“Nanna, on holiday will you see a shark, a turtle and a dragon?”
On 28 May 2017 Neil and I set out on our 60th Birthday present to each other: a trip to Bali via Dubai including a cruise on the Star Clipper. Our first flight out was at 22:15 arriving in Dubai at 08:05. All went smoothly. The flight was very busy but I was successful in getting extra legroom seats at the (for this and our onward flight to Bali) and the flight was comfortable. We were staying at the Hilton Jumeriah Beach Hotel and by booking an executive room transfers, breakfast and afternoon tea were included in the package. All went smoothly and after our breakfast in the executive lounge we were able to access our rooms early. The facilities at the Hilton were excellent. The executive lounge where we had breakfast, afternoon tea and was open all day for soft drinks was comfortable. Our room was spacious and well appointed. We spent the day in the beach area. It was too hot to think of much else on that day (45+): it was warmer in the sea than on the land which was, quite frankly, weird but the pool was perfect. We booked an amphibious coach trip for the next day. A gentle promenade along the local sea-frontage made for a pleasant early evening walk to eat at Catch 22 on the promenade. We had a delicious meal seated outside in the warm evening air.
Next day was no less warn but the air-conditioned amphibious coach we picked up from the Italian Mall did a comprehensive tour of the area around the Dubai Mal and water front. We then spent a happy couple of hours in the Dubai Mall just looking! Everything is just soooo big. The Dubai Aquarium has one huge tank open onto the Mall and we saw huge sharks, turtles, rays and may other fish. We stayed to watch the dancing fountains and marvel at the Burj Khalifa before heading back to the hotel for a meal in at the Aprons and Hammers, a surf and turf restaurant we had espied the night before (and as the name indicates you get an apron to wear and hammer to eat with). A delicious surf and turf, then we headed back for an early flight out the next morning. We used local taxis to get between locations: they were easy to use and not expensive. I enjoyed my brief drop into Dubai, but have no real compunction to go back. It was spotless, big, brash and bold but the little we saw was enough for me.
Our flight from Dubai to Bali was again busy but the extra legroom seats helped and the flight was comfortable. Our transfers in Bali were once again part of our Hotel Package. We were staying at a tiny (7suites) boutique hotel in Seminyak called the Nyuh Bali Luxury Hotel. Warm towels and cold water awaited us in the transfer car and a coconut drink was waiting in our room. Our suite was beautiful with all amenities, including a lovely outside shower and in our own wall garden and a small swimming pool.
We chose to eat in the tiny restaurant but most guests seemed to eat in their suites. The breakfast was cooked to our own specification and delicious. Although the hotel offers free transfers with in Seminyak we decided to walk to Double Six beach that morning to meet up with a friend who now runs surf school (Santai Surf) with her husband. It was lovely to catch up with her and meet her husband. I bit the bullet and had a lesson and managed to stand up twice (though I fell over many many more times). The instructors were patient and thorough with their safety briefing and I felt very safe. . That night we met Henney and Gede for dinner at Sardines, a lovely restaurant in Seminyak with a paddy field in the background. The following day Henney had arranged for a friend who is a taxi tour guide to take us out for the day. We visited a weaving house, a wood carvers, and an art gallery (and nearly bought a painting – wish we had now.) We also went to a temple and to The Monkey Forest at Ubud.
Everywhere was so busy and we have never seen so many scooters! Many with multiple occupants and not all with crash helmets: at times we were surrounded 6 deep at least. We met Henney for dinner that night in Ultimos Wine bar and had another lovely meal.
The next morning we spent a couple of hours on the beach with Henney and Jessica before returning to the Hotel for our transfer to Benoa where we would pick up the Star Clipper. This is our fourth cruise with the company so we knew what to expect and were not disappointed.
I had chosen a cabin (504) that leads straight out on to rear sundeck which gave us slightly more floor space. It opened directly to the rear pool area and each morning I had this to myself while the ship woke up. We picked this cruise because the brochure said excellent snorkelling every day and we were not disappointed. Each day we moored up at a golden (one was pink) beach with warm clear seas. Tenders took us to the beach and we were then free to snorkel and swim to our hearts content. We saw a huge variety of fish in great quantities, .a myriad of colours shapes and sizes with coral of every hue and type. The water was mostly very very clear but visibility was always good and always easy to swim in. I even saw a turtle just swimming along in front of me and I was able to follow it for a good 10 minutes before it headed off in the deeper waters. I became a wrinkled prune every day and did very little sunbathing but it was worth it. We went from Benoa to Gili Kondo, to Komodo, to Satonda, to Gili Trawangan and Gili Meno to Gili Nangga and back to Benoa. At Komodo everyone on board was given the opportunity to visit the island for a guided tour. It was very well run and the guides were all islanders. Whether contrived or not the tour was good and we did see several Komodo dragons. The food on the Cruise was of its usual high standard.
Breakfast every day included a wide range of cooked food to cater for every taste. The themed lunches were delicious and the dinner menu every evening was copious and delicious. Add to that the afternoon tea served in the tropical bar, the pre-breakfast snack and the midnight snacks in the piano bar and food was nearly always available.
We had two more days in Bali before heading home. We returned to the Nyuh hotel and met up with Henney on the beach and for a final evening meal. We met up with Henney, Jessica and Aya ((Henny’s nanny) and a had a delicious local meal at Warung Nia in Kayu Aya Village. The next day we spent the morning on the beach and returned to the hotel for our transfer to Denspar. The free local transport service offered by the hotel was a real godsend and made getting to places in Bali at any time very easy.
Our flight back left Bali at midnight, arriving at Dubai at 5 am. Once again I was able to arrange extra legroom seats at the airport with no problem, useful as the flight was full. I had booked us treatments in the Spa on Concourse C and this set us up perfectly for the final leg of our journey home on Monday 12 June on the 11:30 from Dubai to Heathrow. I had again got the extra legroom seats but they proved to be unnecessary as there were about 50 passengers on an airbus 380. Apparently this flight is always very quiet and crew like to fly it but this was quite unusual and made for a very comfortable flight. We were quite impressed with Emirates and based on this experience, would happily fly with them again.
So back to our headline: did we see a shark, a turtle and a dragon? Yes Sam we did and so much more beside.