Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cruise Easter-Dubai

April 8 - 21

Day 1

We flew overnight and arrived into Dubai at 5AM. We collected our bags, had breakfast, and thought about our plan for the day. We were not allowed to board the ship until noon, so we needed to figure out a way to keep ourselves occupied for the morning. We found that the Dubai Museum, which is described as a must see attraction, opened at 830, so we went for it. On the way, we were able to see a bit of the city. Dubai is a very big, clean, safe, and modern city. We were really impressed with the architecture of the buildings. The clearest landmark in the skyline is the Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world at the moment. Another building that stood out was one under construction that looked twisted. The museum was about a 10 min ride from the airport and we found that taxis are very inexpensive. The museum is a natural history museum, showing the development of Dubai over the years. Dubai is one of the 7 emirates in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is the second largest geographically, but the largest economically with about 3.5 million people. The original inhabitants were Nomads. A tribe settled in the area and supported themselves with agriculture, fishing, and pearl diving. That is until they struck oil and their life changed very rapidly - a real Beverly Hillbilly’s story. The sudden wealth brought infrastructure, jobs, and immigration. Only about 30% of the population are UAE nationals.

The museum had a lot of interesting displays, but what fascinated me was the traditional huts (essentially sticks and leaves). The interesting part is that they were built with a “chimney” that captured wind and funneled it into the huts to create "air conditioning".

After a couple of hours at the museum, we took a taxi to the port and tried to check in early. It was a good gamble because they were allowing people to check in early and we got there just before a big bus tour dropped off a bunch of people. We checked in quickly, got aboard the ship, had lunch at the windjammer, and then slipped into our suits for some swimming. We were pretty beat, so instead of swimming, we all took a nap on some recliners in the Solarium. After our nap, we got settled into our room and got ready for dinner.

We ate dinner in the main dining room. We were seated at a table for 8. We had requested to be seated at a table for 4 so that we could talk together as a family. Fortunately, no one else sat at our table so we had the whole thing to ourselves.

After dinner, we went to the show. It was an introduction by a cruise director, Matt Sole (who’s intro music every night was Soul Man – very creative), as well as an intro performances by the RCL singers and dancers.

Day 2

We got up late and made a gametime decision to visit the Jumeirah Mosque before the ship departed at 1PM. The only way to visit the mosque is through the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, which leads a guided tour called Open Doors Open Minds. We went on the tour which was very educational.

We watched the cleansing ritual that takes place before prayer and JP and Sandy even got to take part. They think of the cleansing ritual as what you do before any big date or interview, except that the date is with God.

We went inside the men’s portion of the mosque. The woman’s mosque is a small room off to the side. We learned that men are obligated to go to the mosque to pray while women are not. They mentioned that the women’s mosque in the shopping mall is bigger than the men’s because that is where the women spend most of their time. We learned about the 5 pillars of Islam: Prayer 5 times per day, fasting during Ramadan, charity, trip to Mecca and belief that Allah is the one and only god. A couple of other interesting points:

• On the point of charity, a Muslim must give 2.5% of their salary to those in need.
• The Berka worn by women is at their choice, but most find that it is convenient to wear it. Underneath, they usually have jeans and t shirt. It is same with the facial covering that some women wear. It is very sunny and windy in Dubai so the facial covering is an easy way to protect the skin.
• Muslims believe that they have an angel standing at each shoulder. The one on the right writes down all the good deeds and the one on the left all the bad deeds.
• Fasting during Ramadan is a way to think about the poor who do not have enough to eat.
• Muslims believe Mecca to be a holy place. Adam and Eve got separated from each other for a while and this is the place where they reunited. God asked Abraham to walk around the spot 7 times to mark its location. His footsteps can still be seen. A small black mosque is built on the spot. When building the mosque, a rock was found in the perimeter that Abraham had walked around. The rock was white and was like nothing anyone had ever seen. The builders incorporated the rock into the construction – it is contained within one of the walls and can still be accessed. Over the years it has turned black. Scientists were brought in to determine why it turned black. They could not figure it out, but could only conclude that the rock is not from Earth.

