, so we decided to retake on the experience. We booked a cruise that departed from Dubai, making stops in Abu Dhabi and Oman, just to return to Dubai again. After booking the cruise, we called several times to the cruiseline (Costa) and the lady kept mentioning that we did not require any visas. It was quite strange, since we knew we needed them! So just to be safe we bought the flight tickets with Emirates Airlines, and then bought the visas for Dubai.
The day finally arrived, and we were ready to feel some sunshine after the start of a cold winter in Maastricht… So, we arrived to the Amsterdam Schiphol airport and happily boarded the plane to start off our so dreamed trip!
It was our first time flying with Emirates, and we were perplexed! It really is the best airline that we have so far travelled with. Their service is excellent, and so is their food. They even have special sets of gifts to give away to kids, and we really had a very pleasant flight with them.
When landing in Dubai, we were really fascinated at the airport already, there was a virtual lady giving instructions on where to proceed for immigration. We could already sense the adventure getting closer!
After taking about 2 hours to pass immigration, and of course needing visas (which we luckily had purchased), we exited to grab a taxi that would take us to the Atlantis Hotel, where we were going to spend the day, before boarding the cruise- since or cruise was sailing at night and it was 7 am! We had all day to enjoy this amazing waterpark hotel.
To our surprise, when we got off the cab we were not received warmly. The guard came to ask for our reservations immediately and he did not let us enter the hotel until we showed him the Dolphin swimming booking… It was a strange feeling, since we are used to just entering hotels without being escorted. After that, just like we would have done anywhere else in the world, we had thought of leaving the luggage at the hotel lobby and picking it up when we left. However, they did not want to keep the suitcase because they said that it was against the Sheik’s orders. We could not understand how we were going to enjoy the water park and swim with the dolphins with… our luggage?!, it puzzled us. Later, we found out that they had some private Cabanas for rent, and we had to take the most expensive one, because it was the only one left! only to be able to leave our lugagge there! So, there we were… with our own butler looking after us – and the lugagge – at the private Cabana… (against our will :S)
The experience had not been so sweet so far, so we decided to start having fun and we toured a little bit the hotel- they do not really let you walk freely there, you are really only allowed to visit some areas… strange -, were we saw the enormous fish tank with glorious fish.
We then decided to start enjoying the great warm weather and we went for the water slides!! It was so much fun! We laughed like little kids – the three of us – and it was a fantastic experience, Jaime even went down the famous huge Atlantis vertical slide. The three of us were excited and thrilled with our decision.
After that, it was time for our swim with the dolphins, which we had reserved long before… the experience was really nice, the dolhpin was dancing and we could pet it, feed it and dance with it as well, its name was Inni. Jack was the happiest kid in the block! We really had a fantastic time! The Atlantis Dubai is an amazing park (just like the one in the Bahamas, which we had visited in our honeymoon!) with lots of slides and activities, not to mention a great food offer. The Atlantis is located in the palm of Dubai, an artificially created palm looking isle.
The evening was there, and we decided to go for an early dinner. Beca wanted to try Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen restaurant, which was a great option with tasty food. The people that were serving our table were all Brittish and we enjoyed our dishes a lot.
At this point, we were already exhausted and the only thing that we wanted to do was just to go to the cruise and have some sleep. After taking a taxi and getting a good glimpse of the city of Dubai at night, we arrived to the port. As it was expected, the cruiseline asked for our papers and we were about to enter the cruise when… we were told that we could not board the cruise because our visa had already been used, and since the cruise was going to Oman, and re-entering Dubai, we needed a multipe entry visa for that, and just like that, our cruise, our trip and Jaime’s dreamed vacation was torn to pieces. Bye bye cruise…
With tears in our eyes, we decided to go back to the Atlantis Hotel, as we were already in Dubai and our plane would not be leaving until one week after that. So, we head back and slept off the bitter experience.
On the next day, we wanted to explore the city and we thought that the best would be to jump in the hop on and hop off bus (worst idea ever!). We first went to the old part of the city and decided to get off at the spice market. Beca had been to the spice market in Turkey, and we both had visited large spice markets in Israel, so what we saw there – one street only – was completely disappointing!
