Arriving to Abu Dhabi and staying 1 night pre-cruise at the Anantara Hotel, just 20min from the port, was a great way to unwind and relax before embarkation. When we did board, it was immediately obvious the staff were going to be attentive on this cruise. We had a lovely champagne welcome, quick check-in and straight to our suite to see our luggage already waiting - a benefit of the small ship!
My first of many delicious meals was in the only restaurant on board, La Cucina. Here breakfast and lunch were served buffet style with dinner a varied à la carte menu including some locally inspired dishes. La Cucina has an open dining policy with tables of all sizes to share and my favourite spot was on the outside terrace which had sheltered areas so you could dine even while sailing which was lovely.
After dinner we sailed out for the first time and made our way to Sir Bani Yas Island in the UAE and popular call, however on this day we had the whole beach to ourselves including private cabanas and our own set up beach bar! Great for sea swimming, snorkelling and kayaking and, if preferred, you can take a jeep style safari to a local nature reserve.
Back on board we sailed away whilst the sunset enjoying a cocktail in the Sky Bar on deck 7, one of my favourite areas of the ship, a lovely place to meet new friends in the evening and a great outside area during the day with loungers and large hot tub.
We then arrived early the next day in Abu Dhabi, where I celebrated my 50th Birthday. From the moment I sat for breakfast until the moment I retired to bed in the evening I was treated as a princess. I had a champagne breakfast, senior officers passed on their wishes and for dinner had the best seat in the house, outside on the terrace again, with champagne and a birthday cake. The highlight of the day was the included city tour with a BBQ lunch at the amazing Emirates Palace hotel.
Then on to Telegraph Island near Khasab in Oman with a Lovely morning of scenic sailing through the fjord with bucks fizz offered on the Panoramic deck. After we had anchored the water toys came out including a trampoline, kayaks, snorkelling equipment and more, all reached via the watersports marina at the aft of the yacht.
Like Emerald River Cruises there is a daily briefing in the main lounge, here you can learn of the plans for the following day and ask any questions you may have. After dinner each evening there was always a little light entertainment including the resident singer or the cruise director hosting a quiz.
Emerald Azzurra also has a small yet lovely Elements Spa, with two treatment rooms and sauna, and a small gym and boutique shop. I also enjoyed the open bridge policy, a real treat especially when approaching Dubai.
It was in Dubai that our cruise ended after an overnight stay on board with time to explore independently or enjoy one of the included tours, something offered in each port. This is one of the several similarities with their river programme, another being that drinks are not included outside of meals, however drinks packages are available.