After getting back on the ship, we had lunch at the windjammer and then got reaquainted with the ship by playing mini golf and ping pong. We wanted to do rock climbing, but it was extremely windy so they closed the rock climbing wall. We ended up going swimming and spending time in the hot tub.

We tried a different table for dinner, but the table was extremely small. It was a table for two that was set for four. We had a nice dinner but decided that the bigger table would be better.

We went to the evening entertainment, which was a sax player/singer/comedian. He was very talented, but the act was better suited for adults, so we left early, put the kids to bed and tried our luck in the casino. We played the machine that pushes coins over the edge and managed to win 30.

Easter Cruise-Muscat

Day 3

We awoke in Muscat. It was an early morning – we had to meet our tour group at 7AM.

Muscat is the capital of Oman. It has a population of about 800k and 50% are immigrants. They have permission to stay for two years and then must return to their home country, renew their passport and then can come back. Muscat is built in the middle of volcanic mountains. The people love the Sultan because of the development he brought after 1970. Prior to that, there were no paved roads and the donkey was the primary means of transportation. Water for bathing and cooking is brought to peoples houses. It is desalinized then delivered by truck. The dirty water is then cleaned and used again and then the third time used for grass and plants. Water is actually more expensive than gasoline: 24 cents per Litre for gas vs. 35 cents per Litre for water

It was noted that no one rides bicycles. This is because of how people dress – basically a long white shirt.

Everything is free for the locals - no taxes, no health care costs, free school, etc. Foreigners must pay a 50% tax per year.

The Sultan gives a gift to the people once per year on the day of the Sultan, which is the day he took over power. Last year, everyone who took out a loan in 2009 did not have to pay it back. One year, the Sultan gave a gift of 700 per month for people who graduated from university and could not find a job.

There are no sky scrapers. Buildings cannot be more than a certain height. The philosophy is that everyone is equal.

We visited the Grand Mosque. It is the third largest in the world. Inside the men’s mosque is a 31 ton carpet. It is a single piece from Persia. There is also a gigantic 8 ton chandelier.

We then had a short shopping visit at the Mutrah Souq and bought some cashmere silk scarves and frankincense (an aromatic substance that comes from tree sap). We were very embarrassed when we lost track of time and had to be rounded up by the tour guide. We were the last one’s on the bus, but at least we did not get boo’d like we did in Ireland. Although I got “the look” from one lady at the next stop.

We then visited the Bait Al Zubair, a primate museum that houses traditional Omani heritage items. This is a private museum owned by Hi Excellency Mohammed Al Zubair – Advisor to His Majesty the Sultan for Economic Planning Affairs. The exhibits include collections of Omani weaponry, jewelry, clothing, household items, books, photographs, paintings, maps, etc. which aim to show and preserve the rich Omani heritage and culture.

Our last stop was the Al Alam Palace, the official residence of Sultan Qaboos. The architecture is a blend of oriental and occidental styles in rich hues of gold and blue. The palace is strategically positioned between the two medieval fortresses of Jalali and Mirani, built by the Portuguese towards the end of the sixteenth century. The Sultan actually has 7 palaces around the country and no one knows where he is living from day to day. The staff at each palace cook food throughout the day and if he does not come, then they eat it themselves.

We were back on board by lunch. We hung out pool side with the kids. The water slide opened in the afternoon but Sydney was too short to go on her own by about an inch. I told her that the next time someone measures her height to go on a ride to stand on her tippy toes. The next day, she tried my technique and was able to go on by herself - she was so happy.

We decided to sign the kids up for dinner at the kids club so that Sandy and I could have a quiet evening.

We saw some of the show – it was a motown group. Afterwards, we tried out the casino. We won another 30 on our favorite coin machine and then spent another 20 on the slots – it was good entertainment.

