One last stop before home

To break our long trip home, we opt for a three-night package deal at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, Dubai, which we booked through Emirates (pay for two nights, get the third free). The package includes prestige car transfers, breakfasts and dinner or lunch vouchers to the value of about $65 each, per day. Although we arrive at our five-star hotel at the ungodly hour of 2.30am, we’re delighted to have a great view overlooking the marina, complete with luxury pleasure craft. What could be better than this?

After six weeks away from home, this is heaven on a stick. Basically, we chill out during our time, enjoying mid-to-high 30-degree temperatures. After the busy schedule of a cruise and coach tour, not having to be anywhere feels like a real treat. There are plenty of lounges at the poolside, on the grass and at the beach, so it’s just a case of picking our favourite and relaxing.

The service is excellent and we have hotel staff frequently coming around with ice-cold towels and drinks – but beware, tipping is expected each time!

As much as we enjoy lying around the hotel, it’s time to venture outside, so we venture on the monorail to the fabulous Atlantis, The Palm resort. This is home to the massive Dubai Mall, from where you can get a good view of the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa. Inside the Mall there are hundreds of boutique and jewellery shops. People-watching here is great – the Arab men stroll around in pairs, in their bright white outfits and headgear, their neatly trimmed designer stubble and latest iPhone in their hand (no pockets). Where do they keep their wallets? Just a guess – the wives have them in the jewellery shop or fancy boutique spending their hard-earned oil money.

Of course, what mall could possibly exist without an ice-skating rink, two waterfalls, a giant aquarium with massive windows  (I would guess 10m high and 50m long) and divers to feed the plethora of different fish, including giant stingrays and large sharks?

There was one thing that we wanted ticked off our bucket list – a high tea at the Burj El Arab (Skyview Lounge), the seven-star hotel that looks like a sail. There is a security boom gate 300m before the entry and two other checkpoints at the bottom and the top of the lift. The foyer to the hotel is jaw dropping, with escalators on each side of a cascading waterfall. These escalators would be boring if not for the sidewall aquariums to look at on your way up.

Look to the top and you will see where the inner sail ends, its apex about 20 stories above you. You have to book well in advance for this special occasion and it isn’t cheap at about $180 each – definitely a one off. I wanted to get window seats, so I said that we were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. Sadly it didn’t work, but they did acknowledge the event and gave Jenny a long-stem red rose and a small decorated cake with a happy anniversary plaque on it.

The event lasts two hours and the food keeps coming with our one glass of champagne (another would cost $60), accompanied by a delicate fruit tart. An appetiser of a slice of beef fillet with a mustard sauce follows and it doesn’t end there, as an array of gourmet sandwiches are brought to the table. It’s finished off with a rack of various cakes, scones, macaroons and dessert, washed down with coffee. Absolutely stuffed, we leave and treat ourselves to wonderful views of a spectacular sunset from the 27th floor. The afternoon has been very special indeed.

Our 14-hour flight home with a transit stop in Singapore is non eventful, albeit a full plane of passengers. But it has given us plenty of time to reflect on our wonderful journey, the places we have visited and the people we have met. We loved the cruise, and that might be our next focus, with some travel in France, Italy and the US tagged on.

Written by MaxWilliams