March 29, 2016

World Cruise 2016 Day 84

Day 84 – At Sea. We leave the Persian Gulf going back into the Arabian Sea headed towards Muscat, Oman. The air temperature this morning is 71, the humidity 92%, winds about 20 mph, and the seas relatively calm. We are creeping along at about 10 knots, not because of sea conditions, but because we don't have far to go and a day and a half to get there. The visibility is less than a mile. There is other ship traffic, but without radar eye sight I can't see any.

Our all aboard time was 9:30 last night. There were about a dozen passengers that were about 5 minutes late, and one departing passenger that left shortly thereafter. The crew started dismantling the ramps and rolling up the carpets when a delivery truck arrived. He had four large crates. No, they were too heavy to lift, a forklift would be needed. Over the next hour the cargo door was reopened, a forklift and operator summoned and the crates loaded on board. Fresh limes, I'm sure.

I don't know that anyone was missing, but the captain stayed on the pier until about 10 minutes before we departed at 11:00. The harbor pilot had been on board for 45 minutes. We departed promptly on time. Within minutes the skyline disappeared.

With a little more free time today, I'll share some additional tidbits about Dubai. My sources are primarily tour guides and other passengers so you can make your own judgment as to validity.

Most of modern Dubai has been built in the last 15 years. Everything is built to the extreme, everything in described only in superlative terms. It is impressive what can be done when money is not a consideration.

The Burj Al Arab hotel is not a 5 star hotel, they claim it is a 7 star, even though no such designation exists. I suppose with nightly room rates as high as 25,000 USD, they can claim as many stars as they want. Almost every other hotel is also claimed to be 5 star, even though a number of them are only partially completed on the inside because they are unable to fill them.

The airport is also claimed to be the busiest in the world, and they have plans to build a much larger one with ten runways that can be used simultaneously.

While the Burk Khalifa is claimed as the tallest building in the world, its observation deck is much smaller than many other tall buildings such as the Willis tower in Chicago or the Empire State Building in New York. Burk Khalifa probably could also claim it has the highest fee. The elevators are truly smooth and fast.

In the UAE most people fall into one of three categories. If you are a citizen, education, housing, medical coverage, and utilities are paid for by the government. Most citizens are multi millionaires, and all assets are kept within the family at death.

If you are a foreigner living in the country, you must be employed and have insurance. Medical insurance cost varies with age. Retirement insurance is a percentage of your income. You can either buy a home or rent. An apartment can be rented for about 1,000 USD per month, including utilities, in a "working class" neighborhood. If you become unemployed and don't find employment within a 30 day period, you most likely will be asked to leave the country. Retirement begins after 25 years of working. The retirement benefit is 50% of your last salary. There is no copay or deductible on medical coverages. The "insurance" covers all costs including prescriptions, hospitalizations, dental, eye care, and doctors.

If you are in the country as a visitor, and are injured in an accident or become ill, all medical care costs are 100% covered by the government.

There are no "taxes" in the UAE.

Low number license plates can be purchased by the highest bidder. I saw a land rover with plate # 5. Our guide estimated that the business owner probably paid 3 to 5 million USD for the privilege of having it.

The use of alcohol is generally prohibited, but "grape" and "hop" beverages can be purchased in some venues.

Traffic is heavy and there is quite a bit of congestion. While they have built massive shopping malls, parking space has become inadequate as the population grows and there are more and more cars.

The poor visibility that we experienced while we were here is the norm.

This morning Barbara gives her presentation on Salalah, Oman, our port of call on day 87. She was immediately followed by a new guest speaker, Timothy Runyan, who talks about the advances in SCUBA diving technology and the discoveries that have been made around the world as a result. He will be with us until Greece.

The entertainment tonight is a single actor performing an abbreviated version of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The combination of the subject, the accent of the actor, and the inability to hear 30% of what is spoken because he uses no mike and sometimes is faced away from the audience, encourages me to leave after 10 minutes.

I am taking the shuttle bus into town first thing in the morning, but not setting an alarm.