It’s 2 weeks until our next Virgin Voyages experience. We are on the Dubai Delights to Singapore Sights voyage, which is the middle leg of 3 voyages for Resilient Lady’s repositioning route from Athens to Sydney.
We booked this voyage in February 2022, we have a sea terrace (balcony) cabin and are excited to be visiting some interesting countries along the way. With a duration of 16 days and 10 of those at sea, we will have plenty of time to enjoy all of the facilities and entertainment provided by Virgin Voyages.
Our last visit to Dubai was on our honeymoon in October 2000, we spent 3 nights there before flying to the Maldives (Lux South Ari Atoll) for a week. Our hotel on Jumeirah Beach has since been demolished and replaced by the JA Oasis Beach Tower on The Walk.
We are flying out to Dubai via Madrid with Emirates in economy, we decided not to upgrade this leg but have booked XL seats in a row of 2. The return flights home from Singapore via Dubai to Madrid are business class and we’re so looking forward to this experience. Standing at their bar mid flight is a bucket list moment.
Our pre cruise stay is in a Rove Hotel near the Creek, we have allowed ourselves 2 days to reacquaint ourselves with Dubai before boarding the Resilient Lady.
Our post cruise stay is at the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore. Swimming in their incredible rooftop pool is another bucket list achievement.
There’s so much to look forward to on this trip! We’ll be sure to keep you updated along the way.
Day 1 (3 Nov 2023):
We decided to book the Rove City Centre hotel for Dubai stay. All we needed was a clean and modern base to explore from, rather than a beachfront luxurious hotel. The Rove City Centre is close to the airport and creek. We arrived to a warm welcome at 2am, our room (608) had a comfortable king sized bed, with a quirky “My space in the city” mural and badges for decoration. The air con worked fabulously and we felt refreshed after only 4 hours sleep.
We set out walking from the hotel to the Dubai Creek, our destination was the Arabian Tea House at Al Fahidi for a traditional Emirati breakfast which was a 3.4 km stroll away. We headed for the Dhow Wharfage where a multitude of traditional Dow boats were loading / offloading cargo. First there were fishing vessels, then quite a selection of floating restaurant boat trips. The larger blue painted Dhows had huge piles cargo on the wharf which mostly seemed to be air conditioning units and televisions. We found ourselves in the embarrassing situation of only having 100 AED notes and needing to use the Abra Creek crossing which costs 1 AED per person. A lovely local came to our rescue and paid our fee and he was quite bemused when we insisted on giving him 4 Euros (approx 15 AED) in exchange. We could just imagine him telling that story for the rest of the day! Having negotiated our passage on the Deira Old Souq Marine Transport we were in the historical neighbourhood of Al Fahidi.
The original Arabian Tea House in Al Fahidi is a fabulous experience and one we would highly recommend. We arrived mid morning on a Friday, the cool interior of the restaurant offered a welcome sanctuary after our walk. Looking around everyone had the breakfast sharing trays, it was just a case of deciding which one we wanted. Our Arabic breakfast tray was superb and our young server was delightful. Having tea and coffee is such a ceremony here.
Next stop was the Al Ghubaiba ticket office for the Dubai ferry. With our heads down we braved walking through the Dubai Souk market where every stall holder trying to entice us with silk & spices. We had tried to purchase ferry tickets online but couldn’t get passed the contact number required which had to start 971 to complete the process. Sadly having made the effort to go the day before to purchase tickets, we were informed advance tickets can only be bought online. We would have to take our chance at availability on departure the following day.
The Dubai Mall was next on our agenda. It was time to buy our Nol smart cards, these are just like the Oyster system in London. The cost was 50 AED for 2 cards which were preloaded with a credit of 20 AED. It’s so easy to tap in and out of the stations, your remaining balance is displayed at the end of each journey. Most were 2 AED each time, a longer one from the Dubai Mall to City Centre Deira was 5 AED. The Dubai Metro is super clean and very well signed, they operate a double door system where the platform is sealed off from the track. It is super busy and boy do they pack the carriages, if you have issues with personal space take a taxi!