Day 4

We left Muscat the night before and in the morning were continuing our journey across the Arabian Sea to India. I had a workout in the morning. I tried to keep up my workouts in a feeble attempt to stave off the extra inches settling around my waste from double portions, mostly at breakfast and dinner. After breakfast, we hit the rock climbing wall on the ship (a family first as the kids were too young in the past). JP made it to the top on the third try and the audience cheered – undoubtedly one of his favorite moments of the cruise. I attended the destination lecture on India and then we had lunch in the main dining room. The waterslide opened at 1PM so we spent the afternoon poolside. It was a formal night and a picture night so we cut the afternoon short to get ready for the evening. We started at 5.15 with pictures, then 5.45 for the captain’s reception, then dinner at 6.30. We put the kids to sleep and did some gambling in the casino. We tried to duplicate the success from the night before, but ended up losing 10. We skipped the show as we had seen it before – it was a Tango number featuring the RCL dancers.

Easter Cruise-Cochin

Day 5

On the way to breakfast I saw that there was a special going in the spa for a facial and a massage, so I made an appointment for Sandy. I was in the mood for a massage and never had a facial before, so I decided to try something new and made an appointment for myself as well. After that Sandy got her nails done, while I went to the destination lecture on Cochin.

We went swimming in the afternoon. It was extremely hot - I burned the top of my head, yet again. We decided to hit the casino before dinner. Sandy and I won 40 on the slots. We got the kids and played games of ping pong and mini golf before dinner and in the meantime saw an incredible sun set. For dinner I had bulls shoulder - it was so tender! We were not that impressed with the food on this cruise, but that bulls shoulder was good. We finished dinner quickly so that we could catch the evening entertainment - an illusionist named John Taylor. He was pretty amazing. Sandy bought his CD for school.

Day 6

We were scheduled to arrive in Cochin at noon, so we used the morning to relax. We had a nice long breakfast while Sandy had a Spa treatment. Afterwards, we dropped the kids at Adventure Ocean so that Sandy and I could catch a movie (Salt).

We had lunch at the Windjammer and then got ready for the tour. The tour consisted of a bus ride around Cochin. I jotted down the following info on the bus ride:

• India is the 7th largest country in the world and is comprised of 28 states. The city of Cochin lies in the state of Kerala.
• There are 22 official languages in India. The national language is Hindi, but most people use English when speaking to someone from another state.
• There are 1.21 billion people in India and 33 million in Kerala.
• The main religion is Hindu. 56% of the population are Hindu (19% are Christian).
• Indians believe in making life colorful. You can see this in the houses, dresses, and even the trucks which are painted with intricate designs and pictures.
• The monsoon comes twice per year. The monsoon winds blow from west to east in the spring and from east to west in the fall. These winds were used by Vasco de Gama to establish the trade routes between Europe and Asia.
• The main shopping street is Mohammed Ghandi Road.
• As we drive, horns are honking constantly. Our driver explains this as the language between drivers. Sometimes they are saying “hello”, other times “get out of the way”.
• A system of inland waterways provides Cochin with cheap transportation, thus encouraging trade. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as Venice of the East.
• Kera means coconut. Ala means land. Therefore, Kerala means land of coconut, which is fitting as it abounds with coconut trees.
• Smoking is not permitted on the streets for locals. If caught, an Indian will be fined 100 rupees, or about 2.5 dollars.

Our first stop was to the temple of Shiva, the destroyer. Shiva and Vishnu are regarded as Mahādevas ("great gods" ) due to their central positions in worship and scriptures. These two along with Brahma are considered the Trimurti—the three aspects of the universal supreme God. These three aspects symbolize the entire circle of samsara in Hinduism: Brahma as creator, Vishnu as preserver or protector, and Shiva as destroyer or judge.

Our next stop was to the Fort Cochin area, which is the old part of the city, and where the Portuguese established their first colony in the 1500's. The Portuguese fort was destroyed by the Dutch in the 17th century. The Dutch then built a fort that was destroyed by the English in the 18th century. As such, there is no longer a fort there, but the name has stuck over the centuries. The English gave Indians their independence in 1947. The main attraction here is the Chinese fishing nets. These are a series of 11 cantilevered nets that are lowered into the water and brought up again with weights and pulleys. They are said to have been introduced by traders from the court of Kublai Khan.

