A Travellerspoint blog

End of the Line

Say Hello to Southampton

Can’t believe how fast time as flown by, there is no way that was 35 days. Sad times to be leaving the boat, our newfound friends, cribbage an d table tennis partners, and home for the last month, not to mention 6 meals a day. It’s been a fantastic trip, and while it’s a bummer to end this part here, were stoked for the new adventures and excitement to come!

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Posted by itengoredhair 15:41 Archived in England Comments (0)

Formal Dinner

Last night on the ship :(

Last night and formal dinner on the ship, sad times.

Went up to the Crow's Nest Bar with Jerry and Anna for a last drink before hand, cant believe its all coming to an end.

On the plus side, though, take a look at "Hot Stuff" Simone, not too bad, eh? Amazing what a shower, bar of soap and a nice dress can do. Please tell her how great she looks, so we can encourage her to keep wearing dresses!

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Posted by itengoredhair 15:14 Comments (0)

Lisbon, Portugal

Last stop on the cruise, Oh Nos!

Our last official stop before permanently disembarking in England, so we had to make the most of it. We got up early enough to watch the sail into port, under a giant bridge, past a famous independence memorial and across from a giant statue of Jesus welcoming everyone with open arms. It was especially cool to see a submarine coming up the channel behind and passing right next to us before continuing on up stream.

After a quick bite to eat, we hit the town for a joint Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour and walking excursion. We hit all the main spots, and a few off the track, before grabbing a late lunch and beer or two. Lisbon is a really beautiful city with some amazing sights and areas for nearly any interest, made even more impressive by the disasters they have overcome and continued to rebuild up from.

Everything was great and a perfect last city to end the trip on, EXCEPT for a “MINOR” miscalculation of time and distance that nearly ended with us missing the boat. Oops! That would have been embarrassing… Long story short, we thought we were closer to the port than we were, and that we had plenty of time to walk (we didn’t), which resulted in us running a mile or two in flipflops and still being 10 minutes late.Fortunately, there ended up being too many people at the shuttle pick up point (too bad we didn’t know where that was…) and they had to send another, which arrived just a few minutes after we did.

Once back on the boat, we went up to the top deck to join the sail away party and bid goodbye to our last port of call.

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Posted by itengoredhair 15:34 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Happy Easter!!

Another beautiful day on the Mediterranean, and crossing through the Straits of Gibraltar

Happy Easter!

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Posted by itengoredhair 14:58 Comments (0)

Athens

Athens was fantastic, so much history and ancient Greek buildings, plus fantastic food and ruins.

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Posted by itengoredhair 14:57 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Bad News Bombings and the Dardanelle Straits

Huge Bummer!!! We awoke this morning to the engines starting and the Captain making a disheartening announcement that we were leaving Istanbul due to safety concerns. With all crew members and passengers on the ship in the early morning, he decided it best we leave. Turns out there was a political protest bombing on an agriculture ministry office, which was intentionally set to send a message, but not harm anyone, in which it was effective.

Istanbul is a huge is massive city, there is soooo much to see and do, it’s impossible to see it all in one day, so we were really counting on the extra half day to send some postcards and see a few other things, but what can you do? This is one city and country I definitely plan to come back to, so I’m not too worried.

On the positive side, we got to cross the Dardanelle Straits in daylight and see the war memorials and narrow channel of the Straits. I also found a bunch of settings on the camera, so have a lot of random pictures of Sim1 in different modes. Enjoy!

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Posted by itengoredhair 14:56 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul, Turkey

Out of Asia, into Europe... then back to Asia... then back to Europe

Istanbul is definitely the highlight city of the cruise for me, the city that I’m most excited about seeing. Not only interesting for the fact that the city itself is bisected by the Bosphorus Straits, which connect the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Seas, thereby dividing the city on both the European and Asian continents, but also for the incredible role it has played in history. Oh yeah, and they practically invented the Turkish Kebab here, too, so that’s also a BIG plus.

