Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Cruising In the Red Sea

5/8/12 Hello Blog Readers from the Red Sea. Today we are docked in Safaga, Egypt which is our last port of call before 6 straight sea days and the end of our cruise May 15 in Dubai. It will be about 91 degrees here today, and we are staying on the ship. The main reason to be here is so cruisers can elect to take a shore excursion to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, which is 137 miles inland from here. In 2006, Elaine and I took a 5 or 6 day Nile cruise, which stopped at all the appropriate places to see antiquities such as these, so we don't feel the need to go back today. Safaga is also a place renown for good scuba diving in the Red Sea. In 2006 we stayed in Hurgada, 33 miles up the coast from here, and did a snorkeling trip in the Red Sea, which helped us realize that there is very good snorkeling and diving here. Previously we had snorkeled in Dahab, over on the Sinai peninsula, and that was a great place too. While we were docked here, a big ferry pulled in during the evening and there was total chaos while all the baggage and cargo was unloaded and piled all over the dock area. Then they entertained us by loading up hand carts REALLY high and one guy pushed them to the waiting vehicles. Here is a picture of part of it:
Yesterday we were in Aqaba, Jordan, so that people could visit Petra, one of the most outstanding places we have ever visited. Fabulous facades were carved into the sandstone cliffs by Nabateans many centuries ago. The various colorful rock strata add to the interest. It is an extensive site and was quite challenging for many people yesterday on their excursions because it was so hot. We heard rumors that there were several heart attacks and victims of heat exhaustion among the tour groups from the ship. Elaine and I stayed on the ship and had a delightful day working out in the gym and then relaxing in the shade on the deck with a nice breeze cooling us off in the 92 degree heat. Here is a picture of the port in Aqaba:
But the really great day was May 6, our 33rd anniversary. Our friends onboard sent a beautiful flower arrangement.
We had a chilled bottle of champagne which Sergio and Reuben had given us before they left the ship in Barcelona, so we chilled that and then shared it with Jack, David and Diane in the Wilson's stateroom where they have a balcony.
We sat out there drinking champagne, eating Bistro burgers, and watching the sights along the Suez Canal as our ship passed through. It was interesting and exciting - and memorable. The Suez Canal is about 100 miles long and unlike the Panama Canal, has no locks. It was partially dug by hand with Egyptian forced labor between 1859 and 1869. Once they removed enough sand, they were able to flood it so that they could float dredges and finish the job. It has been deepened and enlarged several times to allow for the bigger ships that have been built since the canal was opened. Because of various political intriques and also wars, especially the ones involving Israel, the canal has been closed at various times. Our ship is probably one of the bigger ones going through it and we had to go in a convoy with other ships, starting at about 2 AM on May 6 and finishing about 12 hours later. Here is what the canal looked like:
One bank (on the Sinai side) was very dry and undeveloped, with mostly just desert to be seen:
Occasionally there were small boats:
Along the other bank there was vegetation, farms, houses, and occasionally villages:
Here is one of the regular houses:
Here is one of the nicer houses, right along the banks of the canal:
Before entering the canal, our ship spent 1 1/2 days in Alexandria. This is a fairly large port, and large city, but it doesn't really have very many great sites of interest, and we had already seen them all in 2006. We went off the ship on the second day and browsed the vendor stalls that were set up alongside the ship dock. Then we walked over the bridge leading to the outside of the port but when we got to the gates and saw the mass of humanity waiting to "attack" us as we exited (taxi drivers, vendors, beggars), we changed our minds about walking around in the streets and returned to the ship. Here is a picture of the fort which we could see from the ship:
And this building in the port area:
Perhaps some more exciting days are coming up. On May 10 we will be entering the Gulf of Aiden, where some pirate activity has taken place in recent years. Our ship is unlikely to be attacked because we are so big and fast and there is a large security staff on the ship. There will also be 2 smaller and heavily armed patrol boats circling our ship while we pass through these waters. Additionally, from sunset to sunrise, all the ship's outside lights will be turned off and anyone with an outside room has to keep their balcony lights off and their room curtains shut. Tomorrow there will be a drill for all of us so we will know what to do if there is an attack. Probably there will no incidents but it is comforting to know that there are precautions in place and a heightened awareness. Some pictures will be added to these blog posts after we return the the USA on May 19.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Wow, I was so excited for you two on your 30th, having that fabulous experience in the Suez Canal. Was sitting here picturing your very large ship cruising thru where they have had to keep enlarging the waterway. Well, those images were so great of you two enjoying your anniv. on friends' balcony with champagne! Then came the description of the closed blinds and practice sessions in case of pirate attacks. What a roller coaster of a ride on one blog post!
Be safe and have more great adventures, Nancy and Jerry