We then visited St. Francis Church where the remains of Vasco de Gama were buried for 14 years, until his son relocated them back to Portugal. The church was originally built by the Portuguese and then renovated by the Dutch. Many people were buried in the church crypt. When they removed the remains and buried them outside, they put their tomb stones on the wall - Dutch on one side, Portuguese on the other. St. Francis is oldest European church in India, built in 1503. Cochin is the first place where Christianity was brought to India. The Apostle Thomas brought Christianity to India in 52AD.

Our next stop was to the Mattancheri Palace, also know as the Dutch Palace also known as David Hall. This is a house built originally built by the Portuguese as a gift for the Raja of Cochin and later rebuilt by the Dutch in a traditional style and has since been converted to an art museum. We enjoyed a drink and some cookies.

We finished the tour early and were permitted to do a little shopping before heading back to the ship. Sandy bought a pendant. We were pressured to buy more, but we held our ground.

Once back, we had just enough time to get changed and then head to dinner. Entertainment didn't start until 9.15, so we opted to watch a movie in the room (How to Train your Dragon). I was actually so stuffed from dinner; all I could do was sit on the couch and vegitate anyway.

Easter Cruise-Goa, India

Day 7

This was a day at sea. I finally started to adjust to the 3.5 hour time change. I worked out in the morning before breakfast.

We attended a destination lecture covering Mumbai, where I picked up a few interesting tidbits:

• Victoria Terminus – handles 1000 trains and 2 million passengers per day
• Elephanta caves - The Mahesamurti - triple headed statue of Shiva as destroyer, preserver, and creator.
• Most densely populated city in the world - 30k people per square kilometer.
• Literacy rate of 85% in Mumbai.
• Two seasons - dry and wet.

We played family dodge ball in Adventure Ocean and then had lunch at the main dining room. It was another formal night with pictures, so we only had a couple of hours of free time in the afternoon. We used the time to hit the water slide at the kiddy pool.

After a couple of hours in the hot sun, we returned to the room to get ourselves ready. In addition to the formal night with pictures, there was a reception for all return cruisers. So we hit the pictures at 5.30, reception at 5.45 and dinner at 6.30. The entertainment did not start until 9.15 so we decided to skip it in favor of getting to sleep early to be ready for our big trip to Goa the next morning.

Day 8

We awoke outside of Goa to find that Sydney had a fever. This was a bit of a problem since we had tickets for an excursion that was starting in an hour. After giving her some medicine and putting cold compresses on her head and stomach, we started getting ready to cancel our excursion. At that very moment, the captain announced some sort of disagreement between local fishermen and the port authority. The local fishermen had blocked the port. Negotiations had been going on for at least a day and there was no sign that an agreement would be reached today. The captain figured that even if an agreement was reached, it would not be safe for us to get off the ship, so he decided to spend the day at sea en route to Mumbai. We were disappointed not to see Goa, but at the same time relieved that we were not going to lose $200 for canceling our excursion. Everyone had their excursions refunded. We had breakfast in the main dining room, and then attended a lecture on the 7 wonders of the world. Sydney came with us as she was still not feeling well while JP went to the Adventure Ocean. The first accounts about the Wonders came from Greek writers and this influenced the places included on the list (All in the former Greek empire). The list was written in 225BC by a Greek philosopher. The list was argued about and edited for hundreds of years. Here is some info about the wonders:

1. Statue of Zeus - constructed by Phidias - the Greek Michelangelo in honor of the Olympic Games. Construction 435 BC. Took more than 7 years to construct. Made of ivory. In 391BC, all temples were closed - that's when the Roman Empire went Christian. Statue was transported to Constantinople where it burned in a fire in a museum.

