Costa Toscana Postcard #9 – Dubai & Disembarking

This morning we just had time for a quick bite to eat in the buffet and a coffee before self-disembarking for our 8:00am private transfer to T3 Dubai Airport. Once off, there was just long enough time to snap a couple of photos of the ship with my phone while we were waiting.

Transfer to the airport took around 40 minutes and a virtually deserted terminal saw us check in and through security in less than 15 minutes. Let’s hope the Border control queues are not too long when we get back to Heathrow given there is a strike on.

I cannot finish this series of posts without recognising the fantastic crew that have tirelessly looked after us over the last week, they have all done an amazing job and below are a few that we have personally had the pleasure of being looked after by.

So all that really remains for me to do now is to say thanks for reading and following our trip, I hope you have enjoyed my sometimes garbled content and finally to wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year.

Costa Toscana Postcard #8 – Dubai, UAE

For our last full day of this trip we ticked off a bucket list destination, and by that, I mean the Burj Khalifa.

We went by taxi from the cruise terminal to Dubai Mall and then followed the signs for At The Top. When we booked online yesterday, standard tickets weren’t available so we paid extra for SKY tickets to go up to the 148th floor and what a great decision that was.

The VIP tickets allowed you to jump the long queues and we sailed through security and we soon on the lift to the 125th floor travelling at 10 metres per second, we then changed lifts to reach floor 148 and the highest outdoor observatory in the world.

The views are fantastic and this was the ultimate test for Nicole who has battled with acrophobia ever since I have known her. Today was mission accomplished and watching the transformation in her confidence has been a real pleasure. The VIP tickets also came into their own coming down so as far as I am concerned it was worth every penny. We spent a good 2 hours getting up, getting down and enjoying the views and were back onboard for lunch. We could have stayed longer and explored the mall but neither of us are shoppers so the decision to return to the ship was an easy one. Getting back for lunch also allowed us to say our farewells to the team that have served us both breakfast and lunch albeit in two different restaurants. Over the week we have built up a great rapport with them and it is sad to say goodbye.

The afternoon was spent out on deck before we came back to the cabin and Nicole set about packing. We just caught one show tonight, of the two available, one we had seen before on Costa Firenze so we ended up spending the rest of the evening after dinner in the Colosseo.

Tomorrow morning we head off to the airport for our flight home.

Costa Toscana Postcard #7 – Abu Dhabi, UAE

If yesterday was a slow day, today was anything but. After trying to get tickets online for visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and finding nothing available until 6:30pm we made the decision to do a city tour using one of the companies in the cruise terminal. After negotiating a tour and price we set off for the mosque, surprised to learn you can actually turn up and register there. The dress code is very strict for ladies and I never thought I would say this but 5″ of Nicole’s ankles became a problem.

Fortunately for us, entry to the mosque is via an underground system with plenty of places to purchase the required attire. There is even a Costa, Starbucks and a McDonald’s down there. Once you have satisfied the dress code and cleared security there is an airport-style walkway with travellators that take you to the front of the mosque.

It is an absolutely stunning place, the route around the mosque is cordoned off restricting you to wander freely but there are photo opportunities a plenty if you are patient. I was initially disappointed that I might miss this and so happy to have discovered that it was still possible.

From there our driver took us for a 30-minute photo stop at the Emirates Palace hotel where we had a quick look around the inside at the ground floor level and at the front of the hotel. We thought it was far too opulent for our taste but nice to experience all the same. What was impressive was the Christmas tree in one of the foyers, completely OTT but magnificent all the same.

Our third stop was a brief drive to the Etihad Towers which are a complex of five towers, full of hotels, offices, apartments, restaurants, and bars. The tallest tower, Tower 2, has an observation deck on its 74th floor called Observation At 300. From here there are some amazing views of Abu Dhabi and giving you a great feel for the area.

Can you see Costa Toscana in the distance?

As we only wanted to be out for the morning, this was our last stop so drove back to the ship via the Corniche arriving back just in time for lunch. Our afternoon was then spent out on deck 18 in the glorious sunshine.

After another amazing dinner, we went to the theatre to watch a production by Quantum XXL called Virtual or Reality. Once again the entertainment has been exceptionally good on this cruise and quite possibly the best we have ever experienced on a cruise ship. We finished the evening off in the Colosseo watching another excellent production called Fantazia. Tomorrow we will tick off a bucket list venue…..

