After taking three ex UK cruises during 2021 and with the world slowly opening up again, we decided that we were now feeling a little more confident to try a journey a bit further afield. I had been noticing a lot of extremely tempting offers for Costa cruises so decided to investigate them in greater detail to find out what was on offer and also the implications of travelling abroad. We have not had a warm-weather cruise for a long, long time so when I spotted a 7-night cruise out of Dubai on one of Costa’s newer ships, Costa Firenze everything seemed to fall into place and before we knew it we had booked. Because of the Covid situation around the world, we made the decision to take this cruise as a package because in the event of something going wrong we would have suitable cover.
|Saturday, January 15, 2022||Dubai, UAE||23:59 PM|
|Sunday, January 16, 2022||Abu Dhabi, UAE||9:00 AM|
|Monday, January 17, 2022||
Replaced with Abu Dhabi, UAE
|Tuesday, January 18, 2022||Abu Dhabi, UAE||12:00 PM|
|Wednesday, January 19, 2022||
Replaced with Sir Bani Yas Island
|7:00 AM||5:00 PM|
|Thursday, January 20, 2022||Dubai, UAE||8:00 AM|
|Friday, January 21, 2022||Dubai, UAE|
|Saturday, January 22, 2022||Dubai, UAE|
Cabin selection was a simple process and we have bagged a cabin in a location we favour which is midship and somewhere between the upper and lower public decks, close to a staircase.
As with our 3 previous cruises, Covid 19 and the testing regime does add another dimension to the whole process but we have come to the conclusion that it’s going to be the norm for some time to come, it has therefore influenced our decision to try and commence foreign travel again, and by us not taking the plunge, it might mean we could be waiting for ages for things to return to what we consider normal. We have both had Covid and are triple jabbed so we feel as safe as we can be, hopefully, we should be swimming with antibodies by now.
Originally to gain access to Dubai we needed a negative PCR test within 72 hours of flying, but 13 days out, this was reduced to 48 hours and the general advice is to carry the printed certificate of the result with you until you get through immigration in Dubai. We then have some contradictory information, we have been told we also need to fill in a Health Declaration-e-form & Dubai Arrivals Quarantine Procedure Declaration Form from the Dubai authorities. However, we have also been advised to download the Covid19 – DXB Smart App along with the Alhosn App which we have done and registered our details on both of them too. We are not going to take any chances and are covering all bases for this trip and I’d much rather have all the forms and not need them rather than need them and not have them. It is unconfirmed but I have also read recently that since the Omicron variant has become more prevalent, all arrivals from UK to UAE are required to take a PCR test at the airport of which there is no charge.
Along with the above, we need to show evidence of being fully vaccinated (printed again) and then finally to be able to board the ship we need another PCR that has been done within 48 hours of boarding. Because we will be staying at a hotel for 2 nights pre-cruise we will need to find a local company to undertake this test for us. Watch this space to find out how we got on.
The Costa onboard protocol is much the same as the other cruise lines whereby you wear a mask while moving about inside but can take it off in your cabin and while seated in public areas. On the open decks, you are free to take masks off but are requested to put them on in busy locations.
At the time of writing, going ashore in Abu Dhabi does not require any further testing providing you are entering from Dubai which we are. Advice everywhere is always to carry your proof of vaccination with you at all times. There are suggestions we might need to take a PCR onboard ship to be able to get off so will deal with that if and when it occurs.
While in Doha and Muscat, we would only have been able to go ashore exclusively with Costa excursions but both ports were actually removed from the itinerary in the 3-week run-up to departure due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Doha was replaced with an extra day in Abu Dhabi and for Muscat, it was Sir Bani Yas Island. It’s just as well we are only going for a bit of sunshine as we aren’t going to be many miles over the 7 days.
This is our plan but only if the Omicron variant doesn’t put pay to the whole trip.
Up until 5th January, to return back to the UK, we needed a negative test within 48 hours of leaving and for this, a lateral flow was enough provided it is from a government authorised company. So in order to keep it simple and not too expensive, we booked a Randox double package which includes 1 x Lateral Flow (Antigen) test & 1 x day 2 PCR test and costs £64.50 per person. The plan was to take both tests with us and take the PCR immediately on arrival back in the UK, all that then needed to be done was to drop it off at one of their special drop box locations. However, on the 5th January, the UK government then decided to take a U-turn with regards to testing on return to the UK
Under the new rules:
- From 04:00 GMT on Friday 7 January, people who are fully vaccinated and those aged under-18 will no longer need to take a test two days before travelling to England from countries outside the UK and the Common Travel Area. On arrival, they will have to take a PCR test but they will no longer have to self-isolate while awaiting the result
- From 04:00 GMT on Sunday 9 January they will only have to take a lateral flow test instead of a PCR test on day two. But this test must be bought from a private test provider – free NHS tests are not allowed
I hope you are keeping up with all this because I have really struggled at times……
Our initial PCR tests have come back negative so we at least have the go-ahead to fly to Dubai. After that, we travel with optimism and our fingers crossed that nothing inconveniences our plans.. 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