Touring the UAE

If I’ve said it once I’ve thought it a million times.  Ship time (aka “circus time”) is absolutely bizarre.  I feel like it’s been decades since I last posted, and yet it feels like only hours ago.  Time seems to fly by and yet last forever.  I get so much done and then there time to spare, yet I can never manage certain small tasks.  It’s living in an entirely different way.  So strange!

So the last week was our voyage between Dubai and Dubai, by way of Abu Dhabi, Khasab, Muscat and Doha.  Because this voyage was so short in comparison to our first (17 days, Athens to Dubai), we had much less time to put up all our shows and also meet all the guests.

Our theater, the "Parisian Lounge"

But the experience of our first cruise entirely prepared us for the next, and I think we really pulled it out for a great series of shows.  We were extremely motivated by the fact we received our first set of customer ratings, and they were the HIGHEST the ship had EVERRRRRR received for the singer/dancer entertainers!  Yes, the extras “RRR’s” were necessary to help emphasize our absolute joy at this truth.  We let energy propel us forward, and I truly feel that our second cruise had much better shows than the first, as well as more positive social interaction with the guests.  It’s really strange that in just seven days you can get to know some of this people as new friends, then you have to abruptly say goodbye and start all over again.  I met some really fantastic people on this last cruise, and they made a tremendously positive impact on me and my current outlook on performance.  So many genuine people: the New York couple (B and L) that offered to meet up when I’m back in the city; the hilarious Chicago couple (B and P) that kept us laughing with them at some hilarious moments; the lovely W who was perplexed by the color of my eyes; A and J who were celebrating J’s 80th birthday and asked the ship’s captain over dinner to give me a raise (!); and the nineteen Norwegians who kept their blonde/white heads bobbing from the front row during all our shows.  And we even have a few single cruisers who are continuing on to the Seychelles: L from Texas who has the loudest but most honest sense of fun and adventure, and D who is a lovely conversationalist with great advice on sightseeing.  All these people, and so many more that I didn’t name, opened themselves up to honest interaction with myself and the other artists, and really make this experience what it is.

The ladies of the Silver Wind - in colors for National Day in the UAE!

That’s not to say I haven’t been taking advantage of what’s to offer outside the ship.  This last voyage was a great tour around the United Arab Emirates and surrounding areas.  After we left Dubai last week, we sailed for Abu Dhabi, and I was able to actually get off the ship and enjoy some sight-seeing.  We were insanely lucky to get off (as crew members) when we did, because apparently the crew that tried to get off later in the day were unable to leave the ship!  I headed into the city with some of the other cast and a guest lecturer/artist from Jordan who knows all about Arabic art.  We arranged with a taxi driver to take us to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and upon arrival, we were blown away by the beauty of the architecture.  I truly had not expected such a grand and beautiful building!  We, along with thousands of other visiting females, were asked to put on long black gowns and head scarves, removed our shoes, and toured around the grounds of the mosque.  A tour guide asked us to join in her tour, so we haphazardly arrived in the middle of an interesting lecture on the mosque.  The art and design was so truly beautiful and inspiring.  I really loved it most because the designs that were featured were primarily floral, rather than depicting portraits or text as in so many other religious institutions.  The beauty in this place was so connected to nature – absolutely gorgeous.  After visiting the mosque, we went to the main mall in town, and well.. I do have to say that malls in the UAE rival malls of the American Southwest.  Air-conditioned shopping in desert-like conditions just makes sense, right people?

At the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Bare feet required

Our next port visit was to Khasab, Oman, which really didn’t have much to offer unless you arranged a private tour of the mountains and forts.  Instead, I headed into port with Krystle and Kathleen, convinced we could create a fun day in this small seaside village, but… nope.  There’s nothing there.  I did get some great pictures of the mountains as we left the port, however.  The views from the ship as we set sail are like nothing I’ve ever seen.  So completely breath-taking.