As expected, the city certainly didn’t let us down. Off the ship, we grabbed the first Hop-On, Hop-Off bus we found outside, which is a great deal being that it is a full 24 hour pass and we will have tomorrow morning as well. Sitting on the open deck up top offered some spectacular views, particularly as we crossed the bridge between the European and Asian continents, but the wind was really cold (see the bundled up picture below).

After cruising around for a bit and taking in the tour, we disembarked to see some of the main highlights; walking in the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and many others. One of the more interesting and impressive sights was the Basilica Cistern, which was built 1500 years ago and was able to store and provide freshwater to the city year round.
Early in the afternoon we had our obligatory kebab (basically a “Middle Eastern burrito”), but weren’t impressed. Turns out we tried the wrong street café, or the original just isn’t always the best. After a disappointing kebab in Dubai as well, I’ll take a Swiss or Singapore-made kebab over the “authentic” ones in the Middle East any day.

Dinner was substantially better though, and definitely did not disappoint. After a long day of sightseeing with Owen and Edel, we were all ready for a big local spread and stumbled on a perfect, quaint little restaurant up a hidden side street. They laid out a fantastic spread of various local favorites, paired with the perfect bottle (or three) of Turkish wine, and a live music performance by a group of 5 older gentlemen to set the ambiance and serenade the diners (all locals, so it seemed really authentic). Unfortunately, they also had and excitedly offered us the local alcohol, Raki. Despite not being able to stand licorice and anise flavored things, I keep an open mind and take the proffered glass. Owen and I each down it and luckily don’t have to try lie outright when I tell the waiter and servers (gathered around to watch us drink it for the first time) “its good!” Though I definitely wouldn’t go out of my way to drink it again, it was certainly better than I expected.

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Posted by itengoredhair 14:55 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Izmir, Turkey - Ancient Ruins of Ephesus

Marble Public Toilets and Brothels across from the Library (with an underground tunnel)

Only a half day in Izmir and, though we would’ve liked to have more time to see the port and downtown, we did hop on a bus up to the ancient ruins of Ephesus, which was a great decision. See for yourself, beautiful ruins and good times had by all.
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Posted by itengoredhair 07:05 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

More Meals

like we needed an excuse for another one..

I know it’s April Fool’s Day, but this is completely serious; despite having been on the ship for nearly a month now, we have only just recently discovered a whole other set of meals on the boat: Afternoon Tea. Initially having written it off as a silly English thing, it wasn’t until a few days ago that we decided to indulge Owen’s English Heritage and join him for Afternoon Tea. It was greater than we could’ve imagined and, since it’s an English ship, they do it full out. So first off, there are three different options; 3-4pm Informal Afternoon Tea (help yourself buffet), 4-5pm Formal Afternoon Tea and 5-6pm is Kids’ tea time (loose phrase, I’m sure we could join).

The Formal Afternoon Tea is what we first opted for, down in one of the main restaurants. Once escorted to a table, the waiters come around to fill your cups with tea, drop off a stack of pastries (cookies, éclairs and pastries) and provide large bowls of clotted cream. They come back a few minutes later to take your hot crumpet order, and ensure that more waiters come by laden with scones and sandwiches (that have had the crust sliced off the bread) to drop off. Heaven forbid you get bored or hungry before the crumpets arrive. This was my first experience with crumpets and let me tell you, they were surprisingly delicious, I would even go so far as to say I’m a fan. As far as I can tell, it’s a successful cross between the English Muffin and the pancake, having taken the best attributes from each; soft consistency and hint of the sweetness of a pancake with the unique flavor of an English Muffin. Game-Changer, that one.

We later tried the buffet Afternoon Tea, but since it had everything but the crumpets, there wasn’t too much reason to go back there instead of the formal one.
Sorry, we were always too busy eating to take any pictures…

Posted by itengoredhair 07:03 Comments (0)

Limassol, Cyprus

Go there to eat, seriously, awesome local food

After a marathon of new cities these last few days, we decided to Limassol fairly easy and relaxed, which still ended up being a fantastic day. After a slower start from the ship, we had a long walk along the beach taking in the sights and sounds, and even taking a turn or two on the swings. It’s a super relaxed town, at least this time of year, with perfect weather and great people. After a few hours walking through the town, we sat down for an INCREDIBLE local lunch at an outdoor cafe. We obviously went for the chef recommendation of the super sampler platter of hot and cold mezzes (sausages, breads, dips, hummuses, yogurts, chicken wings, and all kinds of other stuff). I’m pretty sure the table was fully set and cleared three different times, all with different and delicious items. We sat there for an hour or two, enjoying the sunshine and perfect weather (and beer or two), next to a table of friendly, older locals.

