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Old 03-20-2013, 04:33 PM   #1
dolphingirl47
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Operation Passport Stamp - A Mini Trip Report

Day 1

Ever since my approval for my application for British citizenship had come through, we had planned that as soon as I had my British passport, we would go to Dubai for a weekend so that I could get some stamps in my new passport. The original plan had been to do this January or February, but this year has been so busy so far that this became increasingly unlikely. I started to believe that I would get my very first stamp when I am going to the USA in May. Then luck struck. I needed to attend a meeting on a day off and in exchange, I was given the Monday off after a weekend that I was off anyway. Dubai was back on again. We had planned to fly out on the evening flight on the Friday, but that flight was very busy. So I managed to swap with a colleague to give me the Friday off as well and we were all set.

We were up bright an early at 5:30 in the morning that Friday. We got ready, grabbed our carry ons and walked to the station. We got on the train precisely 45 minutes after getting up, which must be a new record. The airport that morning was a zoo. Fortunately our desks were not particularly busy. I quickly said "hi" to my colleagues at the ticket desk and checked where we needed to go. At different times, I have been directed to the Business Class check in or the Online check in desk. That day we were sent to the Business Class check in. As we approached the check in desk, the customer in front of us was just finishing off so essentially we were checked in straightaway. Flying standby is always a bit nerve wrecking and often you have to wait until check in is closed before you find out if you are actually on the flight. Sure enough, the person checking us in checked with her colleague when she should ask us to be back. He checked his system and saw that we already had been allocated seats and handed her our boarding passes. So there was no waiting around this time.

This turned out to be just as well. When we left the check in desk, we saw a huge line. I thought that this was the line for check in for one of the other airlines. However, it turned out to be the line for the desk where they check passports and boarding passes before you even get in the area for security. I started to get very worried. The lines moved quite quickly. When we got to security, it was smooth sailing. Neither of our bags made a detour this time for extra screening. Once we were through security, I had to go an buy some toothpaste as we were only travelling with carry ons, we were restricted as to what toiletries we could take. Everything else we needed, I had in travel sizes, but no toothpaste. So I got a travel size at the airport. We walked through duty free, but I did not stop. We still had time until the gate opened so we went to Starbucks for some breakfast. Graham had an Americano and a Cinnamon Swirl and I had a Caramel Macchiato and a slice of Chocolate and Hazelnut Loaf. After breakfast, we had a quick bathroom stop and then we headed towards the gate.

We were quite surprised that even though it was still an hour until our scheduled departure time, most people already seemed to be on board and they had started open boarding. We walked up to the gate and walked straight onto the plane. We had been allocated a window seat and middle seat in the second row in economy. When I handed Graham my carry on to put away, I noticed that somehow I managed to lose my neck pillow that I had tied around the handle. Once everything had been stored away, I checked out the offerings on the entertainment system. I decided to check out the soundtrack for Les Miserables while we were waiting for our turn for take off. Once we were up in the air, the cabin crew came round with hot flannels and the menu. I was delighted to see that they were no longer offering a cooked breakfast. The food served on Emirates is normally very good, but the cooked breakfast that we had in 2010 was not quite up to the usual standard. Instead of the cooked breakfast, they were now serving a continental breakfast and then lunch later in the flight.

By the time breakfast was served, I had finished listening to Les Miserables. I had brought my own cheap noise-cancelling headphones, but I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the sound on the plane. We were also on one of our newer Boeing 777s and I was surprised just how quiet this aircraft was. Breakfast was very nice. It consisted of Orange Juice, a warm Croissant with Butter and Marmalade, Fresh Fruit, a Vanilla Plait and something to drink from the trolley. I went for Mango Juice, but unfortunately I somehow managed to knock this over and some of this ended up being spilled over Graham and me.

After breakfast, I played some of the games and then I watched Hitchcock. I had seen trailers for this at the cinema and was quite curious about this, but not enough to go and watch it in the cinema. This turned out to be a really good film. Once the film was over, I went back to my games until lunch was served. Lunch consisted of Smoked Trout served on Courgette Salad topped with Cherry Tomato and fresh Parsley, a hot meal, Apple and Blackberry Crisp, which was a Cinnamon Crumble with Vanilla-flavoured Mousse, topped with Apple and Blackberry Confit. We also got a Roll, a snack box with Cream Crackers, Cheese Spread, Bruchetta Bites and Sweet Chilli Sauce and a piece of Chocolate. Graham had Lamb Vindaloo with steamed Basmati Rice and Mixed Vegetables for his hot meal and I had Grilled Chicken with creamy Pepper Sauce, Mashed Potato, Carrots and sautéed Celery. Lunch was very pleasant. We both had some white wine and water with our meal and some coffee afterwards.