Looking back at Khasab, Oman

Our next port was a return to Muscat, Oman.  As I was assigned to IPM that day, I was unable to get off the ship and instead enjoyed some gym-action and sun-tanning.  I’m starting to realize that I need to treat the entire ship more like my own home.  I discovered last week that my favorite part of the ship is unquestionably the “observation lounge” – basically the very top deck on the front of the ship.  No one is ever really up there, there are windows surrounding the room, a telescope for gazing into the distance, board games for play, travel books for reading, hot coffee, and PEACE AND QUIET.  I’ve taken to sitting up there with my iPad to read books and get my caffeine on.  It’s a lovely place for thinking and relaxing.

Muscat, Oman

After leaving Muscat, we headed back through the Persian Gulf to the small country of Qatar.  We ported in the main city, Doha, but didn’t leave the ship as it would have cost each of us $44 to pay our Visa.  No thanks, Qatar.  I actually was very intriqued by the beautiful city skyline and the fact it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, but I simply couldn’t part with my $44, especially on a Friday afternoon (holy day and everything is closed).  But I enjoyed Qatar from the deck of the ship, practiced guitar into the sunset, and snapped some nice pictures for all you lovely folks.

Doha, Qatar
Sunset from back deck on the ship, looking out at Doha

Leaving Qatar, we sailed back to beautiful Dubai and arrived early Saturday morning.  After closing a very successful run of shows on Friday night, I was ready for an adventure on foot!  Peter, Kathleen and I shared a cab with our new friends from NYC (B and L) and went to the Dubai Mall.  I managed to not spend much money at all, just picking up a few essentials.  From there, we visited the Madinat Jumeirah (upon recommendation from the MAC make-up store in the Dubai Mall) and had some lunch at Trader Vic’s.  Kathleen then left to visit the beach and Peter and I went to the Mall of Emirates to go skiing and snowboarding at Ski Dubai.  That’s right.  Skiing.  In a mall.

This deserves its own paragraph actually.  So here’s how Ski Dubai works.  You give them $50.  They give you snowpants, a jacket, ski boots (or snowboard), skis and poles.  And a pass that’s good for two hours on the lift.  The lift is unbelievably slow and takes you to the top of the INDOOR ski run.  It took me a few runs to get back into the hang of skiing, but by the third or fourth time I was totally enjoying it!  By the fifth or sixth time, Peter and I were over it and stopped.  Something about sitting on the lift for five minutes without gloves and then zooming down a hill in about 20 seconds that just doesn’t make much sense.

After we warmed up, we got our real cardio in by taking advantage of all the mall had to offer!  I officially found my new favorite clothing store, a Turkish place called Koton.  Unfortunately, there aren’t too many world locations, so I don’t get to go there again until we are in Istanbul next spring.  By then I’ll actually have money to spend and might even just buy a new wardrobe to ship back to NYC.  This place was seriously amazing.  The people in New York would go ape-shit crazy over these clothes.  But all good things (or shopping trips) must come to an end, and so Peter and I bid adieu to our lovely mall (did I mention that it had a SHAKE SHACK?) and hired a taxi to take us to the Emirates Tower for a final cocktail at a place called Vu.  It was a great day, and it was lovely to make the most of our free time and see the sights.  Who knows who often we will have the luxury of an entire day off?

Shake Shack Dubai!

This morning, I was up early for a new embarkation day.  200+ people have now boarded the ship and are anxiously awaiting our departure toward Fujairah, UAE.  Our final port on this voyage is Mahe, Seychelles.  Check out the itinerary:

Dec 05   Fujairah, UAE
Dec 06   Muscat, Oman
Dec 07   Day at Sea
Dec 08   Day at Sea
Dec 09   Mumbai, India
Dec 10   Day at Sea
Dec 11   Cochin, India
Dec 12   Day at Sea
Dec 13   Colombo, Sri Lanka
Dec 14   Day at Sea
Dec 15   Male, Maldives
Dec 16   Day at Sea
Dec 17   Day at Sea
Dec 18   Curieuse, Seychelles
Dec 19   Curieuse, Seychelles
La Digue, Seychelles
Praslin, Seychelles
Dec 20   Praslin, Seychelles
Mahe, Seychelles
Dec 21   Mahe, Seychelles

I’m absolutely looking forward to our visit in the Seychelles.  I think right now the biggest thing on my mind is hitting the gym so I look good on the beach!  Okay, off now to head back towards the ship for our safety drill and welcome to the new guests.

It starts all over again.