2. Temple of Artemis - built in honor of the goddess Dianna. Largest marble temple ever built. It took over 50 years to build and was destroyed by fire by Artemis.

3. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon - constructed between 600 and 550 BC. Ruined by an earthquake around 500BC. The only wonder we are not sure really existed.

4. The Mausoleum - started by King Maussollos and finished by his wife Artemisia. Built in 350BC. 140 feet high, 110 feet wide. First known cranes used to build it. An earthquake in 1494 AD ruined the museum. Built in Turkey.

5. The Colossus - built in Rhodes. Statue of sun god Helios. Built after Alexander the Great died and built as a symbol of unity. Constructed 292 to 280BC. Made of Bronze. 36 meters high. Destroyed by earthquake in 226BC.

6. The Great Pyramids of Giza - Cheop's Pyramid is the largest and was built in 250BC over a 30 year period. Until the early 1800's, it was the tallest building in the world. 450 ft high and 756 ft wide. Only wonder to survive to this day. Average weight of each stone is 1 ton.

7. The lighthouse of Alexandria - built on Pharos island in Alexandria. Built in 280 BC. Could be seen from 40km away. Built after Alexander's death to leave a mark, showing how rich the city was. About 400 ft high. It was a working lighthouse. Had a fire at night. Destroyed by earthquake between 1303 and 1480 AD.

We had lunch in the main dining room and it was incredibly slow - probably because the dining room was not planned to be open with the unexpected day at sea. It was so slow that we had to complain to the headwaiter. After lunch, we went to see a sing along version of the movie Mama Mia in the main theater. No one sang along, but it was a very fun movie. The kids knew many of the songs and did a lot humming and head bobbing. After the movie we decided to look at our pictures from the last few days. I am becoming less photogenic with every day, but there were a few we liked. By this time, Sydney was feeling much better and her fever had disappeared. She got a lot of sun the day before and I think it just caught up to her. We decided to stay out of the sun today and instead started getting ready for dinner. We signed the kids up for dinner with their Adventure Ocean friends so that Sandy and I could have a quiet evening. We had a nice dinner in the main dinning room and went to the main entertainment which was a Scottish female singer. She was really fantastic and apparently won star search a few years ago. She was good, but sang a lot of older tunes, so we decided to do some gambling. I had a 10 in my pocket, which we lost within about 5 min, so I went back to the room for 20. After pumping a few quarters into a slot machine, I won a 40 jackpot. From there, we went to our favorite machine that pushes quarters over the edge. We pumped a lot quarters in, but eventually won a 10 and two 20s. We walked away with a profit of about 60 for the evening - not bad.

Easter Cruise-Mumbai

Day 9

We had a good breakfast in the main dining room, followed by rock climbing (JP rang the bell three times), followed by swimming. We went back to the room and showered up for lunch before our tour of the Caves of Elephanta starting at 12.45. After showering, Sandy and the kids got a table at the Windjammer while I double checked the time on our tour. Good thing I did, because our tour was leaving an hour early, which meant now. I ran up to the restaurant and told Sandy. We had no time to waste, so we quickly packed some sandwiches and got to the meeting point. We got there just in time.

We took a bus from the Port to another port where we saw the Gateway to India. This is where the British entered India and finally left India after their occupation.

On the bus tour, the guide noted that the King of Portugal wanted his daughter to marry the Prince of England. However, the Princess of Portugal was not so pretty. Therefore, the City of Mumbai was offered as a dowry to the Prince of England.

The boat ride to Elephant Island was about an hour. The Island is named as such because when the Portuguese arrived on the island, they saw a large elephant statue on the beach. There are no elephants on the island.

The Island is famous for the man made caves sculpted out of volcanic rock. Once we got off the ship, we walked to a little train station to transport us to the entrance to the park. The train ride is only about 5 minutes, so many people walk it as well. Once through the gates of the park, a long stairway leads up to the caves, with vendors along each side of the stair case.

