Abu Dhabi taxis beware, the Hodgsons are back!

Published: June 26th 2017
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Total Distance: 0 miles / 0 kmMouse: 0,0

Dubai to Abu Dhabi

Temp: 81F 27C

Miles travelled: 77 nautical miles

The day of embarkation. We could see the MSC Lirica tied up in Port Rashid. This is the cruise terminal that serves Dubai. Although there were some very stunning yet very affordable hotels further down the coast near the Burj Khalifa and even further down near the Palm Jumeirah, we consciously ensured our hotel was in the vicinity of the port to allow us a relaxing morning and to minimise the transfer from our hotel to the ship. Although we were less than a few kilometres from the Port Entrance, as we were on the other side of the Creek, this still involved a 20 minute tax ride under the tunnel that lay further downstream. Our ship was berthed in front of the Costa Fortuna, part of the now infamous Costa fleet. 'A strange name for a ship', I thought. ‘What are the sister ships called? Costa Packet and Costa Narmanaleg!!??'

The Ahmedia Heritage Guest House has been a great location for that insight to how life used to be back in ‘the day' and for some locals, still is! The guest house was a very traditional design with a small fountain that took centre piece in the reception area. Our room was one of 6 rooms in a court yard separated from the main guest house building by a narrow alleyway. Due to the location of the Guest House, it was impossible for taxis to pull up outside the building as the nearest thoroughfare was a narrow one way street with a steady stream of cars and vans and even hand carts passing by so any vehicles stopping would cause a definite obstruction (the hand carts seemed to be doing a pretty good job of that on their own!!). It was easy enough to wheel our luggage to the nearest main road opposite the Al Ras metro station and hail a taxi from there. Within 2 minutes we were sat in the back of the cab heading towards the floating hotel that will be our home for the next 18 nights.

It was just approaching 12:30. I paid the taxi and tipped the porter as he loaded our luggage on to a trolley. These would reappear after a short while outside our state room. Entering the check in hall we were shown straight to a counter where we were processed in next to no time. We were shown to a nearby desk were we surrendered our passports before managing quite deftly to swerve the obligatory embarkation photo. I personally think this tradition (with all cruise companies, I hasten to add) produce the worst photos for the subject(s) but the best entertainment for the rest of us. Most of the passengers aren't ready for this so early in the itinerary. Everyone is either carrying a bag or coat or both and many people look uncomfortable as everyone is itching to board the vessel, get settled in and head for lunch. Although there is no such thing in this world as a free lunch there is always the next best thing…an all inclusive one!!!

This is our third time on the MSC Lirica so it is just as well there was no one on board to meet or greet us. We were left to our own devices to find our state room. I just followed Roisin. If this was our first cruise we would feel a bit ‘put out' as although the Lirica is not the largest ship we've been on, it can still be disorientating until you get your bearings.

All decks have a name. Our state room was on deck 10 – Bellini Deck. First impressions were the same. The state room (cabin by any other name) was spotless. The only blip at this stage was that the safe didn't work. Once I programmed the code into the safe, the pair of 1 inch bolts never shot in to place, thus rendering the safe useless. The fact is, we had an unsafe safe!

Our cabin steward, Reg, appeared and introduced himself and asked if everything is OK.

Yes', I replied. ‘Except the safe. It's knackered'

‘I will get someone to come and take a look at it straight away', is what Reg said.

‘Bloody whinging Brits. 5 minutes and already they're complaining!!' is what he meant!!!

At dinner we were shown to a table for 4. A few minutes later another couple were seated at our table. Meet Jim and Margaret. Jim is originally from Middlesbrough in the North East of England just south of Sunderland but his wife, Margaret is Wakefield born and bred where they live presently. They seem a very pleasant couple who have cruised quite a few times before although never with MSC. They tend to be lured by the destinations offered rather than the reputation of the cruise line. We were able to offer them advice on taxi drivers in Abu Dhabi and the pirate training although since our run in with pirates in 2012 it's been very quiet in the media. There has been no announcement on board or rumours creeping around the ship so perhaps pirates don't now pose a threat to shipping traffic anymore.