We saw a completely different side of Dubai, it was old, poor, dirty and not very touristic. We bought some spices and brought them back home – very bad idea! we had brought some 4 legged visitors with us – inside of the spices! However, we did taste dates covered in chocolate and filled with almonds – what a delicious treat! So, the hop on was not worth it because it takes a lot of time to take the whole trip and when you go down from the bus it takes a long time for you to be able to jump back again. The highlight was that in the bus we could see gorgeous buildings with lots of shapes, such as a pineapple, a dragon, a snake, and many others, but of course you can not go in, it is only to see from the outside!
After waiting for the bus for quite some time, we finally arrived to the Dubai Mall. It is the best mall ever! We both love shopping malls and have visited plenty of them in the United States and Mexico, but this one is huge! and with lots and lots -and lots- of stores and things to do. It is paradise for shoppers! It has stores and food chains from all over the world! The American JC Penney, French Galleries Lafayette, London’s Hamleys toy store, Mexican Kidzania and so on! Just to mention a few, not to mention the dozen of restaurants, from the American Cheesecake Factory to the Lebanese Al-Hallab, and many more! After being in The Netherlands for 6 months – no shopping malls at all! – we really missed a good shopping mall and this was it! We were like kids in Disneyland!
Besides that, we enjoyed the enormous seaquarium , and the like-bellagio fountains from Las Vegas just outside the mall, which played Michael’s Jackson Thriller and Enrique Iglesia’s Heroe, among others.
We had dinner at Al Hallab, a magnificent Lebanese food restaurant, with the best Arabic food that we have ever tasted! And we enjoyed a fantastic fruit smoothy as well! Always enjoying Burj Khalifa’s – the tallest building in the world and one of the most iconic buildings in Dubai- view from the terrace.
On the next day, we booked a tour to go to the sand dunes in a Jeep vehicle. It looked pretty incredible, but after 30 minutes of riding up and down the sand dunes like crazy our stomachs were not very happy… We were glad when the ride was over and we were able to step on the super soft sand that felt just like powdered sugar in our feet. It was amazing walking on it. We even did some sand boarding there too- quite an experience.
After that, we rode several times on the Camel! Two hump camels… We had already done that in Israel, it was fun, well not the part were the camel stands up and when he seats back, since he bends completely and you feel like you are going to just fall on your face. Later on, we enjoyed a belly dance show while being served a variety of grilled meats and vegetables on the desert. To sum up, we dressed ourselves up to get the complete Arabic feeling! We had a fantastic day!
During our next day, all we wanted was to head back to the Dubai Mall! We wanted to relax, so we walked through the aisles of the shopping mall – it really is very big – just to find a whole entire floor filled with women shoe stores!
It was also very interesting to see how people are dressed in Dubai, we were impressed because some of the women were all covered – even their eyes, their clothing just had two small holes for their eyes, and on top of that a light veil, so you could only see the black clothing. In the stores, they even had bathing suits with the same shapes – to be all covered. We also saw men wearing different kinds of white robes, with different qualities, some of them looked very elegant and fascinating. We did see people wearing regular clothing, but it was mainly foreigners working there, such as the multiple Indian taxi drivers or the Asian looking nannies that were accompanying many women at the mall.
At the end of the day, we decided to have dinner at our beloved American Outback Steakhouse- again with the impressive Burj Khalifa’s view and the fountain show- were Beca even ran into a friend from her University – how odd is that?
For our next morning, which happened to be Christmas, we wanted to go inside the Burj Al Arab 7 star hotel. The only way to do that, happened to be to make a reservation – of course! – for the only available restaurant, a Chinese buffet style place, at 9am. We were not pleased with the idea, but we decided to do it anyways. Actually, the food was good and we were thrilled because for the first time we did not need to worry for eating something containing pork, as pork meat is completely banned from Dubai, so we really enjoyed it. It turns out that, in Dubai you can not go inside of the hotels, unless you have a reservation!