Too full of food to move much, we wandered downhill for a nap outside of a small castle, and eventually made it back to the ship. Quite a day, and just what we needed.

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Posted by itengoredhair 05:58 Archived in Cyprus Comments (0)

Suez, Cairo, the pyramids and Port Said

This started out as probably the worst day of the cruise, but only because we had to walk up so early. Honestly, I can’t think of anything good about being awake at 3am, it should be outlawed. In this case though, after being mustered onto the small tender boats and driven 30 minutes along Suez, dodging freighters, we made land again and hopped on the bus, for a much needed nap on the way to Cairo. I don’t know how far it was because, typical of me, I was asleep most of it, but the little I did see before they dropped us off to a buffet breakfast at the Hilton was incredibly dirty. Turns out this was foreshadowing for the rest of the day and I’ll say it once to get it out of the way; Cairo is one of the filthiest cities I have ever seen, worse even than the beaches of Santo Domingo (and THAT is saying something). Seriously, there were times where the 2 lane highway cut down to one because one of the lanes (especially in the curves) was completely over-ridden with garbage and filth. Depressing to see, for sure, especially given the spectacular view of the pyramids in the background.

After breakfast we cruised up to the Giza plateau for the Giza Pyramids, Sphinx and Solar Boat for a few hours of photo ops and walking around. Later on after lunch and a papyrus museum, we continued on to the Nile for a cruise up the Nile (and of course an Egyptian beer, after our dry spell in the Middle East).

Like Sri Lanka, we had an armed escort of police cars for our bus convoy (see photo below), as well as an armed off duty copy in the bus with us, though it was mostly for show (and for some people to get bribed, I’m sure, though better safe than sorry, I guess).

So, in order to see the pyramids, we had to miss the 13 hour transit of the Aurora up the Suez Canal, so after Cairo, we started on the long bus ride up to Port Said, the other end of the canal, to get back on the boat. Somehow we ended up like 3 hours late (though we were on schedule the entire time, so who knows), and unfortunately missed walking around Port Said, but the quick drive through was interesting and seemed like a cool place to go back to (if we are in the area again).

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Posted by itengoredhair 05:27 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Sharm El Sheik, Egypt

Back on land... then back on a boat

So, after 5 days at sea, we woke up to find ourselves in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, renowned by Europeans for it’s “Spring Break” atmosphere and, apparently, an amazing scuba diving and snorkeling spot. Being early April, it’s a bit early for the party scene, so it was fairly quiet. Instead of taking a snorkeling trip with the boat, we opted to be a bit more adventurous and go find a dive shop and see if we could hop onto a dive boat. After a bit of walking around, learning a few important points and overcoming a few problems (no atm card, for one, and one shop not taking credit card, for another), we managed to talk our way onto a dive boat tour headed out about five minutes later. It’s a good thing Simone had her Advanced Scuba card and they were so rushed to get us in the car to the port, because in Egypt you have to prove you have had a dive in the last 6 months, or you need to pay for a “skills check dive”, which is the most ridiculous scam we ran into. This one check dive was more expensive than the two dives we signed up for, and wouldn’t have been an additional dive, but 60 seconds with the dive master on the first dive. Complete extortion. Anyway, not having dive books with us (or bothering to keep them up to date anyway), meant we had no proof with us of having dove in the last 6 months (not that we had anyway), but with the coaches pulling out and being so rushed, they gave in and didn’t charge us for the check dive. It was a bit risky, considering we only had a vague promise to be back in time before our cruise ship left, but we figured if worse came to worse, the dive boat could pull up next to the ship and let us off (or so we liked to think). So, within 5 minutes of stepping in the shop, we signed some waivers, paid and were out the door, to the port. The port was the most amazingly efficient (and massive) assembly line of tourism I have ever seen, it was amazing. There must have been 100 boats all being prepped and loaded with food, scuba and snorkeling equipment and masses of people (between 20-40 tourists per boat, plus 5-8 crew). Within 30 minutes (our boat was moving out in 20), all 4000+ people had been metal detected and walked in group to their respective boats, loaded up and launched. If only LAX security was half as efficient…

