Unforgettable view from the top

//Unforgettable view from the top

thetop.jpgFor the last full day of its week-long cruise in the Arabian Gulf, Brilliance of the Seas was back in Port Rashid, Abu Dhabi, tied up at the quayside with Costa Deliziosa and, by afternoon, Costa Luminosa.
Quite why the itineraries bring all three ships together at the same time, potentially straining the limited resources of the cruise terminal, I am not entirely sure. But it’s a bonanza for local tour buses and taxi drivers, with about 7,000 passengers all arriving at once, and another 7,000 coming in the next day to join a new cruise.
Dubai’s newest attraction is Burj Khalifa, at 828 metres (2,717 ft) the tallest skyscraper in the world, its observation platform on the 124th floor a venue to outdo by some distance the top of the Empire State Building, Seattle’s Space Needle, or London’s Telecom Tower.
It was something of a surprise to find that the only organised excursion from the ship to take passengers to the tower combined the visit with photo opportunities at two of the city’s landmark hotels, and a one-hour stop at the giant Mall of the Emirates – a shopping centre which boasts not only Harvey Nichols and Debenhams, but also the world’s largest indoor ski slope.
The fact that the tour did not leave the ship until 3.30 in the afternoon, and after a couple of hours found itself in the middle of rush-hour traffic, meant that our sightseeing and shopping was done at a sprint, and we were not scheduled to ascend the tower until well after dark.
First stop on the excursion was at Jumeirah Beach, where we were invited to leave the coach for 10 minutes to take pictures of the iconic Burj al Arab hotel. All well and good, except that from where we were standing the sun was directly above the building, making it impossible to frame a remotely passable photograph.
Next, to Palm Jumeirah and a stop at the Atlantis Hotel – where I stayed for two nights just a few days earlier.
Back on the bus and another drive through Dubai’s serpentine road system to be dropped off at the Mall with just one hour to make the most of the retail opportunities. Barely enough time to explore a fraction of its galleried shops – some of them offering genuine fashion bargains in the middle of Dubai’s annual shopping festival.
That’s without the time required to make a comfort stop, take pictures of the skiers, and examine the camel-milk chocolate. (No samples, so I wasn’t prepared to risk a fiver on a small bar). And to be honest, apart from the ski slope annex, there was little here that the keen shopper could not find at Westfield, Bluewater, the Trafford Centre or Meadowhall
Rush-hour had really kicked in by the time we were heading towards Downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa, so we were left with less than 10 minutes to search for souvenirs in the Souk al Bahar before we joined thousands of other visitors to watch a truly memorable, albeit brief, display of (the world’s largest, of course) dancing fountains in the 30-acre Burj Khalifa lake, to the accompaniment of Andrea Bocelli singing Con Te Partiro.
burj.jpgIt was not time for us to say goodbye, however, as – with a perfect crescent moon shining behind the tower – we did our best to follow our guide at a canter through the throng to the entrance desk and security screening for our timed trip to The Top.
We twisted and turned through marbled corridors, along travelators and up escalators before we were delivered to a queue for the lift doors, where screens displayed factoids about the building and its construction. Somehow, the information that the amount of concrete used was equivalent to the weight of 100,000 elephants did little to help envisage the quantity.
Then we were through the sliding doors and in just 60 seconds being whisked 452 metres (1,483 feet) skywards with barely a sensation of movement and only the mildest of ear-popping to accompany the ascent.
Out of the lift and through a revolving door, we stepped into the open air of a cool Dubai evening, the wisps of cloud that hung around us surely the product of a thousand gasps of astonishment.
Below, the streets and freeways and intersections and tower blocks of Dubai were laid out like a real-life version of Google Earth. We could even see our ship on the horizon – and I swear that even in the dark it was possible to discern the curvature of the earth.. Above, the rest of the tower soared another 376 metres (1,334 feet) to its summit.
Pictures were snatched, souvenirs were spurned, and all too soon it was time to return to our bus, where guide Maria told us the best time to visit the tower was sunset, in order to get the best of both worlds.
Which rather begged the question as to why the excursion had not been organised to take advantage.
My advice? If you’re visiting Dubai by cruise ship, a trip to the top is an absolute must. But instead of relying on the ship’s tours, book ahead at www.burjkhalifa.ae . Tickets cost 100 AED (£17) for adults and 75 (£12.60) AED for children aged four to 12. Don’t risk turning up without a ticket; when I was there it was sold out for the next three days, and in any case, the cost soars to 400 AED (£68). Taxis in Dubai are inexpensive, or you could combine the visit with a Big Bus Tour costing about £40.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:10+00:00 8 February 2011|Cruise Destinations|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Praveen Kumar 28 September 2013 at 5:16 am - Reply

    Wow how beautiful Dubai is! It is just mesmerizing and attracting lots of people towards it with its lavishing beauty and especially at night and from top view… Thanks for the share…

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