Chicago Sun-Times
With Lori Rackl

March 2009 Archives

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Things to do in Doha:

† The sweet scent of shisha (flavored waterpipes) wafts through the air at
the Souq Waqif, an old Arabic marketplace recently rebuilt in its original
style. People flock here at night to eat dinner and shop for spices,
jewelry, pashminas -- even Christmas ornaments. Head over to the falcon wing
to watch wealthy sheikhs pay upward of $2,000 for these status symbol birds
of prey.
† For some desert thrills, go "dune bashing." Gulf Adventures can take you
on a wild ride in a 4 x 4 over the steep sand dunes to the Inland Sea near
the Saudi border. People also can rent ATVs and spend the night in a Bedouin
camp in the desert; gulf-adventures.com.

The world's highest hotel -- the Park Hyatt Shanghai -- is toward the top of that skyscraper that looks like a giant bottle opener. Read more about it here.

It's a pretty cool experience staying that high up, especially when the views are of the Huangpu River and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and other Shanghai highlights. I loved watching the barges with big TV screens advertising various products sailing along the river.

Hotels are going to be in high demand in Shanghai next year when the city hosts the World Expo 2010. Any recommendations?

If you've ever wondered what it's like to work on a big cruise ship, pick up a copy of the book "Cruise Confidential: A Hit Below the Waterline: Where the Crew Lives, Eats, Wars, and Parties. One Crazy Year Working on Cruise Ships" by Brian David Bruns.

I couldn't put it down during a transatlantic crossing last fall on the Queen Mary 2.

Bruns worked for Carnival Cruise Lines for a year, making him the only American in Carnival's history to work a full contract in the ships' restaurants. That gives you a sense of how difficult and draining life on a ship can be. It can also be one giant party, which helps make it so draining.

If the behind-the-scenes part of a cruise interests you, Ruby Princess offers the Ultimate Ship Tour for $150 a person. You'll get an up close look at parts of the ship normally verboten to guests. My one complaint: I didn't get to see the crew's cabins. After reading Bruns' book, I was intrigued to say the least...

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