We discovered that there is an 820m long elevated pedestrian walk way to connect the Dubai Metro Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall station to this destination. Whilst most people use the moving walk ways in each direction, some just stand on the right of the travelator for the journey.
Dubai Mall is massive! There are approx 1200 retail outlets and 200 dining outlets here. We weren’t shopping though, the purpose for our visit was for Mike to fly the A380 Emirates simulator which we had booked in advance online. The 15 minute option allows the captain to take off and land from Dubai airport, there is a co pilot seat available too for the flight. The Dubai Aquarium has a huge free viewing area within the mall, this 10 million litre tank is one of the largest aquariums in the world, it was mesmerising to watch the sting rays and sharks coasting by.
The Burj Khalifa dominates the skyline in Dubai, it’s currently the tallest building in the world, standing at 828m and 163 storeys high. There are lots of different experiences you can book here through At The Top website. For us we booked the Lake Ride which is one of the cheapest attractions you can do in Dubai. We reserved two places on the sunset 17:45 boat ride, the first fountain show of the evening. It was a bit chaotic initially as although we’d booked online and had e-tickets (65 AED per person), these had to be converted into a paper ticket during boarding. Once on the water in our electric Abra it was a fun and relaxing way to experience the fountain show. Our boat driver gave us a tour of the 30-acre Burj Lake, in the minutes leading up to the show and positioned us perfectly to capture the fountains and the Burj Khalifa for the world’s largest performing fountains staged over the size of two football pitches. You can enjoy a free show of the fountains from the boardwalk surrounding the lake or the Souk Al Bahar bridge – get there early for a prime position. The Abra boats were comfortable with plenty of space, we shared ours with 4 other people visiting from Italy and Sweden.
Between our two attractions in this location, we had a late lunch at Günaydin located in the Souk Al Bahar. The outdoor terrace here has fantastic views of the Burj Khalifa and we had the most amazing Adana kebap (spicy lamb kebab).
Returning to our hotel afterwards via the red metro line.
Day 2 (4 Nov 2023):
On our second full day in Dubai we went for breakfast at The Coffee Club in the City Centre Deira shopping mall and took the metro to Al Ghubaiba for the Dubai Ferry. We were fated not to go on this boat trip! After trying several times to purchase online in advance and visiting the ticket office the day before, we arrived today to finally buy our tickets to find the ferry was cancelled due to bad weather! We flagged down a taxi and headed to The Beach JBR which took just under an hour to cover approx 30km and just under 100 AED.
There’s a buzzy vibe at JBR with beach clubs, shops and restaurants. We strolled along The Walk, catching our first glimpse of the Resilient Lady docked at the Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal. The Skydive Dubai planes take off in front of this beach, regularly disgorging groups of skydivers who descend back to their base.
Having walked to Dubai Marina we decided to save our feet and get out of the heat by taking the Dubai Tram the short distance left to the Palm Gateway. You can use your Nol card on this transport system too just remember to tap in and out of the stations. The Dubai Tram route is 14.5km long connecting the Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Residence and the red Metro route.
The Palm Gateway entrance was uninspiring, you basically access it by a lift or stairs and walk through a large indoor car park from the Tram station. We experienced another pay it forward moment when we were approached by a couple leaving to gift us their monorail day pass tickets worth 35 AED per person. We decided to pop into the Nakheel Mall to have a coffee and pick up a few bits we needed, before continuing to the Atlantis Palm. To be honest, the Palm Monorail was a noisy and disappointing experience and one we wouldn’t repeat unless we were guests at Atlantis The Palm. A boat trip around the palm may give you a much better experience that the glimpses offered on the Monorail route.
Once you reach the Atlantis Palm you can only access The Boardwalk (11km long), Atlantis Aquaventure, The Lost Chambers Aquarium and a few of the hotel restaurants / shops which was reminiscent of being in a Las Vegas hotel.
