Our First Stop In Dubai
The first half of our amazing 51 day cruise was from Athens to Dubai. We stopped in Dubai for two days before we got back onboard our cruise ship to head to Cape Town for Christmas. And after Cape Town, we came back to Dubai for New Years.
As the cruise ship approached Dubai, we eagerly went on board to watch the entry to the harbour. We were excited to see the stunning skyline that was modern Dubai. Unfortunately the sky was very hazy and the landmarks were barely visible. We later realized that much of the haze was fine sand in the air. The lack of visibility is certainly one of the things we were not prepared for.
We decided to do the Hop-On-Hop-Off (HOHO) bus tour of Dubai to get an overview of the city. Despite hours of research, we really did not realize how big Dubai was. The traffic was crazy. Getting around town was slow and we saw much less by bus than we had expected. When we returned to Dubai for New Years Eve, we made use of the much faster public transit options.
The cruise ship terminal had booths for the HOHO buses. The City Sightseeing ticket included 3 full routes, a wide range of tickets for activities, walking tours, Dhow boat tours and bottled water on the bus! We even got our 24 hour ticket extended until our ship left on the second day. Unfortunately, it did not have working audio for much of the time we are on the bus.
A Long Day To See Few Sights
As we crawled along in the traffic, we snapped pictures. The audio cut in and out so we often were not sure what we were taking pictures of. We did recognize the Burj Al Arab in the distance.
The bus travelled out along the Palm Jumeirah. The pink Atlantis hotel was an easy landmark to see. We are regular visitors to the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas. It was amazing how much the two properties looked alike. As we walked around the property, it felt very familiar. It was a quick pit stop visit. We couldn’t resist our first Starbucks stop since we had left Toronto almost 4 weeks before. When we finally factored in exchange rate, we realized we had paid $16CND for a frozen drink. Dubai was much more expensive than we had expected!
The trip back to the Dubai Mall was much quicker on the expressway. We did a quick walk-through of this massive entertainment complex. We visited the Dubai Mall with lots of time to spare when we returned to Dubai for New Years.
I only had two things on my shopping list for this visit. I eventually found a bank to withdraw local currency. But never did find a spot to buy a local SIM card. Neither of the international connectivity options that I brought with me would work in Oman or Dubai. Plan to invest in a local SIM when you visit this part of the world.
We waited for the night bus tour but we should not have bothered. Traffic was still backed up. The hazy sky remained after dark. The sparkly neon night of Dubai was just a dull glow. Even the colour show on the Burj Khalifa seemed less interesting when dulled by sand haze. But it was pretty weird to see the neon signs for familiar North American brand restaurants as we drove around.
Our bus tour day of Dubai had been a bit of a frustrating first view of Dubai.
We Explored The Dubai Creek The Next Day
Maybe we are gluttons for punishment. But we left the cruise ship early the next day to finish our bus tour of Dubai. The cruise ship shuttle to the Dubai Mall connected us with the City Sightseeing bus and we headed to the Dubai Creek area. We passed the Al Fahidi Fort but didn’t hop off to visit.
The Dubai Creek area was a historical port area. Today it has been excavated to about 4,000 ft long and six feet deep to support the busy boat traffic. Traditional working dhows were lined up along the shores.
We took a dhow cruise that was included as part of our HOHO ticket. There was much to see as we cruised up and down the canal. An interesting mix of buildings lined the shore. It was the first but not last of the buildings we saw with large paintings of local leaders. On one shore there was a restricted area where the new underwater hotel was under construction. But that did not stop people who still snapped pictures.
When the sun began to set, the birds swarmed in. They seemed to have a set pattern and spots where they stopped to roost. We have seen this phenomenon often we travelled. In Rome the swallows all seem to head to the dome on the top of St. Peter’s Basilica.
When you visit this part of Dubai, you can visit gold and spice souks (or markets). We headed into the spice souk to explore. The bright colours and smells were intoxicating. I thought I was dressed conservatively enough, but apparently shorts to the knees still left too much bare skin. There were lots of stares as we walked the souk. Or maybe it was just because we just smelled and didn’t buy!
