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I went ashore at just after 11 o’clock, stayed for about two and a half hours, and then came back to the ship.

I actually started the ‘going ashore’ process at about 10:30, but what with queuing for the tender ticket and then for the tender to be available, it was just gone 11 before the group that included my ticket number was called. Actually tendering took between 15 and 20 minutes – a short period to fill the tender, ten minutes for the actual crossing, and then five minutes or more to get the tender moored and passengers off.

On first stepping ashore it became apparent how basic the facilities are on SBYi. There’s what looks like an artificial beach, with a roped-off swimming area. Above that, on the beach, is a host of (small) sunshades and wooden loungers. Then there are some large covered areas that were being pressed into service as a buffet and a bar; and there are several sets of loos. And that’s it. At the back of all this is a narrow road, and it’s along this road that excursions depart. There is basically just the one excursions, to (hopefully) see the wildlife of SBYi; and this lasts just an hour.

So basically going ashore gives you however long you want on a beach. I sat on a lounger (which I found uncomfortable) for a while, had a brief swim, had a wander along the footpaths, took some pictures, had some lunch, and didn’t have a drink. At about 1:in44 or a bit later I decided I’d had enough and went back to the ship. There again I’m not a beach person, but I gather that a lot of people were enjoying the day.

I’ll endeavour to find out how the excursions went.

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It’s Thursday morning – Valentine’s Day – and we’re at Sir Bani Yas island (I’m going to refer to it as ‘SBYi’ from now on. This is a tender port , and Oceana is anchored a few hundred metres off-shore. The sky is clear blue and the sun is shining; what more could we ask for?

Er….. something to do, perhaps? Here’s what Horizon says about SBYi:

“The island exists as a nature reserve that is only accessible to Guests who have booked a P&O Cruises shore excursion. You can go ashore independently, however be mindful that it’s just a strip of beach with loungers. There will be a limited Food & Beverage offering.” Continue Reading »

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I spoke to some more people at dinner this evening (Tuesday) about the arrival arrangements at Dubai airport. Several of them mentioned that they had a long wait for the bus to take them to the port – one couple mentioned waiting for an hour. They were comparing this with the arrangements at Barbados (for Caribbean cruises) or even Malta which typically run very smoothly – you walk out of the terminal and there’s the coach.

Bear in mind that typically they will have spent many hours travelling – from home to the departure airport, at least a couple of hours waiting there, probably 7 hours or more in the air, then some time at Dubai getting through immigration and collecting their bags, all before the wait for the bus. And the flight will almost certainly have been overnight. So I think P&O have to try to speed this up.

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I made it to the Louvre museum. I went by taxi from the Abu Dhabi mall, and went direct by taxi back to the cruise terminal. The fare was just under 20 Dhs for each journey. Taxis are easy to get at the mall – there is a special taxi pick-up and drop-off entrance, and I was able to get a taxi without waiting. Similarly there is a taxi pick-up area at the museum, with taxis waiting.

Enough of the practicalities – how was the museum? Well, I certainly enjoyed it very much. It’s arranged in a number of areas, each with three or four galleries. In the galleries are objects from all the major cultures on earth, starting in pre-history and going forward to today. Typically a gallery shows objects from around the world that were used for the same thing , e.g. funeral urns, or holy books. Religion is a constant element, and the museum shows how all cultures have striven to represent their gods and their beliefs in objects.

The building itself is stunning, of course, as were yesterday’s destinations. I do have images but I’m not able to post them yet. Perhaps when I get home I’ll add some pictures to the posts I’ve already done.

One thing – thee is an entrance fee, which is 60 Dhs + (5%) VAT, so the price I paid was 63 Dhs. Well worth every penny, IMHO.

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Regular readers will be aware that I do try to use public transport whenever possible. My objective today is the Louvre on Saadiyat Island, and I found out that there is a bus (#94) that goes there – terminates there, in fact – from the city. So could I get there on this bus instead of using a taxi?

At first glance it looked possible. I googled ‘Abu Dhabi bus station’ and got a result that suggested that the bus station was just a few minutes walk from the shuttle bus drop-off point at Abu Dhabi mall. Unfortunately I was wrong – I’d been given the location of the City (air) Terminal. More careful googling revealed that the actual central bus station is almost 2 miles from the mall. Rather closer to what might be the centre of the city, but that’s a rather amorphous concept here. It looked as if I’d have to take a taxi to the bus…. not a sensible idea.