The Palm Jumeirah built in the Arabian Gulf is a fascinating place, one of the modern wonders of the world, it didn’t exist prior to the Millenium. The palm shaped base was created from 120 million cubic metres of sand dredged from the Arabian Gulf and 7 million tonnes of rock from the Hajar Mountains. Reportedly costing in the region of 12 billion dollars it took just 6 years to complete this landmark project.
Retracing our steps we used the tram to connect with the red line Metro in the direction of Centrepoint to get back to our hotel, this proved to be a quicker transport journey than the taxi. As per the previous day, the section between the Dubai Mall and Union stations were jam packed.
The spotlessly clean, Tibba Restaurant for Mandi & Madhbi in Deira caught our eye on the short walk from the metro back to our hotel. What an experience! Despite standing out as tourists we were welcomed into this Yemeni restaurant which was busy with locals. There is a screened off dining section where diners remove their shoes and sit on the floor for a more authentic style of dining. We were seated in the main dining room which was immaculately clean, in fact the main glass entrance doors were wiped down more than 4 times during our meal and the waiters wore hair nets and hygienic gloves. Mike ordered the half kilo mixed grill and I had the recommended meat mandi dish. It was superb, eaten with our fingers and more food than we could possibly manage, all for 159 AED. An experience we hope to repeat in the future.
Day 3 (5 Nov 2023):
The Rove City Centre has a relaxed check out policy up to 2pm, so we spent the morning chilling out at the hotel and catching up with work. We had allowed an hour for our taxi to the Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal following the traffic we encountered on Saturday, but it was completely different, we arrived half an hour early to our boarding time. There was a big issue with the Indian Visas and almost everyone was stressing to log into the visa website to download an approved certificate with photo on. Fortunately Virgin Voyages had a solution, sailors simply had to email this document to the print my visa team and collect before continuing through security.
We headed straight for our sea terrace cabin (14094A) and our cases were already waiting outside. We were Port side and had an amazing cityscape view. The Skydiving Dubai plane was constantly taking off and a stream of parachuters descended regularly. It felt a bit weird that we were departing the next day, we watched the safety video in our cabin and headed to The Dock for Opa hour to watch the sunset off the aft and listen to one of the talented musicians. Our first evening meal was at The Test Kitchen, this is a tasting menu á la carte restaurant, the chefs are scientists and it has a modern laboratory design. We’ve made a second reservation for here for menu B later in the voyage.
Day 4 (6 Nov 2023):
After watching the sunrise through the marina buildings, we hit the running track on deck 17 to get our laps in before breakfast. There are two lanes (approx 255m per lap) which are clearly marked with distances. The etiquette appeared to be walkers on the inside and runners on the outside. The Perch in this area usually has a Yoga or Zumba session taking place in the morning. Below the running track on dec 16 is the Training Camp with HIIT classes and punch bags, plus the multi sport court. If that’s not enough options to work up an appetite, the B-Complex has a fabulous cardio gym with running machines facing out to sea, and on the other side of the spa pool there’s a multitude of weight machines and balance rooms, all perfectly air conditioned.
The sail away party from Dubai was fun with the happening cast and DJ setting the vibes, and free glasses of bubbles being dished out. Our dinner reservation was in The Wake, we were given a table by one of the four huge windows where we watched Dubai disappear from the horizon. Later we enjoyed the entertainment with Morph, who plays the guitar in a unique way I haven’t seen before. Before bed, we put on our PJ’s and headed to The Perch for the pyjama party.
Day 5 (7 Nov 2023):
Day 6 (8 Nov 2023):
Day 7 (9 Nov 2023):
Day 8 (10 Nov 2023):
Day 9 (11 Nov 2023):
Day 10 (12 Nov 2023):
Day 11 (13 Nov 2023):
Sri Lanka had put two immigration officers aboard the ship at Goa, and they pre cleared us. The contrast with India couldn’t have been more marked. Not only were we greeted by singing, dancing, drums and a craft market as we stepped off the ship moments after arrival, we were able to walk straight through immigration (without showing passports or paperwork) and into the city of Colombo.