After lunch I took turns playing some of the games and listening to music while I had the map up. We got treated to a fantastic view once again. Those of you who followed my last trip report will remember my photos that we took flying over Greenland. We got a very similar view,but this time instead of snow and ice we were treated to sand dunes and desert and instead of over Greenland, we were flying over Iraq.



After this, it did not take much longer until we were approaching Dubai. We were ahead of schedule. The captain made an announcement that we were in a holding pattern, but that Dubai recently had installed a new air traffic control system, which had increased the frequency in which planes can land and he was optimistic that we would get a slot ahead of time. In the meantime we were treated to a fantastic view of Dubai at night while we were circling. Unfortunately the only cameras we had brought were our underwater cameras and they did not cope with nighttime conditions at all. Suddenly we went into a very sharp bank and then we were descending into Dubai.



Normally whenever I have flown to Dubai on a Boeing 777, they had parked us on a remote stand where we had to take a bus back to the terminal. So I was delighted when we turned towards the terminal building. On the way, we taxied past our new Concourse A, which is our dedicated Airbus A380 terminal. It looked very impressive with an A380 parked at every gate. When we had got off the plane, we made a quick bathroom stop and then we started our very long walk towards immigration. As we started walking, we could hear the call to prayer. Now I definitely knew that I was in Dubai. When we got to immigration, we found huge queues. We have arrived in Dubai at the busiest time of the day for Dubai airport before and although the lines were long, they moved quickly. This was supposedly a quieter time, but the lines did not move at all. Initially they only had one desk open for residents and people who just needed a stamp in their passport like us. Suddenly immigration officials arrived from every corner. I think they must all have been at prayer.after this the line moved really quickly and soon I had my first stamp in my shiny, new British passport. Graham made a comment to this effect, which triggered a huge smile and a "Congratulations" from the immigration official.

As we had not checked any luggage, we could have walked straight to the baggage hall. However, the baggage hall in Dubai has something that I have never encountered anywhere else in the world - a duty free shop. I had been asked to bring back some cigarettes for two of my colleagues. As they do like to make staff travel passengers on standby tickets run in Dubai, I thought I better get the cigarettes while I could. I left Graham with our carry ons and went to did the shopping. This did not take long and we were soon clearing customs. When we got outside the terminal building, we had a short wait for the shuttle bus. This was not a hardship. It was still very warm and it was glorious to feel the warmth on the skin. When the shuttle came, it was the same driver that had driven the shuttle the previous two times I have stayed at the Premier Inn. It was nice to see a familiar face. We had to wait a few minutes in case somebody else showed up, but we were both handed a bottle of cold water so we were quite happy.

Check in at the hotel was quick and smooth. We checked if the pool was still open and were told that it was until 22:00. At that point it was 21:10. Once the check in process was completed, we quickly went to our room to drop off the luggage and get changed into our swimming gear and then we headed up to the roof. It was quite windy up there and therefore it felt a lot cooler than it had been in ground level. We quickly admired the gorgeous view and then we got in the pool. The water was very warm and it was nice to just feel all the muscles unknot. I had expected that we would be the only people who wanted to swim that late at night, but there was somebody else in the pool as well. After we had swum quite a few length, we retired to the hot tub and relaxed in there for 10 minutes or so.

