Royal Voyage 2015 Day 17: Ride Camel, Eat Camel

Here we go. The time has come. Our last stop on the Royal Voyage, Dubai. We had a horrible night sleep last night in anticipation for getting off the Explorer of the Seas and making our way for three nights in Dubai. We woke up at 6AM in anticipation of leaving the boat anywhere between 7:30 & 8AM. We did self carry, which means we were in charge of our own luggage. The departure was delayed a bit so we watched The Goldbergs (never had seen that before) before getting off the boat at a little before 8:30AM. 

If you've ever been a cruise you know departing can be somewhat of a nightmare. Often times you put your luggage out in front of your stateroom the night before, and pray to find your luggage when you depart. When we went on the Caribbean cruise two years back it was a two hour nightmare. Today was the easiest departure we've had. We grabbed our bags, took the elevator down and left the ship. We picked up our passports, went through customs/security, and were out. Totaled it took ten, maybe fifteen minutes to depart the ship.

We were immediately greeted by our driver from the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach. He escorted us to his 7 series BMW, gave us some cold towels and waters and we were off on our thirty minute journey from the cruise terminal to our hotel. Some early observations of Dubai at least from the drive in to our hotel. The city is massive and has an incredible aesthetic. The skyline of Dubai feels different then any other city skyline I've seen. There's also a ton (I mean everywhere you look) of construction happening. Giant master planned communities, amusement parks, sports stadiums, you name it they are building more. Our driver said they are building two hundred more five star hotels. A lot of this is in anticipation of the 2020 World Expo which you see signs for everywhere.

We got to our hotel a half hour later and were immediately greeted by a couple people from the hotel. They took our bags and whisked us away to check in. We got to the hotel a little after 9AM so our room wasn't ready. They took our bags and we walked around the gorgeous hotel. Our initial impressions were a cross between the St Regis Monarch Beach and the Grand Wailea. Stunning. We walked around the pool. Went to the beach and touched the 80+ degree water and walked around the property.

We got our room and marveled at one of the nicest rooms we've stayed in. Easily in our top five. We have gorgeous views of the marina skyline. A really nice upgrade over a cruise cabin. 

After we settled in, we went down to their beachside restaurant, Maui, for lunch. There are seven restaurants at our hotel. Jenn got a cheeseburger and I had a chicken tikka masala wrap. Both were actually really good. But given this is Dubai and we were eating outside we made it a rather abbreviated lunch. We took a short walk before returning to our room. Jenn took a quick hour nap after watching an old re-run of The Weakest Link, and I started uploading photos for old posts from our trip which I wasn't able to update on our cruise. 

At 3PM it was time for our big Dubai adventure, probably the thing Jenn and I were most excited to experience when we decided on this trip. A desert safari. We were picked up at our hotel and drove an hour outside of Dubai to the Dubai Desert Conservation. We had two families joining us on our excursion, one from Switzerland and the other from Germany. It was quite the mix. We all mostly kept to ourselves but it was a great group to do this adventure with. We made one stop on the drive in at a famous camel racing track to take in some of the beautiful camels that were being trained and then were whisked away to the desert.

Once we arrived we were given proper head attire for both men and women. We took a ton of photos in front of our 1950's Land Rovers that would be taking us on this adventure and were off. Because the others were two families of four, Jenn and I got the front seats. We made our way through the desert of Dubai. We stopped a couple of times for different photo opportunities as the sun began to set on Dubai. The sand was some of the softest sand I've ever felt. In fact it was recommended to just run around bare foot which is exactly what we did. We took more pictures today then any other day this trip. We acted like we were ten years old again running up and down the sand dunes and laughing while we did it. 

The off-roading and subsequent stops for photos, video, and even some history of the area lasted around an hour. Not only did we take a ton of photos but the company that put the tour on also had folks with DSLR's and drones taking photos and videos of the entire evening. 

When we made our second to last stop we were given cold towels to wash our hands and faces off from all the sand and then given sparkling cider. Remember Dubai for all its progressive ways it's still a Muslim country so alcohol is not something I've seen much of so far. We then got to sit on pillows and beautiful rugs to watch a twenty minute falcon demonstration in which basically the falcon got to eat dinner. Afterwards Jenn even got to hold the falcon. 

We then jumped back into our Land Rover for the last couple of minutes of our off-road adventure before being dropped off at their dinner We were taken in by our tour guide to their camp where we got to watch a traditional Dubai meal being prepared. Before we started our meal our entire group went out and road camels through the Dubai desert at night. As you can probably imagine besides the lights of the camp the rest of the desert at this point was pitch black. So riding a camel in that was actually a ton of fun. 

After our short camel ride we made our way back to eat our five course meal. We started with a Lentil soup which was really good. Then we had the salad course which had three different options of salad, as well as a cheese and meatball appetizer that I couldn't even begin to tell you what it was called, as well as some hummus. For our main entree round we were all brought over to the side of the camp where they prepared lamb in the tradition 24hr cooking method. They also had chicken skewers, two different rice options, and camel. We tried it all and enjoyed everything although the highlight was not the lamb, it was the camel. It was delicious. If I was to go back for seconds I would have gotten more camel.

After dinner Jenn got a henna tattooed on her arm and we got to watch both the traditional male and female dances. We finished off the night by enjoying the beautiful serene desert and trying some traditional Hookah. It wasn't something we were planning to do but when in Rome you do as the Romans do so Jenn and I decided to partake and actually quite enjoyed it. It was light and mellow. Not something I will do again but it was a nice way to close out a very traditional evening in Dubai. 

We made our way out of the camp a little after 9PM, purchased some pictures from our guide, and were taken back in our Land Rover and back in the bus to drop us off at our hotel. It was easily one of the best tours we've ever been on and easily one of the most fun as well. We've been excited for this evening the entire trip and it did nothing but exceed our already lofty expectations. We arrived back in our room exhausted, but excited for our last two days in Dubai.