On many cruise lines, one can chose between either fixed dining at a specific time (usually early and a late sitting) or decide on anytime (otherwise known as freedom dining) when you can be flexible in your eating time. This is for the evening meal in the restaurants only. We chose our dining option at the time of booking (early sitting 6.30pm) but Jim and Margaret did not have that option and were placed on the late sitting (9pm). They asked today to change to the early sitting and were put on our table. We had asked for a table for 2 or for 6 at the time of booking. That way if you don't get on with anyone on the table there is always someone else to turn to. If there is only 4 then you're stuck with the same couple!! I pointed out to Roisin that because Jim and Margaret have been put on our table, it looks like we were put on a table for 4 but the other 2 spaces were spare. However, Jim and Margaret seemed to have passed the initial muster. I think we will get on just fine with them. They have also bought a drinks package for the duration of the voyage. This is where you pay a fixed amount per day for unlimited drinks; beer, wines and spirits etc. They have offered to put our wine and drinks on their tab as if won't cost them any extra. Like I said, I think we will get on well with this couple!!!

30th March 2014

Having spent time in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Roisin and I had no plans today. Neither of us seemed keen to take the 3km taxi ride in to town. The most impressive sight in Abu Dhabi has to be the Grand Mosque. Yas Island Formula 1 track is also worth a visit but today was Sunday and the only time that they do not conduct circuit tours so no trip back there. No, the only thing we would do IF we decided to do anything was to walk along the Promenade otherwise known as the Corniche but as the temperature was in the 80s, staying on board was looking favourite at this stage!

The Port of Abu Dhabi is known as Port Zayed named after Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who was the principal driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the early 70s. He was the youngest son of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifah Al Nahyan. ‘Bin' in an Arabic name means ‘son of' whereas ‘al' means ‘the' but in a name means ‘of the family' so Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan means Zayed ‘son of' Sultan ‘of the family' Nahyan and as you can see, ‘Sultan' is indeed Zayed's father. Zayed's son is Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, the current president of the UAE. Sheik Khalifa is the guy who bailed Dubai out of a financial crisis and who now has the tallest building in the world named after him.

We were in port from 9am to 7pm so after lunch we decided to head in to the port building. There was no harm in seeing how the land lies!! The first notice that caught my eye was a sign outlining expected taxi costs. The flagfall from the port is 3 dirham (50p) and 1.50 dirham for every km so a 3km ride to the corniche should cost 7 or 8 dirham. More importantly the message under the tariff confirmed that if the meter was not running there is no legal obligation to pay. This still didn't fill us with desire to leave the relative safety and air conditioning of the port building.

Roisin headed for the tattooist where the local artist was advertising free henna tattoos. Most of the crew were sitting in the port building taking full advantage of the free Wi-Fi on offer.

Later that evening we asked how Jim and Margaret had enjoyed their day. Apparently they had shared a taxi with a German couple from Ulm who are here to give lectures on everything from Arabia to coral to famous seafarers. Jim explained that the taxi driver wanted 50 dirham for the 3km journey (as there were 4 of them!) They agreed on 20 dirham. I know in real terms that £3.30 is not worth arguing over but it's the principle of the thing!! They never got to see the Grand Mosque as the taxi wanted 50 dirhams although that was to take them there. He never got the quote for bringing them back!!

This maybe the height of laziness but anyone who would like to see photos of the Grand Mosque and other shots of Abu Dhabi, click on this link that will refer to our previous visit in 2012.

The ship is holding Tai Chi lessons during sea days. Tomorrow is the first of 10 sea days (or navigation days) and Roisin is adamant she will join in the class. Maybe not tomorrow. We don't want to peak too soon!!!


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