While we were in the hot tub, we could smell grilled meat. We realised that we were both hungry. We got out of the hot tub, quickly dried off enough that we were no longer dripping and then wrapped ourselves in the huge beach towels and headed back to the room. Coming out of that hot tub definitely was not fun. Once we were back in our room, we got dried off properly and changed and then we went downstairs to the hotel bar for something to eat. We shared a bottle of water. Graham had a T Bone Steak with Chips. He commented that he went through three weeks in Florida to get a steak of this quality and here he got one within two hours of getting off the plane in the hotel restaurant of a budget hotel of all places. I was graving Middle Eastern food, but the only thing that fit the bill was lamb, which I do not eat. So I went with the Chicken Tikka Masala instead, which was served with Basmati Rice and a Poppadom. I have had countless Chicken Tikka Masalas over the years and this is one of my favourite curry dishes, but I was not prepared for this. I tasted the first bite and I wanted to spit fire. I don't think I have ever tasted something quite so spicy. Once I got over the initial shock, I thoroughly enjoyed it. After dinner, we went back to the room, got ready and went to bed.
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Old 03-20-2013, 04:46 PM   #2
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I followed you over from Jen's report. I need to go back and ready all the juicy details.
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Old 03-20-2013, 04:50 PM   #3
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Great start!
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Old 03-20-2013, 04:52 PM   #4
dolphingirl47
I will post my goodies once I am back
I have always been too worried to use the pillowcase
 
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Originally Posted by mickeystoontown View Post
I followed you over from Jen's report. I need to go back and ready all the juicy details.
Welcome. Over essentially two days, we have taken over 300 photos so there will be plenty of detail.

Corinna
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Old 03-20-2013, 07:38 PM   #5
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So excited to read this. Dubai is on my bucket list!

Jill in CO
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Old 03-20-2013, 08:56 PM   #6
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I'm here, but need to come back and read tomorrow.
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First Trip - YC '89, CSR '98, Pop '07, Music '08, AKL CL 1/11, SSR 12/11, 5N Dream Cruise & AKV 3/12, AKV CL 9/12 , OKW 12/12, 4N Wonder Cruise 1/13, 7N Fantasy Cruise & AKV CL 3/13, AKV 6/13, DL 9/13, VGF 12/13, OKW/AKV 1/14, 5N Wonder Cruise/VBR 3/14, Western Fantasy/BCV 5/14

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Old 03-21-2013, 05:29 AM   #7
dolphingirl47
I will post my goodies once I am back
I have always been too worried to use the pillowcase
 
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So excited to read this. Dubai is on my bucket list!

Jill in CO
If you ever get the chance to go, grab it with both hands. Dubai is a fascinating place. This was my 5th trip to Dubai.

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:Wave2: I'm here, but need to come back and read tomorrow.


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Old 03-21-2013, 08:34 AM   #9
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So excited to read more!
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Old 03-21-2013, 12:01 PM   #10
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Great beginning. So glad they had seats for you without having to wait. How long was the flight?
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Old 03-22-2013, 06:35 AM   #11
dolphingirl47
I will post my goodies once I am back
I have always been too worried to use the pillowcase
 
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Originally Posted by jenseib View Post
I can't wait to read more and see more pictures. This will so interesting.


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So excited to read more!
I am hoping to have the next installment ready either later today or tomorrow after work.

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Great beginning. So glad they had seats for you without having to wait. How long was the flight?
The flight to Dubai is 7 hours and coming back it is 7.5 hours.

Corinna
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Old 03-25-2013, 02:12 PM   #12
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Day 2

As Dubai is 4 hours ahead of the UK, I had set the alarm for 8:30 just to be on the safe side. I had visions of us waking up and half of the day was over. In the end I woke up just before the alarm went off. We got up and ready and headed out. As it was a gorgeous morning, we decided to walk over to Emirates head quarters. I had been there in 2010 for an interview and have been blown away by the beauty of the building. I had checked at the hotel reception if it would be open as Friday and Saturday is weekend in Dubai and was assured that it would be. We were also advised that it was a 5 to 10 minute walk. Well, we took a bit longer than that as we kept stopping to admire the view and look at the local wildlife. There had been quite a lot of development going on near the hotel since we had last stayed there. The highlight of the walk for me was when I discovered Plumeria bushes just outside head quarters. I have always loved the smell of Plumeria, but prior to our trip to Hawaii last year, I never knew what the flowers look like. It turned out that I do not only love the scent, but also love the flowers. So as soon as we walked past them, I recognised them, but still did not believe that they were actually Plumeria. However, there was one flower near the pavement and quite low down so I had a chance to smell it and it was definitely Plumeria. I have always loved Dubai and there is a distinct chance that I will ultimately end up living there for a while, but the realisation that they have one of my favourite flowers made me love the place even more.

