So, we had a nice boat ride over to the Ras Mohamed Nature reserve for two great dives, a delicious local lunch, and afternoon of lounging around on the boat, and made it back to the Aurora with 15 minutes to spare.

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Posted by itengoredhair 05:00 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Table Tennis Tourney and Typical Sea Days

Vacationing can be tough work…

Jerry is an avid Ping Pong player, at least on the ship, and has been chided us to join the daily table tennis tournaments with him. So, a week or so ago I decided to join and was blown away (literally and figuratively) by the skill of most of the people playing. A few of these people, barely able to walk up unassisted to the table, and looking incapable of even lifting the paddle, gain completely new energy and life when it comes to Ping Pong. I consider myself a decent enough player, especially after the first year in Singapore where the only furniture we had was a ping pong table in the living room, but I was barely middle of the pack (on a good day) against these guys. Quite a humbling experience, though much better given the fact that it is a doubles tournament and I am occasionally paired with a great player. It is actually a great group of people and fun time. It would be great to go to both daily tournaments, but because of the 11am time slot conflicting with Cribbage, I typically can only make it to the 4pm match. Most days Simone and I swing by the tables at some point and hit the ball around for a bit, though the extra practice hasn’t helped my game as much as I would have hoped

Anyway, our typical days at sea usual run like this;
(sometimes) 9am Breakfast appetizer at one of the formal restaurants
10am breakfast at the buffet
11am cribbage
1pm 2 course, formal sit down lunch [Sim1 with menu below] (or outdoor bbq Buffet at the pool)
2-4pm reading and/or afternoon nap
4pm – table tennis tournament (or sometimes formal afternoon tea)
5-6 – more table tennis or the gym
630 – Room Service Appetizer; Pizza (see below), then shower and change
830 – 11pm - Formal dinner, then bed

As you can see, it’s a busy, busy day. Vacationing can be hard work….
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Posted by itengoredhair 06:57 Comments (0)

Going back in time is awesome

Sailing west is the best invention ever. Nearly every other night up to Oman, we had an extra 30 minutes or an hour of sleep as we go back towards to GMT. As if it wasn’t great enough having a pitch black room to sleep as much as we want anyway, we get more sleep on top. SCORE!!

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Posted by itengoredhair 06:36 Comments (0)

Pirates, ARRRGGGG!!!

So, from the time we left Sri Lanka, until we arrive in Sharm El Sheik, we are technically in “pirate waters” and subject to special “Pirate Precautions”. The Captain keeps warning us not to be misled and for the ladies to stop getting excited and prettying themselves up in anticipation. He assures us Johnny Depp will not be scaling the side of the boat. Anyway, the first safety measure was picking up heavily-armed guards or military personnel, or so they tell us, just in case pirates get on board. Next, from sunset to sunrise, we aren’t allowed on the level 7 promenade deck (see picture below, where you can walk outdoors around the ship there). On top of that, there are crew watchmen standing there 24/7 (with night vision goggles at night). The cool thing with these guards is that they are armed with super-frequency loudspeakers, the sound of which can be so highly focused that is inaudible outside of the “sound-ray”. Apparently it can be tuned high enough to rupture ear drums if they get close enough, and has a dozen or so warnings that can be broadcast in over 40 languages.

There’s also been a guest speaker from the Royal Navy who was heading the British fleet in the area for ensuring shipping lanes and he gave some very interesting presentations on the pirate’s techniques, strategies and international state of affairs. It was all very interesting and great to get some first person perspective and his experiences. Ultimately, he says that cruise ships are too fast, with decks to high and too many personnel to be a good target, not that we are worried.

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Posted by itengoredhair 06:28 Comments (0)

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