We had planned our own walking tour of Colombo to see some of the distinctive buildings and sights. The Tuk Tuk drivers are very determined to sell you a tour, they followed us for approx 1km from the port terminal offering to show us the sights, the price getting cheaper with each step we made. We wanted to buy some USD however we needed our passports for the currency exchange shops / banks which the ship had kept onboard, so we drew 15,000 LKR from a cash machine (approx €50). First stop was a cup of Ceylon tea at the Dutch Hospital, we tried tea from Kandy and Dimbula, purchasing some of the second one to take home with us. We also purchased some silver leaf tea, made from the buds of the tea plants to try at home.
The Pettah Market (also known as Manning Market) was next on our stop, we wandered amongst the stalls and shops grouped together by their produce. The Red Mosque (Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque) is a striking building, and there was a beautiful Hindu temple in a side street close by. The Lotus Tower is visible on the city skyline, it’s an observation viewpoint with conference centre and restaurant. It was a bit bizarre to see Pelicans roosting on the streetlights oblivious to the busy traffic below.
We returned to the Dutch Hospital for the highlight of the day, lunch at the Ceylon Curry Club. Mike ordered the rice dish, which includes 3 vegetable curries and green mallum of the day, served with coconut sambol, papadam and fried red chilli. I was intrigued by the Crab Cobbler, this was 3 x half crabs in a delicious coconut milk broth topped with soft bread rolls and melted cheese. Both were amazing and big portions, I was slightly envious of the hopper service making the rounds around the restaurant but we couldn’t have eaten more. Our meal was accompanied by a Lion beer, followed by the Arrak spirit made from coconut sap. Our bill for the meal and drinks was under €30! This brief taster of a day trip confirmed that Sri Lanka is a destination we would like to return to for a more in depth tour of this country in the future.
Day 12 (14 Nov 2023):
Our first of 2 days at sea. We had an informal day planned with breakfast (bagel) and lunch (butter chicken) both in The Galley. Despite having the premium wifi package it was a bit flaky which was causing some issues to catch up on our work tasks and correspondence. The weather wasn’t the best, it was overcast with quite heavy showers, which was a shame for those who were planning a day by the pool. Despite everyone being inside, there were still lots of quiet communal areas to sit and read our books.
The weather also affected the Scarlet Night Pool Party, high winds were forecast for the evening, so the event was moved to take place in the Red Room instead where the seats were rolled back to reveal a large dance floor on the lower level.
Day 13 (15 Nov 2023)
We’d booked an early breakfast at Razzle Dazzle where we both enjoyed avo toast with poached egg, plus I had to order the rainbow churros! It was interesting chatting to the next table, a couple from Auckland who had been travelling through Europe since spring break. Not retired, they had negotiated a sabbatical with their employers to see some of the world, and still weren’t ready to head home.
I went for a double exercise class on The Perch, first Zumba with Steph the Hype, followed immediately by a 90´s dance class with Tanner the Spark who taught us a boy band routine to NSYNC’s Bye Bye Bye. Meanwhile Mike was getting his laps in on the running track.
Day 14 (16 Nov 2023)
Our day in Phuket started with a tender service from the ship to Patong Beach jetty at 8.15am. Leading our bus was guide Toto who at the age of 54 had survived the 2004 tsunami and the Covid pandemic. November is the start of their holiday season and we were the first cruise ship to dock. First stop was Surakul Pier some 86km / 2 hour drive during which we had to cross the Sarasin Bridge which connects the island of Phuket with the mainland. On arrival we donned life jackets and boarded a long tail boat heading out through the mangroves and Phang Nga Bay to Khao Phing Kan (more famously known as James Bond Island in reference to The Man With The Golden Gun film). Toto showed us a clip from the film with 007 landing his plane right on the small beach in front of the pinnacle limestone rock. After successfully negotiating our long tail boat in and out of the busy docking area there, we continued on to Koh Panyee, a floating fishing village which even has a football pitch and mosque. Lunch was included at the floating Panyee Muteara restaurant who provided a Thai feast with a green coconut curry, lentil dhal, battered shrimp, crispy fried chicken amongst other noodle, veg and rice dishes. There was no time left to explore Patong Beach on our return, our tender was waiting.