The main cave is fronted by a verandah, at each end of which is a pillar carved in one of the various manifestations of Shiva. Shiva is the god that has 8 arms. There are about 10 sculptures of Shiva in the caves and most show Shiva in this form with various other characters and in various situations. From these situations, the Hindus derive lessons about life.

There is one depiction of Shiva as a phallic symbol (symbolizing creation), a couple of statues of Shiva with his wife, one statue of Brahma as half man half female, Shiva bringing the Ganges river down to earth, Shiva as fountain of Yoga, Shiva as fountain of dance, and the main attraction is a huge burst of the Trimurti – the Hindu trinity of creator, preserver and destroyer.

After visiting the caves, we checked out the wares of the various vendors along stairway leading up to the caves. We ended up picking up some traditional shirts, wooden elephants, and some other trinkets. We traveled back to the ship the same way we came. We did not get back until about 7.00. We were very late for dinner, but our waiters were able to take us anyway, despite their 8.30 seating – they just got through very fast.

Day 10

This was our second day in Mumbai. We booked a panorama tour of Mumbai. After breakfast in the dining room, we headed to the meeting point to start our tour. It was a bus tour with a lot of tidbits of info that I wrote down faithfully on my blackberry:

• More than 1000 movies made each year. Mumbai is known as the city of dreams.
• More than 80% of women are working in Mumbai unlike the rest of India. Very modern in its thinking.
• 20 million living in Mumbai. 200 families come to Mumbai every day. Half of the population lives in the slums.
• Early in its history, Mumbai consisted of 7 islands. Causeways were built and it is now one land mass.
• Mumbai is an old name - named after mother of fishermen. Portuguese changed name to Bombay.
• Most buildings constructed during British time.
• Country of paradoxes – great disparity between rich and poor.
• Around 50,000 taxis running daily.
• Until the 17th century, India was the wealthiest country in the world.
• India has never invaded another country.
• In the 16th century, the Portuguese brought Christianity and the spice trade to India.

On our tour we pass by a couple of landmarks:

• Flora Fountain – which is the main traffic hub.
• Gateway of India. In 1911 the British came to India for the first time and entered through this gate which was built to commemorate the visit of George the 5th.

We made a stop at the Taj Mahal Hotel, which is one of the most famous hotels in India. It was built by Jamsetji N. Tata a famous industrialist of the 20th century. He was denied entry to what was then the best hotel in town, the “whites only” Watson’s. So he decided to build a hotel that would treat everyone equally. His revenge was sweet and long lasting – while Watsons has long since disappeared, the Taj is Mumbai’s grand hotel, her gray and white sandstone façade and red domed roof dominating the harbor from just behind the great Gateway.

• We pass by Mumbai university and Mumbai high court.
• We pass by several fields and cricket is played on every one.
• We pass Victoria terminus station.

• We pass by the Tower of Silence, which is an interesting story: the Parsis, who originated in Iran, arrived in India almost 900 years ago. Since then they have been an integral part of the Indian society. The Zoroastrian Tower of silence in Mumbai was built by Seth Modi Hirji in accordance with the Parsi beliefs in 1672. According to the Parsis, the dead should be exposed to the flesh easting birds within the confines of the Towers of Silence to venerate the earth, fire and water. Thus, In Mumbai, the Tower of Silence serves the purpose of offering the last rites to the dead. Despite the open exposure to dead, the place has a feeling of calm and peace, owning in part to the beautiful architecture and green surroundings. However, the actual area where the dead are exposed is strictly off limits for all. Mumbai's tower of silence have come under controversy, due to the disappearance of vultures and the consequent crisis faced by the Parsis about leaving the dead for a long time in the towers. Despite this, tourists are known to take a sneak peak at the towers during their trip in Mumbai.

After the tour, we do a little shopping in the port terminal. Everything is really expensive, so we do not bother to buy anything. JP is tired so he takes up a seat on a couch and strikes up a conversation with some locals. We get back on board and have a late lunch in the Windjammer.

