Nautica diary: A bittersweet farewell after so many days exploring Southeast Asia on this cruise

Day 26: Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

ABOARD OCEANIA’S NAUTICA — Today is disembarkation day and it’s bittersweet. We shared dinner and conversation last evening with a Kiwi couple from Christchurch — for the second time on the cruise — and lingered over coffee, reluctant to return to packing.

We all agreed on the success of the voyage from Bangkok — most enthusiastically about the quality of the crew, who not only executed their duties with proficiency, but with care and personality.

View from monorail, serving Dubai’s Palm Island
View from monorail, serving Dubai’s Palm Island

All passengers who were leaving the ship in Dubai were requested to vacate their cabin by 8 a.m. and be ashore by 9 a.m. Perhaps to encourage compliance, breakfast service ceased at 8:30 rather than the usual 10 a.m. As our flight was not scheduled to depart until after midnight, we had a day to spend in Dubai — a day with luggage. Our solution: Hire a guide to give us a city tour and drop us at the airport terminal at its conclusion.

Pretty much everything we imagined about Dubai proved true. As our guide, Ashraf put it so charmingly, “In my homeland of Mauritius we grow sugar cane; here in Dubai they grow buildings. If you come back in a few years it will look different.”

The Burj Khalifa, currently the world's tallest building
The Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest building

Dubai seems to be recovering from the financial crisis with construction resuming on stalled projects and real estate prices climbing again after a hard fall. In our minds we thought of Dubai as an Arab Las Vegas, and there is a resemblance. Both are booming desert cities built quickly from nothing. Both go for glitz and glamor.

But Dubai struck us as maybe Vegas on steroids, or Vegas to the 4th power. It’s bigger, more vertical, with forests of high-rise buildings, mostly with better style. It’s a better planned city. It lacks casinos (though not clubs and entertainment) but it has a cruise port. And where but Dubai will you find a Ferrari police car?

The Dubai Museum is a good place to get the story of Dubai’s history and recent development. Located in the restored Al Fahidi Fort built in 1799, it proves that Dubai does have a past. There is archeological evidence of people in the area well over two millenia ago. But as recently as the middle of the 20th century, Dubai was little more than an overgrown fishing and pearling village, though even then Dubai was engaged in commerce and boat-building.

Dubai police cruiser: Note the Ferrari badge on grill
Dubai police cruiser: Note the Ferrari badge on grill

We enjoyed a delicious, if pricey, lunch at Anar Persian Cuisine in the Medinat Jumeirah, a modern upscale shopping center, built in the style of a traditional Arab Souk. We made the obligatory photo stops at Burj al Arab and Burj Kalifa, but especially liked the monorail ride on the famous Palm Island, where we gawked at great views of the incomplete development and of the Marina District nearby, Dubai’s second high-rise forest, this one catering to wealthy ex-pats.

With 10 percent or less of Dubai’s population consisting of natives, and with residents from more than 200 countries, Dubai is truly a global city, perhaps a fitting final port-of-call.

It was the 13 distant, exotic and intriguing ports that drew us, and we found, many of our fellow passengers on this cruise. In the end we think few, if any, were disappointed. Certainly we were not.


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