Dining at Pink Agave for the second time, we ordered the BBQ beef shredded tacos which was a special for that evening. Later we watched the 10pm Persephone show, we were lucky to get a couple of seats on the upper floor of the theatre, most of the audience is standing room only on the lower floor where the show takes place around you. What a brilliant interpretation of this Greek myth, complete with adult humour, avatars, acrobats, dancers and singers.
Day 15 (17 Nov 2023)
We arrived in Kuala Lumpur at 3pm. We hadn’t been able to get on the evening excursions we liked, and didn’t fancy taking a long taxi trip from Port Klang into Kuala Lumpur on our own, so we remained on ship. An alternative is to taxi to Klang and then take the local bus / train service. It’s only 41km but traffic can be busy so expect 1-2 hours in either direction.
Our pre dinner drink was in the Sip bar where Ray & Jo Duo (brother and sister) were performing acoustic cover songs.
We returned to The Test Kitchen for menu B, however on arrival we were informed that the chef had run out of lamb chops so we could repeat menu A, or have the vegetarian version. It was a bit frustrating that this hadn’t been communicated to us the day before when they were made aware of the situation, so we could make alternative plans. We decided to try the vegetarian option, switching the egg course for the mushroom and despite our reservations we really enjoyed the experience. No doubt helped by the excellent bottle of Red Schooner, Voyage 11 wine we selected to accompany our meal.
Day 16 (18 Nov 2023)
A day in Kuala Lumpur. Our excursion, Malaysian Melting Pot Food Tour was a small group of just 8 passengers. Jeeva, our Tamil guide was excellent at explaining how the three ethnic groups living in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur 70% Malay, 20% Chinese & 6% Indian live in harmony together. Breakfast was eggs and kaya coconut butter toast at a coffee shop in Klang. Then to Central Market in Kuala Lumpur where we tried some delicious local fruits and Putu Bambu, a steaming hot cake cooked in bamboo tubes. In Chinatown we drank a mixed fruit juice called Air Mata Kuching. Lunch was an Indian curry served on banana leaves, finishing with a masala chai and spicy Pani Puri to finish in Brickfields, Little India.
Our evening meal was back at Razzle Dazzle for the seafood boil dish which costs $60. I’m not sure I’d order this again, we were hoping to relive a fabulous experience we’d had in San Diego but it pailed in comparison.
Day 17 (19 Nov 2023)
Our last day on the Resilient Lady was at sea so we booked Brunch at The Wake. We couldn’t quite face 3 courses and bottomless drinks to do it justice at 10am! Mike tried steak and eggs for the first time which was very tasty albeit a bit strange for breakfast, whilst I had avocado benedict and french toast.
We booked our Next Virgin Voyage by paying $300 deposit whilst onboard, this entitles us to $300 off our next voyage, plus $600 onboard credit, and we have 2 years to book and sail. We already have a voyage booked from Miami for late 2024, so are waiting for 2025 to be launched before we decide on our next destination.
We chilled by the pool during the afternoon and headed to The Dock at 6pm to watch the sunset and listen to DJ AudioMoe spinning his Med vibes. Next on our agenda was Our Lady Valentine with four male vocalists covering 5 decades of rock music at the Festival Stage in the Red Room. They had the audience on their feet and singing along. Our final evening was back at The Wake, we both ordered clam chowder and steaks, for me it was the filet mignon, and Mike tried the hanger steak. No desserts were required. Our voyage was coming to an end, we retired to our cabin both excited about the next stage and our time in Singapore.
Day 18 (20 Nov 2023)
We awoke to the sound of drums pre 6am. Heading outside onto our balcony there was a Lion Dance welcome being performed at the Cruise Terminal as Resilient Lady was docking. I assumed this welcome was for her first visit. The Spectrum of the Seas docked shortly after and we didn’t hear the drums for their arrival.
Disembarkation was from 7am to 11am, our hotel check in time was 3pm so we’d opted for a debark time of 10:45. Our SGC cards were complete and we were warned immigration may take up to 1 hour.