Dubai is one of the most changeable and changing cities in the world. Blink and you might miss another architectural marvel fill the skyline. You can walk for miles in shopping malls that are outrageous, fabulous and jaw dropping. Go skiing on a black run, ice skating, find your perfect gold and diamond bracelet, see fountains that light up at night and ‘dance’ to music or sit at one of the many cafés have a cuppa watching the world go by.
Our 2011 group of travellers were amazed and delighted with our first destination and while we had several activities as a group, many spent hours exploring this city with new friends. Some took the opportunity to visit the Burj Al Arab for a sumptuous afternoon tea with million dollar views and also Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world.
On our last night in Dubai we visited a Bedouin camp enjoying a sumptuous feast while relaxing in traditional Bedouin style on cushions and carpets. The ladies tried henna tattoos and all enjoyed the excellent belly dancer.
Boarding the Dawn Princess for the cruise section of our holiday is always a joy. As always, staff are welcoming, cabins well appointed and cuisine excellent, our home away from home for the next 4 weeks. Easing into shipboard life with a few sea days before our first port of call encourages people to wind down into holiday mode while familiarising themselves with the ship.
Salalah, Oman is a non tourist type of town yet it appears the Queen of Sheba may have lived nearby. We toured the ruins of an ancient palace, overlooking a lagoon, watching flamingos feed. Off out into the rugged rocky desert to view 2000 yr old frankincense trees, along a jagged coastline with blowholes and soaring cliffs. Returning to town we visited the souk for frankincense and myrrh, oils and perfumes, with many other delights available.
More sea days to enjoy the many activities of the ship and those organised by tour leaders Amanda, Gretha and Leeanne.
Petra, Jordan is hidden in one of the many folds of the mountains of the Negev desert. Walking into Petra along the narrow winding canyon it’s easy to see how this community was kept secret for so long. Finally we stepped out to view the treasury building made famous in the movie, Indiana Jones and the last crusade. But there is more to see of this hidden city, a roman amphitheatre, Nabataean rock tombs and amazing geological features.
Following sea days include a transit of the Suez Canal and an early arrival in Port Said. The canal is an awe inspiring piece of engineering; all dug by hand with shovels.
Cairo, Egypt is the biggest city in Africa, busy, bustling, bursting with life and home to the mighty Pyramids of Giza. Nothing can prepare you for your first visit it is everything you imagine and more.
Jerusalem, Israel, historically fascinating and of great religious importance to many people the world over. A walking tour through the old city finishing at the Western (wailing) Wall and a stop in Bethlehem on the West Bank opened our eyes to the differences and similarities of people and religions.
Mykonos, Greece an island of blue and white buildings, clear blue water on golden beaches with the hot sun in a wide expanse of blue sky. Picture perfect and we all took lots of pictures. A day to drink Greek coffee, send postcards or just laze away your time shopping, snoozing, or visit the beaches where swimsuits are optional!
Istanbul, Turkey a city thought to be the jewel in the crown of so many empires, as it is the gateway to Europe or the Orient depending which side of the Bosphorus you stand. A walking tour though the home of Sultans, St Sophia, Blue Mosque and the roman ruins highlight the richness of over 1000 years of history.
Anzac Cove, Gallipoli Peninsula allowed us to see what our soldiers saw in that early morning in April nearly 100 years ago. A moving service and wreath laying was held with a performance of the Dawn Princess Choir, made up of over 150 passenger volunteers, who practised every day for the service. Nearly the whole ship attended with standing room only.
Athens, Greece, settled as a place to worship the goddess Athena and birthplace of democracy but only if you weren’t a woman or a slave! However both women and men made it to the top of Acropolis with great city views and temples that amaze the mind and lift the spirit. Of course we also made time to wonder the plaka, the old part of the city with interesting shops and restaurants
Citivecchia, Italy, gateway to Rome the eternal city. The Vatican and the Colosseum are highlights for many, so stops were included but we also travelled through the city like locals; on foot. A walking tour lets you discover the treasures hidden down cobbled lanes and squares no bus could ever reach.
Livorno, Italy, stepping-off port for the Tuscan countryside and the picturesque village of San Gimignano. This hill top village is everything you imagine a Tuscan village could be. City walls built to protect the village. Cobbled narrow streets which twist and turn with unexpected vistas across rolling hills covered in sunflowers, wheat fields or vineyards.
Monaco, a tiny principality surrounded by France made famous when Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier and put it on the jet set map. We landed by Tender going past multimillion dollar yachts anchored in the harbour some with helicopters! Touring along the corniche gave us extensive views, while walking past the ‘Palais du Prince’ less than a week after Prince Albert got married with all the decorations still in place was a treat . We also crossed the border to Nice for coffee and a chance to sample local delicacies at the market such as socca, cherries and flat peaches.
Barcelona, Spain, famously home of many Gaudi architectural wonders including the Sagrada Familia. Strolling along La Ramblas to see the ‘living’ statues, sampling tapas and sipping sangria filled many peoples time on a hot lazy afternoon.
Lisbon, Portugal, a city shaken to near obliteration but rebuilt into a people friendly city with verdant green gardens and ‘wild’ lands through and around the city and a short drive to Sintra the home of palaces, castles and luxury homes. Returning to the ship via the coast road allowed us to gasp with wonder at windsurfing skills this area is world famous for.
Le Havre, France a huge bustling container port but it took only minutes to leave the hustle behind heading for Giverny and Monet’s Garden. Our only day of rain for the whole trip didn’t dampen our spirits.
Dover, England, white cliffs of ‘that’ song fame and rolling green downs of southern England are a delight to drive through on a sunny day heading to one of the most iconic cities in the world, London. Disembarkation off the Dawn Princess was a breeze with just a short holdup due to misplaced luggage. Located a short stroll from Harrods, our hotel was welcoming and comfortable which eased some of the sadness we felt as out amazing journey was coming to an end. Our final organised activity was a tour of London with some of the famous blue badge guides. These guides hold so many interesting stories and facts in their memories that any question asked was answered with ease.
On our final day there was time for shopping before the small group who were returning to Australia headed to the airport. The majority of the group took the opportunity to extend their stay in Britain and Europe to visit friends and family or visit that special place on your bucket list.