Then there’s ticketing. You need a Hafilat card, which is a smart card that has to be bought and loaded with credit. The buses don’t take cash. Nor do the city buses sell basic cards on board (the inter-city buses, e.g. Dubai to Abu Dhabi) do, I gather). The best place to buy a card is at the bus station, of course.

There was a hint that some malls might sell the cards so I’ve been wandering the aisles of Abu Dhabi mall, but with no success. So I shall have to use the taxi again. A pity – I enjoy bus rides, and it would have been much cheaper. Ah well.

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A day in Abu Dhabi

I wrote this morning about the immigration process, so I’ll go on from there.

Given the poor weather I stayed on the ship until lunchtime. I then took the shuttle bus (as usual), which once again goes to – a mall. (The ‘Abu Dhabi’ mall). This is quite close to the main downtown area, albeit not in the newest part. The journey took barely 15 minutes, so much quicker than in Dubai or Manama.

Like Dubai, Abu Dhabi covers a vast area. It’s about 9 miles from the mall to the Sheikh Zayed mosque, which was my target. I decided to try the taxis – everyone says they are the way to get around. Continue Reading »

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We’re at Abu Dhabi, and – it’s raining. At least it is now (9:30 local time), although there’s a chance it will get better during the morning. But it’s not going to get very hot – 22° at best today.

But that’s not what I’m writing about. I thought I’d document the Abu Dhabi ‘face to face’ immigration procedures. It’s actually being described as being necessary to “gain entry back into the UAE having come from Bahrain”, which is of course what we’ve done.

Basically, there is an entry hall at the terminal with immigration desks, and all passengers have to go through there and be seen/inspected by an immigration official. The procedure for this is as follows: Continue Reading »

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I shared a table at dinner with another couple who had been on the shuttle bus and who had grappled with Manama. They were surprised that what they were seeing wasn’t quite how P&O had described Manama (“Marble-floored shopping malls…”, etc). They did some investigating and found out that while some of that stuff existed, it was some distance away, in different directions, and would require taxi rides. So they decided to just hit the Souk. They said it was OK, but not what they were expecting.

To sum up, they felt that what they found at Manama was not what P&O had led them to expect, and if they were unhappy at all, it would be with P&O. But they’re sensible, practical people so they just got on with things and enjoyed what they had been found.

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…. which is in Bahrain, before you ask! And Bahrain is of course a different country from the UAE; it’s the Kingdom of Bahrain and it has its own currency, etc.

We docked at Khalifa port at just before 9 o’clock. As before I didn’t have an excursion booked, I just went ashore using the shuttle bus. This was advertised as providing a transfer to Manama Souk, which is somewhere in the centre of town. We were also informed that the transfer would take 45 minutes. This seemed to be rather long but in fact it was accurate – the port really is a long way from the town.

I noted that in the “currency” section of the port paper that the only currencies mentioned were UAE Dirhams and US$; no mention of Bahraini Dinars. I queried this with Guest Services, and I was told that they had been advised by the port agent that Dirhams or Dollars would do, and that therefore the ship wasn’t offering Dinars for exchange. More on this later.

We were dropped off more or less outside the souk, which is in an older part of the city centre. However, other than a quick “there’s the Souk and this is where the pick-up point will be”, there wasn’t much other information. There was port leaflet that contained a simple sketch map, but it wasn’t helpful – it’s a map of the whole of Bahrain and the city just occupies a small section in the top 10%. It’s so large-scale that there’s no indication of the location of either the port (although you can guess that, of course) or the Souk. So I didn’t really know where I’d come from or where I was going…. (Val would say that’s not unusual.) Continue Reading »

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I heard from a couple I was sitting with at dinner last night that their embarkation early yesterday morning was slightly delayed. Not for too long, but given that this was at the end of nearly 24 hours travelling, it was annoying.

I mentioned in an earlier post that passports were being closely examined and additional documentation being attached at P&O check in at Dubai. Well, in the case of the couple I was talking to, when they arrived at the cruise terminal at not long after 7:30 am (after an overnight flight from Gatwick), the regular P&O check in were all present and correct but the passport officials weren’t. So they had to wait in the cruise terminal until about 8 o’clock, when passport processing started. So that could be an issue for early arrivers.

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