After lunch, we carry out our regular ritual of hitting the slide in the kiddie pool, followed by dinner and the evenings entertainment.

Easter Cruise-Dubai

Day 11

This is our second to last cruise day and it is a day at sea. We have a nice breakfast at the Windjammer - Sandy and I both had Crabcake Benedict. After breakfast we drop the kids at Adventure Ocean and go see the movie Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts - it was a nice movie. After the movie, we pick up the kids and decide to hit the pool before lunch. While the kids go down the water slide, Sandy and I listen to our audio book - The Girl Who Played with Fire. I lose track of time and end up burning from head to toe, except where I am wearing my sunglasses – it’s a great look for the pictures. After swimming, we have a late lunch at the jammer and then Sandy and I attend a belly dancing class - Sandy does the dancing, I do the watching. Afterwards, we hit the casino.

We pick up the kids and get ready for portraits. At 5.30, we do the portraits, followed by dinner at 6.30. It is pirate night, so the kids eat quickly so that they can participate. After dinner, Sandy and I hit the casino and got caught up trying to win this 50 bill from the coin machine. We get so infatuated that we lose track of time and end up dumping 50 into the machine, and running late to pick up the kids. We also missed the entertainment called the rat pack returns. Once we got the kids, we decided to call it a night. We set the clocks back an hour and a half, so we are expecting a good night sleep.

Day 12

I woke up early and hit the gym. Sandy and the kids take advantage of the extra hour and a half to catch up on sleep, but are up by the time I get back from the gym. I take the kids swimming and for a game of soccer while Sandy hits a stretching class. We group back at the room and hit breakfast in the main dining room. The feature today is everything chocolate. I go for waffles topped with bananas and chocolate caramel syrup.

After breakfast, we drop the kids at Adventure Ocean so that Sandy and I can pack and make preparations for the next few fays. We pick up the kids at 11 and attend the Adventure Ocean talent show. Sydney did the hoola hoop for her talent along with three other girls. JP juggled two balls (with two hands) while walking around three street cones. It was a sight to be seen!

After the talent show, we hit lunch in the main dining room followed by a game of ping pong. We then played a game of air hockey in the game room before letting the kids go back into Adventure Ocean.

They marked down the price of the body wrap therapy by $50, so Sandy went for it.

We did some packing in the afternoon and then hit the casino. We could not keep ourselves away from the coin machine.

We picked up the kids at 5, got ourselves showered and then went for a drink in the Schooner Bar before dinner.

We had our last dinner of the cruise, said goodbye to the waitstaff and then hit the evening show. It was an amazing acrobatics duo.

After dinner, we put the kids back in Adventure Ocean and hit the casino - yes, back to the coin machine. We ended up a dollar ahead – yeah!

Day 13

We woke up back in Dubai. We ate breakfast and then had a smooth departure from the ship. We grabbed a taxi to the hotel, dropped off our bags, and then spent the rest of the day at the Wild Wadi Waterpark, next to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. It was huge with about 10 water attractions. The kids’ favorite was the artificial beach, complete with wave pool. We went back to the hotel so that we could get cleaned up for dinner. We walked a couple of blocks to the marina. It is a pretty area with boardwalk and plenty of restaurants. We picked out a Lebanese place and had dinner outdoors. It was a perfect evening - the weather was breezy and warm, table by the water, skyline decorated by all the new buildings, all topped off with a great meal. Both kids fell asleep before the main course which meant more food for me.

Day 14

Our last day in Dubai before heading back to Switzerland. We spent the morning doing some shopping. First stop was Mall of the Emirates. This mall is huge! About 4x the size of the Carousel Mall and even has an indoor ski facility, complete with ski lifts. After the mall, we went to the Souk Madinat for some souvenirs. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to eat the leftovers from the night before and to get ourselves ready for the trip back to CH. We relaxed for a little while after lunch and then went on a safari. We went 4 wheeling in the desert, rode camels, had a traditional dinner in a tent and then experienced some belly dancing. It was a great way to end the trip!