Costa Toscana Postcard #6 – Abu Dhabi, UAE

As I mentioned at the end of yesterday’s post, today was essentially a sea day.  Something out of the ordinary occurred this morning as we were making our way to breakfast, the ship started listing to the port side and just as we entered the dining room it tilted a little more causing plates and cutlery to fall off the tables onto the floor. It stayed like that for about 10 minutes before eventually righting itself. No apparent reason for this so can only assume it was the strong winds pushing the ship.  During embarkation, we had to hand over our passports and this morning to had to collect them for face-to-face border control when we got to Abu Dhabi, we then had to return them only to collect them to disembark in Dubai. It seems Oman wasn’t as fussy as we have entry and exit stamps in our passports while Costa was looking after them for us.  Apart from all the usual stuff, all we have done today is lie on sunbeds on outside decks, out of the wind it was great but come 4:00 the temperature dropped so we made our way in for some hot drinks.

  We then made our way back to the cabin to watch the sail into Abu Dhabi. 

After dinner and with a one-hour window, we had to go with our passports to the cruise terminal for the security check. This totally knackered our evening plans because we had wanted to go to the theatre for another production at that time.

The process took about 25 minutes and we were soon back onboard and managed to catch the last 10 minutes of the production which was called”Seasons”  Back on schedule we then grabbed our favourite seats in Colosseo for the acrobatic show called”Lava’ which was outstanding. A team of 6 acrobats performing a routine with all the state-of-the-art technology did make for a very entertaining 45 minutes. 

It’s been a bit of a slow day today but tomorrow we are getting off the ship for a little exploration.  

Costa Toscana Postcard #5 – Muscat, Oman

Well the forecast wasn’t great and we awoke to heavy rain this morning, I was partially aware of it pouring down during the night too it wasn’t just a shower. 

 

At about 10:15 the rain stopped so we went up to deck 18 and walked a few circuits.

 

By 11:00 it was clear and warm enough to sit out in so that is what we did until lunchtime when as creatures of habit we went to L’Oliveto for a bite to eat. With Nicole being vegan, it’s almost like being a minor celebrity whenever we enter any dining room. Instantly recognised and directed to the appropriate area and table.  It was still overcast in the afternoon but warm enough to sit outside so that is what we did until the clouds and some light drizzle forced us undercover. There was nothing up on deck 18 to provide cover but we did find somewhere on the Infinity Deck with beds so stayed there until sailaway.  We made our way back to the cabin as the ship was reversing in the harbour so we could take advantage of being on the right side for photographing the Muttrah Incense Burner. 

After dinner, we made our way to the theatre to watch Quantum XXL in “State of Shock” which was a homage to Michael Jackson. The choreography was exceptional and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

After that finished, we moved swiftly to the Colosseo to watch “Leonardo The Genius”, again another absolutely stunning production. 

We essentially have a sea day tomorrow as we make our way to Abu Dhabi with an estimated arrival time of 6:30pm. The weather forecast isn’t great but as long as it is dry and we can sit outside, all will be good. 

Costa Toscana Postcard #4 – Muscat, Oman

We had arrived in Muscat before and were both awake and at 7:30 there was a lot happening ashore with many of the tours already departing. We on the other hand took a much more leisurely approach and went for breakfast in the MDR before getting off for a stroll along the Corniche to visit Mutrah Fort. Walking through the port area is prohibited so there is a free shuttle service which drops you at the gate. It’s not quite as simple as that because you visit the Cruise visitor centre en route to pass through security and have your bags x-rayed before finally getting back on the bus to the main gate. On the other side of the gate was the best part of 50 taxi drivers all dressed in their white robes trying to sell you a tour in their taxi. There was white linen everywhere and it reminded me of when I was younger and running through my mum’s washing line when she had all the bedding out to dry. After quickly navigating these we found ourselves free to walk in peace to the Corniche and then along it until we reached the fort.

Entry was 1 Rial and after the climb, up to the highest point you were rewarded with a great panorama of the Corniche and surrounding area.

From there we made our way to the Souke which is apparently one of the oldest in the middle east. Yes, we got lost and went around in circles for quite a while but eventually found our way out. There are so many little passages and alleys all well stocked with their owners all wanting you to come on in and browse. I just can’t get my head around how they ever sell enough to make a living.

Having satisfied ourselves with a bit of exercise, we headed back to the ship for lunch after which we sat outside in the sun close to the pool. The forecast is not good for tomorrow so we decided to make the most of it while we had the opportunity.

We had dinner in our designated restaurant (Le Anfore) at 6:30 then did a few circuits of the wrap-around prom deck which on Toscana is called the Infinity Walk.

