March 22 was our second day in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and we were spending it with our table mates, Marilyn Goldblatt and Stan Haidl. Our taxi driver, who was delightful, and whose name was Mangela, picked the four of us up at the ship, at 10:30 am. We were on Marilyn & Stan’s program to visit Pettah Market before lunch, which we stopped and reserved, on the way. It was a religious holiday, and we didn’t know what to expect. It turned out to be the best of all worlds. Some of the stalls were closed, but most were open, and the place was nearly deserted. We got everything we wanted, at the price we wanted to pay. I regretted having paid Singapore’s high prices, although I still think the quality there was better.
We got to The Galle Face Hotel, before noon, and the buffet was set to open at 12:30 pm. So, we went to the bar, sat outside this time, and had fresh pressed juice drinks with fast, free Internet. It was warm, but there were fans, and it was really nice. We saw a lot of friends from the ship, most of whom were my people. When we moved over for lunch, we were soon joined by more. The food was wonderful. Of course, Indian food lends itself well to buffets, but they had a lot of wonderful fresh items, too, and a carvery, and grill, on which they were doing scallops and calamari, as well as chicken and fish. It was an absolutely first rate buffet, at a fabulous price. Including the before dinner drinks, it came in at $130 for four people! It’s going to be hard to get us to go to the glitzy new places, after that.
Elvon and Marilyn were done for the day, so our driver took us back to the ship, and I rehired Mangela to take me straight back. It took me about ten minutes to get Elvon back to the room, and off I went with Mangela. Now that there were only two of us in the car, I got his story, and it’s sad. He wasn’t always a taxi driver. He was a production manager in a textile factory. His wife worked there, too, until she died of heart failure, at the age of thirty-nine. It was from all the fibers in the air. They put too much of a load on lungs and heart. He had two small children at the time and they needed at least one parent, so he quit, before the job took him, too. They are teenagers, now, and doing well in school. He hopes to send them both to college, a doctor and an engineer. We wish him well.
When I got back to The Galle Face’s bar, Joanne Gardiner, the Future Cruise Consultant was happily ensconced, another one of the people I had recommended the place to. I had another hour and a half of good Internet, and Mangela took us back to the ship, feeling very productive, for a change.
The Fly Rights, a Motown group from London, sang and danced us to bed. They were terrific.
March 23 was the first of four sea days. I got to the desk early to meet with Paul and Jacques, to discuss what to do about Livorno. We decided that Elvon and I would keep to the plan, using Patrick’s car. My source, you see, was, Patrick Spencer, our Tuscany villa manager. Paul and Jacques will rent a car and follow us, and so can anyone else who wants to. I know Michael Innis and Gail Hanson will. Office hours were uneventful, with Michael Holt coming to meet and pay Lynn Blair and Alan Laurin, for half a wine package. Marsha Rankin was by for a chat, and Harvey Cohen, too. We went to the gym, I did a little catching up with logs and blogs, had a massage and dressed for formal night. The production show was all about British Pop Stars and was very good.
The next day, the desk was quiet, so I started work on a letter to go out tomorrow and worked on my travel business. We had Events Manager Mark Beasley for dinner, and he was good fun, as always. The show was good, too, Tony Pace.
March 25 was another sea day. I tried to figure out how I could help Bobbie Reilley-Schmidt get the AOL Desktop in Dubai, and we hatched a plot that involved the HOHO bus on the second day. A few people stopped by for chat and candy, but mostly, I wrote and delivered my newsletter. The show was Grafitti Classics, again.
March 26, was our last day at sea, before Dubai. The desk was busier, as it always is the day after I deliver a letter. People actually sign up for things. Lynn and Alan are going to share a car for Livorno, with Michael and Gail, and follow us. Dolly stopped by to chat. She’s funny. She is homeless, and just has a container of stuff in Seattle. It’s mostly full of the presents HAL gives us.
I solved a few easy problems and stopped by Christel’s office, with a question. Christel has a new stripe. She’s now Guest Relations Director. There are no more dollars associated with it, just more responsibility.
It was a Saturday and Doc Gisella Schlosser and her SOB, Chas Stutz, were coming to dinner, so we invited them to Happy Hour, too. For once we could talk, with just the Healings, who are lovely, adding themselves. On to dinner: We has asked Tom Grindlay, Dining Room Manager, for a larger table as our table for eight is comfortable for seven, tight at eight, and downright cosy at nine. We ended up at a table downstairs, which is generous for twelve. We think Tom is playing with us. The dining room is half empty, but there are politics there, that even he does not like to engage in. We had a very nice time, but it was weird and uncomfortable. Marilyn and Stan said they would just go to Canaletto when we had more than one guest. I decided,enough, I was asking for a separate table to use for my DV people and crew guests, whom I wanted to introduce, anyway. Our table is very good this year, but I have a larger agenda.
The Fly Rights were back on stage with an all new show, and just as good as the last one.
March 27, we docked in Dubai, UAE, at 8:00 am. Elvon and I were more than ready for a good Lido breakfast of eggs Benedict. Before we left the cabin, the phone rang. One of my guests had a cap come off a tooth and he needed a dentist to glue it on. He didn’t want to pay $95 to have the doc take care of the referral. I don’t know anyone particular in Dubai, but I do know it is a center for all things medical, and there would be no problem finding a dentist. I told him to just take the shuttle to the mall and ask the helpful people at the information desk there. I think they work on Sundays, but, in any event, we are here for two days, and they will certainly work on Monday. His tooth picked a good place to surrender its cap.