We entered head quarters via the access to the Metro station and then walked down a ramp to the atrium. This was every bit as impressive as I had remembered it and Graham loved it to. Unfortunately photography is not allowed. By the time we had a look around, we were ready for some breakfast. We spotted that Costa Coffee was open so we headed there. Graham had a piece of Cheesecake and an Americano. I had a Chocolate and Peanut Butter Slice and a Chai Tea Latte. While we were walking around, we had spotted that they had seating on a balcony overlooking the airport. This was there smoking area, but for that view we were happy to sit with the smokers. We enjoyed our breakfast, the sunshine and the view.

















Once we had finished breakfast, we had a quick look in the Emirates shop and then headed back to the Metro station. We have Nol cards, which work the same way as Oyster cards in London. We did not think we had much credit left on our cards, but actually what we had was enough for the weekend and there was still some left over. Our first stop for the day was Festival City. We had not been there before, but we had found out that there are feeder buses to Festival City from Rashidiya, which is one of the terminus stations for the Metro. This is next station after Emirates head quarters so we only got a small taste of the Metro. When we arrived at the station, we followed the signs for the feeder buses and taxis. We could see the taxis straightaway, but there was no sign of a bus stops. Bus stops in Dubai are normally pretty obvious. I went back inside and above the exit it definitely said feeder buses. Graham spotted some buses at the other side of a parking structure. So we headed in that general direction. When we got to the bus station, we noticed that there was direct access from the Metro station. This just served us as a reminder that the sign posting in Dubai can be a little on the creative side. We checked with the customer service desk which bus we needed to get and unfortunately we had just missed one. With it being Saturday, they had a reduced service and we had to wait 30 minutes. Still, we were in no rush and it was nice to just be out in the warm weather.
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Old 03-25-2013, 02:18 PM   #13
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Graham was in his element when we were on the bus. He loves going on buses in foreign cities and we definitely got to see parts of Dubai that we had not seen previously. About 30 minutes later, we arrived at Festival City. We went past a huge Ikea and it was somewhat strange to see the name in Arabic. Still, there was no doubt what this was. We got off near the shopping centre. We have been to a number of shopping centres in Dubai, but this one seemed to cater more to the locals than to the tourists. We took a few photos and then we stepped outside. There were two reasons while we had ventured out to Festival City. Graham had discovered a week or so before we went to Dubai that they had just started a boat trip to the Ras al Khor nature reserve that starts at Festival City. Festival City is also where the Hard Rock Cafe is located. One of my team member collects the Hard Rock Cafe pins so I try to pick one up for her whenever I can on my travels. So we set off to find the boat dock and the Hard Rock Cafe. The boat dock was no problem at all and it was only a 5 minute walk. The Hard Rock Cafe proved a bit more of a challenge. As soon as we left the shopping centre, we saw a sign for the Marina Pavillion, which was full of restaurants. The logo for the Hard Rock Cafe was on there as well. So I thought I was in luck. We walked around the whole complex and did not find it. We rather enjoyed the scenery through. They had canals with bridges in the area and a mock up of a traditional Arabic meeting place. Once we had been all the way round, Graham found himself a seat to enjoy the sunshine and I had a look inside the building in case that they did not have an entrance to the outside. I did not find the Hard Rock Cafe, but came across the most amazing gourmet shop and also a lot of Arabic vases and furniture.























We were both thirsty so I went back into the shopping centre and found a Costa Coffee. I got some Strawberry Iced Lemonade for Graham and some Mint Iced Lemonade for myself. I then joined Graham again and we sat on a bench and enjoyed our drinks. The we had another look around the inside of the Marina Pavillion to take some photos of all the beautiful Arabic artefacts. Then we returned to the main shopping centre. As we were walking around, we had seen signs for various restaurants in the shopping centre. We had a good look around. We still could not find it. What we also could not find was directory or map, which was quite surprising considering that this was quite a big shopping centre. Eventually we did come across an information desk and they had maps there. With the help of the map, we finally found the Hard Rock Cage. There is no way we would ever have found it without the map.






