We had four items planned for the evening but in the end on managed the one which was in the Colosseo, this was a production called “Quantum XXL in Quan-Tech” which was about a boy who was transported into the world of his video games. Great dancing coupled with the amazing technology made for a real visual treat.

We both thoroughly enjoyed this but fatigue set in so we decided to get an early night hitting the sack at 10:30.

Costa Toscana Postcard #3 – A Christmas Sea Day

We both woke up naturally this morning around 7:30, it’s the first time in a while that we haven’t needed to be anywhere or do anything and it felt great. We even had a heavy rain shower this morning which we labelled as Arabian snow, it lasted for about 10 minutes and was really refreshing.

At 9:30 we made our way to La Maremma restaurant for breakfast, this is the one designated for special diets and there is a special area with dedicated waiters. Breakfast was walked off up on deck 17 where we did several circuits under partially cloudy skies.

By lunchtime, it was pouring with rain again but did it matter? Not in the slightest, we enjoyed lunch in yet another of the restaurants, this time in the L’oliveto Restaurant which has a designated special diets section at lunchtime. We had a really great lunch and portion control came into its own with the wine flowing freely.

Afterwards, we made our way to the Colosseo to watch the carol concert by the ship’s singers followed by the arrival of Father Christmas. While Silent night fits the bill, I’m not sure if Imagine by John Lennon, We are the World & Happy Day fall under the carol category. All that aside, it was a lovely spectacle and great to see the magic on the kid’s faces. Great entertainment indoors while it poured with rain outside, I can’t think of a better way to spend Christmas Day afternoon, well done Costa.

For those curious to know what was on offer for lunch and dinner on Christmas Day from Costa, I attach a couple of screenshots of the menu below.

As it was Christmas, I decided to upgrade my meal and chose a 900-gram Tomahawk steak for €33.

In the evening we watched a couple of shows, one in the theatre which was a song and dance production called The Magic of Christmas Show which was very colourful and fun. The second was in the Colosseo and was a Freddie Mercury tribute act, he sounded nothing like him but it was still a very entertaining spectacle and great to sing along with.

We also stayed up for the Rivival Party in the Colosseo but didn’t stay until the end of it. It consisted of the house band belting out hits from the 70’s & 80’s and was very watchable.

Tomorrow we arrive in Muscat for an overnight stop, as of yet we are still undecided about what we should do.

Costa Toscana Postcard #2 – Dubai & Embarkation

We had a great night’s sleep and were awake just before the 7:30 alarm, the bedding was amazing with some of the best pillows I have ever slept on.  Our package included breakfast which was a buffet system and we were able to enjoy this sat outside.

It was odd trying to associate where we were and with it being Christmas Eve.  We had a quick exploration of the hotel grounds before heading back to the room in preparation for checking out and getting our prearranged transfer to the cruise terminal.  Our car arrived bang on 10:00 and there was some initial confusion over whether it was the Marina Terminal or Port Rashid but after reassuring the driver we set off to the Marina Terminal.

The journey took 30 minutes and once again we found a practically deserted terminal, check in was super quick and we were onboard by 10:45.  First impressions were very positive, the ship is very big and there are some amazing spaces, in fact, today there were too many to take in all at once. 

The muster is split into two parts, the first involves watching a video and the second involved visiting your muster station wearing your life jacket, the latter at a designated time of 4:00pm.  Today we had lunch in the buffet (La Sagra Dei Sapori), after asking what vegan options were available, Nicole spoke with the supervisor who actually made a couple of special dishes for her. He explained that the buffet is not the best of places for vegans but if we ask for him in future, he will always get something made up special. How’s that for service! 

After lunch we made our way to our cabin to see if the luggage had arrived, it had so we unpacked. It’s not the biggest of cabins but it is very functional with lots of little innovative ideas. There are enough sockets to go around with 3 USBs too. It’s nice and bright with plenty of colours and the bathroom although compact is bright, airy and very well-designed space.

The side of the shower that backs onto the cabin has a glass panel which has a curtain cabin side. The glass is misted at torso height for a bit of privacy but it does provide so nice natural light in the bathroom.  After our muster part 2 we ventured up on deck to enjoy some sunshine and have a quick drink before coming back to the cabin for a shower followed by dinner. We had a choice of dining rooms and selected the smallest of the lot which is called Le Anfore, all of the restaurants carry the same menu and all look absolutely stunning despite the fact that there isn’t a tablecloth in any of them.  Our restaurant was very quiet which prompted me to ask our waiter if he knew how many people were onboard and he said that it is around 2300 so not even 40% full. 