The eggs Benedict were yummy, and we had our gym time. I wanted Elvon to just ride the hop-on, hop off bus for one complete circuit to see all the development in Dubai, as it is staggering. He would not do it. He was afraid to fall getting through the terminal. He had a point, as the floors were polished marble, but how did he know that? It’s time we got a light wheel chair. So, I figured I would just go use the Internet in the Mall today, and go out with Bobbie, tomorrow. So I put my computer in my back pack and made off to catch a shuttle.
The shuttle takes you to the Dubai Mall, part of the Burg Khalifa complex. It’s the tallest building in the world and one of the glitziest malls. The biggest difference from last year, is that there were a lot fewer women in full Arab cover, gabayah. Whether there was just a higher proportion of tourists, now that the novelty has worn off, or the local women were more insubordinate, I do not know. I fervently hope it’s the latter. My plan was to pick a good restaurant around the fountain, work for an hour or two, and order a substantial snack, while enjoying the fountain. My plan did not coincide with the restaurants’ plans. I found a good Chinese one “Le Feu”, part of the Paradise chain. It had decent Internet that you could use in the bar area, but not at the outdoor tables around the fountain.
I sat down in the bar and got to work. The Internet was pretty good, but there was no way the AOL Desktop was signing in. I fought it for a while, did what I could, and ordered a very yummy Szechuan shrimp conpoy. I packed up and went to the same yoghurt place in the mall, where I had accessed the Internet last year. It just used the Dubai Mall’s Internet, and, the later it got, the more congested the network. It worked, to an extent, but would not let the AOL Desktop sign on, either. Neither would the very good Internet in the terminal, when I got back, and Jan couldn’t get on in the Marriott, either. I checked last year’s diary, where I found the same report. It seems to be a funny form of censorship, either the UAE’s or AOL’s. I am not sure. What’s App and its brethren didn’t work, either. Note to self, next time try Armani Hotel attached to the mall.
Elvon and I went to dinner, at the table, and the Dubai Traditional Music & Dance show, complete with whirling dervish and belly dancers. It was very good.
Around 8:00 am, the next morning, Bobbie called to say she wasn’t feeling at all well, and wouldn’t be on the HOHO bus today. She wanted me to have her ticket and accompany her friend, Kathleen. I was sorry she wasn’t feeling well, but somewhat relieved that I wouldn’t have to produce a functioning AOL Desktop for her, because this wasn’t the place. I acquiesced readily.
Elvon and I had our lovely breakfast and gym time. I hustled him into a deck chair, and met with Bobbie and Kathleen at 10:30. Bobbie introduced us, gave me what I needed and went back to bed, poor thing. Kathleen and I headed off for the Big Bus. The bus advertized WiFi on board, so I figured I would get some work out of the way on the way to the Mall, where we would board a touring version. The WiFi was useless, it made the ship’s look good. After about five minutes, I gave up, choosing to save my battery for a decent connection.
Kathleen and Bobbie had done the old town route the day before, so she wanted to do the beach route this time. I had done all four routes last year, so it didn’t matter to me. The one we chose went through Jumierah, the medical settlement, cum upscale townhouse development, to the beach, past the World Islands, the Burg AlArab, where Sandy and I had the overpriced lunch, and the Palm Atlantis. One of these years, I will just get off at the Palm Atlantis, but you have to have a couple-three hours to allot to it. It’s that big. But it has interesting attractions, like swimming with the fish and sea mammals. Kathleen had her heart set on seeing the ski slope at the Mall of the Emirates, so we continued on. Another idea for next time is the Dr. Fish in Wild Wadi, at the same stop as the Bugh Al’Arab. See some interesting animals; get your toes nibbled, ahhhhh.
We got off at the Mall of the Emirates and followed the signs to the Ski Slope. We were stopped in our tracks by the admission booth. Of course, you would have to pay. How silly of us not to have foreseen this. Kathleen took some pictures for the grandkids. About half-way back towards the entrance, I got the bright idea that we should have taken the escalators up. There might have been a view of the slope form the third floor. But the stuffing was all out of Kathleen. She just wanted to go back and rest. We had a very expensive, very delicious, fancy French gelato, and called it a mall. Back at the Dubai Mall hub, Kathleen took the shuttle back to the ship and I got on the red line that went to the old city and the souk.
At the souk stop, I found the Blue Barjeel, a riverside restaurant, where I spent a couple of hours with a coke, a plate of deep-fried kibbeh, and good Internet. The AOL Desktop still could not log on, but I got quite a bit done, and I needed that. By the time I was done, the sun was starting to set, so I skipped the souk and got back on the HOHO. I was rewarded with this nice picture:
It turned out it was the last bus, and it ended one stop short of the Mall of Dubai. The taxi back to the ship cost me three times what it would have cost from the souk, another note for next time. Enjoy the expensive picture.
We weren’t sailing until 11:00 pm, so, after dinner, Elvon and I went up to the Sea View Bar, aft on deck 8, where there would be good reception. There I was able to speak to our bankers and text with Susan, because it was morning in California. We also enjoyed a very beautiful sail away. Dubai is pretty at night and the weather was perfect.