By the time we had found the Hard Rock Cafe, we were ready for our lunch. I was a little dubious if we would be able to get a table, but I did not have to worry. The restaurant was huge and it also was not particularly busy. What also really surprised me was that it was licensed. In Dubai, normally restaurants in hotels are licensed as are nightclubs that are normally also attached to hotels. Restaurants in shopping centres are not licensed. That is probably the reason why it was so well hidden. Once we were seated, I went to get the pin. Graham had some water and I had a Coke. We shared a Jumbo Combo, which consisted of Santa Fe Spring Rolls, Hickory Smoked Chicken Wings, Onion Rings, Potato Skins and Tupelo Chicken Tenders with 4 different dips. We also shared a portion of Hard Rock Nachos, which were served with Sour Cream, Chopped Green Onions, Pico de Gallo, Jalapeños and a side of fresh Hard Rock Grilled Salsa. Even though both were classified as starters, we were stuffed and did not quite manage to finish the Nachos. Once we had paid, we then needed to employ some speedy legwork to make the 14:00 departure of the water taxi.

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Old 03-25-2013, 02:24 PM   #14
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We made it without any trouble. There was already one family waiting and soon after we arrived, we were let on. I was very surprised by what was waiting for me. We had seen the water taxis before on previous trips and they look rather futuristic on the outside. The inside was a real surprise. They had very comfortable leather seats that almost felt like armchairs. Soon we were on the way. Once we were moving, the staff advised that we could go on the small outside deck at the back of the water taxi if we wanted to. Graham took them up on this offer, but I was quite happy to sit in my comfortable chair and keep out of the sun for a bit. We got a unique view of the Dubai skyline. As we reached the outskirts of the nature reserve, the boat stopped. I could see some birds in the distance, but they were too far away to see what they were. Graham told me afterwards that they had binoculars at the back and the birds were flamingoes. We had seen the flamingoes close up on our Christmas 2009 trip so I was not upset that I did not see them. The flamingoes migrate to Dubai from Iran every winter. After about 10 minutes, we made our way back to Festival City.











Once we were back on dry land, I took some more photos of the buildings around me. One thing that particularly fascinated me was one of the hotels that had a glass pool build into one side. So you could watch people swimming by. We stopped for a couple of minutes and just watched. Then we headed back to the shopping centre and went to find the bus stop. The first bus that arrived went to the airport. We got off around the back of Emirates head quarters and got back on the Metro there. As soon as we got on the platform, out train pulled in. Our next stop was the Dubai Mall. It used to be a bit of a pain to get from the Metro station to the Dubai Mall. Essentially the choices were a feeder bus, that went three times round the block or walking. Walking did not really sound that bad as it was only about half a mile, but with it being so hot in Dubai, the pavements in this area being all dark polished marble and there being absolutely no shade, this suddenly was not such a pleasant proposition anymore. I had heard that they were planning to build a raised covered walkway to link the Metro station with the Dubai Mall, but I thought that this had not got past the planning stages. So I was very surprised when I saw a sign post for a walkway to the Dubai Mall. This made all the difference. It was lovely to be able to walk there in air-conditioned comfort. As we were a bit higher up and the walkway was covered in glass,we also got some rather stunning views.





















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Old 03-25-2013, 02:31 PM   #15
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When we arrived at the Dubai Mall, we were ready for something to drink. Near the entrance was a little cafe that looked promising. We shared a bottle of water and Graham had a Strawberry Smoothie and I had a Watermelon Juice. Also around this area was a Lush shop. I always like to go to Lush shops when I am travelling. The last time we were at the Dubai Mall, there had been a sign that a Lush shop was coming soon, but I did not think it was in the same place. It turned out that it was not and that there was a second Lush shop in the main part of the Dubai Mall so I got to see two new shops in one day. We walked around the Dubai Mall for a bit. Graham was looking for a new tripod, but did not find anything suitable. I had a quick look around Bath and Body Works and we watched the ice skaters for a while.









By then it was time to head out to the Dubai Fountain, which was the main reason why we had come to the Dubai Mall. We caught the second show of the evening. One thing that was new was that they got some Abras, the traditional water taxis, and for a fee, you could watch the show on the lake from an Abra. I have to say this does not really appeal to me. I was quite happy with my spot along the wall around the lake and that was totally free. I was really hoping to see a performance of the Emirates "Hello Tomorrow" theme. However, as I could not find a schedule for the performances anywhere, this at best pot luck. In the end my lucky star did not shine and we ended up with a performance of "All Night Long" by Lionel Ritchie instead, but I still really enjoyed it.









































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