We came back to the cabin at 10:00 to watch the drone show which although still incredible to see, wasn’t a patch on either of the two we saw here earlier in the year. I had totally forgotten how stunning the  Marina end of Dubai looks at night, what an incredible panorama.

We spent the remainder of the evening moving from venue to venue sizing up the best places to go. Our current favourite is the Colosseo which is the centre of the ship and a rework of the atrium, as the name would suggest it is a round venue but has all the equipment that the theatre does and we enjoyed two really good musical acts there last night.  We eventually returned to the cabin at 11:30 to watch the sailaway and I managed to fall asleep on the balcony. All I can say is what an amazing day, a Christmas Eve like nothing I have ever experienced before. All that remains for me to do in this post is to wish you all a very Happy Christmas. 

Costa Toscana Postcard #1 – The Journey to Dubai

With a 9:10 am flight, we decided to drive up on the Thursday night and stop at a hotel. Being as we weren’t going to spend too much time in the room we decided on the Aerotel Hotel which is actually in T3 itself. It is situated at the end of the arrivals hall with easy access to departures. The rooms are quite small and there are no windows but it was ideal for what we wanted given the time we were going to spend in it. The bed was very comfortable and we both had a reasonable nights sleep.

Given the time to year, and as we were walking through T3 arrivals to departures this morning, in my head I could hear Hugh Grant uttering the words….

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.

As a result of this thought, I ended up watching Love Actually during the flight, a Christmas classic if you ask me.

Our flight out to Dubai was on an A380, the third time we had been on such a plane in just 3 weeks. We had a back-row seat in economy this time.

In hindsight, maybe we should have stayed in Dubai for 5 nights but it was lovely to go home and see family again briefly.

We had a reasonably comfortable flight and arrived at around 8:00pm local time. Immigration was swift and we were outside and in the free airport shuttle within 45 minutes. We have an overnight stay at the Millennium Airport Hotel before boarding the ship tomorrow. Our hotel room is the polar opposite of the one we left this morning, the bathroom itself is probably bigger than the whole of the footprint of the setup at Aerotel. From one extreme to the other.

After a few drinks in the outside bar, we turned in for the evening. Tomorrow we board Costa Toscana.

Costa Toscana Dubai and UAE Preamble

For the last 25 years or so, I have always worked between Christmas & New Year, however in April this year when I started a new job, I discovered they have a shutdown over that period, and as a result, I needed to use up some of my holiday entitlement. Not wishing to waste my paid days off, we decided to take a cruise and this is what we selected. For the first time ever, it does mean we will be onboard a ship on Christmas Day which is something I am really looking forward to.

The itinerary is all the ports we should have visited last January on Costa Firenze albeit in a slightly different order with the added bonus of a new ship.

In early October we received notification that Doha, Qatar had been dropped from the itinerary, not of Costa’s doing but the local Qatari authorities. The email said that the country was closed to all inbound and outbound cruises in conjunction with the World Cup 2022 which will be played there from November 20 to December 18 and the closure to cruises was being extended beyond the period of the event, until at least until 15th January. So there we have it, that’s twice Doha has been dropped from our itinerary, perhaps we are just not destined to go there? In its place, we will have a Christmas sea day and then overnight in Muscat.

Date Location Arrival Departure
Saturday, December 24, 2022 Dubai, UAE 11:59 PM
Sunday, December 25, 2022 Doha, Qatar Replaced with Sea Day
Monday, December 26, 2022 Sea Day Changed to Muscat, Oman 7:00 AM
Tuesday, December 27, 2022 Muscat, Oman 5:00 PM
Wednesday, December 28, 2022 Abu Dhabi, UAE 6:30 PM
Thursday, December 29, 2022 Abu Dhabi, UAE 8:00 PM
Friday, December 30, 2022 Dubai, UAE 5:00 AM
Saturday, December 31, 2022 Dubai, UAE

Although we would like to have tried one of the Terrace Balcony’s, they were all sold out so we have opted for a standard balcony on deck 10. Details and locations are below on the graphic.

This trip follows hot on the heels of our Indian adventure and there are only 6 days from when we land at Heathrow until we fly out of there again. In fact, all of the flights, including the Indian ones are all with Emirates so we will be putting in some flying time with them in December.

We are now airside at Heathrow T3, so let December adventure number two begin. ?