We planned to return to the Dubai Creek area to explore more when we returned to Dubai for New Years. But we simply ran out of time. The cable car ride, Dubai Museum, Dubai Dolphinarium and a chance to shop for gold will be on our list for the next visit. We were told that the gold prices in Dubai were really reasonable!
We Returned To Dubai A Month Later
The first stop on our return trip was a stay in Dubai for New Years Eve. We landed in Dubai in a fog that defied the pilot to see the runway. First Class Emirates made the flight arrival so easy and we were quickly whisked away in our private car. For this trip to Dubai we were booked to stay at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina. It was out of the main downtown area but had a whole series of things to do in the Marina District.
Our stay at the Intercontinental Dubai Marina was another excellent example of great customer service when you have IHG Rewards status and you stay on the Concierge level. Chocolates greeted us when we arrived and treats continued to appear. Staff went out of their way to anticipate our needs. One night we even got hand massages from the Spa staff to relax.
The food was good and plentiful. Afternoon Tea was a delicious way to take a break in the afternoon. The champagne flowed. While you may have trouble buying liquor in Dubai, hotel guests have no issues.
The Marina Was A Great Location For Stay
The hotel had a great view out over the Dubai marina. Day or night it was awesome to look out at the boats as they went by and the buildings in the distance. We had fog for four days and it was eerie to watch it swirl between the buildings. Then it cleared and we were rewarded with a great sunrise.
The hotel had a great pool that hung over the marina. It was a great spot to relax between busy days as we explored what there was to see and do in Dubai. David made sure that Canada left is mark on the pool.
From the marina, there were lots of transportation options to get around Dubai. The ferries left from the water by our hotel and could get us down to the Dubai Creek area. The local tram connected to the large tram line that took us downtown to the Dubai Mall.
When we wanted to do a desert adventure outside of Dubai, it was easy to get picked up right at the hotel.
The Dubai Marina was certainly a great choice for us to stay on our visit to Dubai for New Years.
We Found So Much To See And Do In The Dubai Marina Area
The Intercontinental Dubai Marina was located right on the canal waterway. Boats of all kinds went up and down. Some were pleasure craft transiting the canal and others were working boats. It was great to walk along the canal and see the interesting buildings towering above the expensive yachts. One day we rented pedal cars to get a better view along the length of the canal.
One night we took an evening cruise out the marina canal and along the Palm Jumeirah. The sun set while we were out. We got a good view of the Atlantis Resort from another angle.
The beach was a short walk from the Intercontinental Dubai Marina. Once at the beach we found no end of things to see and do.
The Marina district was a fun place to stay when we visited Dubai for New Years.
An Exciting Spot In Dubai For New Years Eve
We walked down to the JBR Beach as the sun was setting. The beach was packed with people set up for the night. Lawn chairs and coolers were everywhere. We muscled our way in to find a good spot.
From our vantage point, we got a great view of fireworks around the bay. They seemed to be in synch as the lights moved from one spot to another. We could even see the fireworks out at Atlantis Resort. It was funny to see the fireworks echoed in the cell phones and iPads that the crowd held up to capture the show.
Dubai for New Years was a treat. We loved the chance to experience the over-the-top show we got. It would have been great to have made it downtown to see the light and laser show on the Burj Khalifa. But transportation into the downtown area was a challenge on New Years Eve. It would have been great to be on a boat out in the bay. Or maybe even in a small plane. We would definitely return to Dubai for New Years Eve.
So Many Great Reasons To Visit Dubai
We were excited when we booked our trip with the opportunity to visit Dubai twice. We certainly learned a few tips to help us plan another trip. The Emirates First Class flights just added icing to the cake. We liked staying in the Dubai Marina area. There was so much to see and do from that spot. While it is a fair distance out from the main downtown area, we found transportation options that worked for us.
The Intercontinental Dubai Marina was another excellent choice. The Conceirge service was flawless. The hotel’s location right on the water ensured we were close to everything. And the views from the hotel were awesome.
It was extra special to visit Dubai for New Years. The show was definitely a key attraction of our visit. But the weather at that time of year was another bonus. We flew home to snow and winter!
Are you tempted to visit Dubai for New Years Eve? What is your reason for visiting Dubai?
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