On the way home

Cruise brochureSunday 14 April

It is Sarah’s 40th today but we can’t get through to her on the emails or internet. It is foggy all day so we can’t see a thing outside and even any phone reception is poor.

IMG_8498
One of the few ships seen on our way to Southampton.

Our immigration into the UK is dealt with on board which in many respects speeds up the process and must be a nice job for the immigration staff who have had to fly out to Cadiz to travel back on the cruise for 3 days.  However, there are long queues to go through immigration.

A talk with Captain (Luke Vojvodina from Dubrovnik) from entertainment manager, Emma and evening entertainment from Jon Culshaw whose show was the first time he had been on a P &O ship.

Sal told not to go out and to totally rest tonight so no dressing up in dress suits for our last but one night.

Monday 15 April

Not foggy today but rougher and wetter with a very few vessels seen on our passage to Southampton.

IMG_1531
Passenger’s Choir performing on Arcadia

Another two doctor’s visits but do get out to Breakfast, lunch with Brenda & Mick and I managed to get to see the Arcadia vocalists who performed on the main stage.

Pack all our things as we are off tomorrow, so suitcases outside by 6pm tonight, just hand luggage for the last night.

I shan’t be sorry to say goodbye to our cabin attendant, he was a little miserable and not particularly friendly.

Tuesday 16 April

The Medical staff have been brilliant and even managed to find us a wheelchair to get off the ship. Flic meets us and we head off to Gatwick for our flight home after lunch at a garden centre – Wyevale, Chichester.

It is so nice to see them and of course Cody is delighted to see us.  Off to Gatwick, somewhat early for our flight but Flic and Cody stay with us for some time, Cody enjoying the ride on the Gatwick shuttle.

Our plane is on time, or would have been had a bird not struck it on the way in causing many £thousand’s of damage but a new plane was found by Easyjet very quickly.

The cruise wasn’t the best of experiences bearing in mind our various ailments but I think we made the most of the destinations / ports of call some of which it would be nice to return to (Australia, Singapore, Oman) but others equally as fascinating but not necessarily worth a return visit (Mumbai, Dubai).

I don’t think we will be doing another long cruise again though, just shorter ones in the future.

What’s next? Well, you will just have to wait and see.

The Cruise has finished
The Cruise has finished
Advertisements

Cadiz

IMG_8453
Early morning Cadiz

Whilst we arrive early we have another doctor’s visit but after that, Sal comes with me so that she can say she has set foot on Spanish soil.

Internet not bad at the port but we are not able to speak with Sarah as she is doing lifesaving assessments, Flic is in an interview with a client and Mel who is in transit between home and Jersey. So we assume all is as well as can be expected then.

IMG_8480
Flowers in the Iglesia de San Agustin
IMG_8463
Narrow Cadiz streets

We do manage to download all outstanding emails and whilst Sal returns to the ship for a rest, I set out again to explore Cadiz.

Unfortunately, I only manage a couple of hours walk with a stop for a coffee and a visit to a supermarket for some essentials as we have an early departure from Cadiz.

The city has many narrow streets with low rise buildings, 3 floors max, with the thin old fashioned shops extending back some way mixed in with modern fashionable clothes shops – at least that is where some of the younger female members of the crew seemed to be heading.

From a distance many of the paths look wet but up close you can see that it is just the stone that has been the subject of many feet tramping on them that has made them shiny.

The square was fascinating as was the church which had many preparations for Easter week in full flow including masses of red flowers.

Manage to take a few pictures and videos to show Sal back at the ship to give her a flavour of the place – we must come back in healthier times but let us hope that the queues to get back onto the ship are not as long post Brexit – if that ever happens!

Now for the sail across the Bay of Biscay to our final destination, Southampton, UK.

IMG_1528
Sailing out of Cadiz

Across the Med.

IMG_1506
Sally, sampling P & O’s steamed pudding

Tuesday 9 April

A very quiet day, starting with Breakfast in our room. The temperature is a cool 17C with a strong wind so no sunbathers out today.

IMG_1508
Duo Sencias

Tonight we were entertained by Duo Esencias, a Spanish flamingo dancer and a violinist.

Both were very good although one guy said his sister in law could do better – so rude. We thought they were very good.

Wednesday 10 April

Not a good day, Sal’s cold has turned into a virus and she is confined to our cabin for rest for most of the day only venturing up to the cafe.

My coughing has resulted in back ache but at least I can move around the ship.

We both miss the Captain’s cocktail party and another showing of the Headliners with their circus show.

Thursday 11 April  – would have been my Mum’s 100th.

We pass Sicily on our Starboard side just after dawn and with breakfast in our room again, we are possibly set for another lazy day.

IMG_1509a
Sicily on the horizon

The temperature is now down to 14C and Brexit is now scheduled for 31 October.

We had thought that by the time we got back from the cruise, all the Brexit talk would be over and we wouldn’t have to listen to rubbish claims and talks by politicians and journalists alike but, no, we have another 6 months of it!

Sal still not well, spends all day on or in bed with cabin steward threatening to report the fact he can’t get in to clean the room all day ( + last night ).

Have to postpone dinner with Dave and Sandra to Saturday night.

Go to see Headliners and Ken Joy’s talk on comedians as well as John Courtney, comedian / piano player.

Friday 12 April

IMG_1510
A cake for the birthday ship

Today is Arcadia’s 14th birthday with a special cake being made by the chef to celebrate.

More celebrations of a kind as the passengers who have joined in the art classes during the voyage display what they have been working on during the cruise and I must say there is an excellent standard.

IMG_1511
Art exhibition

On every floor, outside of each mid ships lift shat there are statues in little alcoves which I suppose are an aide to ensure you turn the right way out of the lift – at least that worked for me, most times.

IMG_1513
Our floor’s statues

We visit the on board Doctor again who confirms Sal has a virus and prescribes a dose of staying in the cabin, plenty of water and rest.

Another talk by Ken Joy but today mainly confined to our cabin except for food and drink.

Spain is sighted at about 5pm and we follow it for the rest of the evening with dusk at about 10:15pm ship’s time. Clocks back tonight to European time.

Dinner with Brenda & Mick but not for Sal who still has the virus – let’s hope she is OK for Cadiz tomorrow.

IMG_1515
Sunset over Southern Spain

Sea of Galilee

IMG_8435a
River Jordan at Yardenit

Monday 8 April

Our itinerary had originally allowed for a stop in Limassol, Cyprus but even before the ship had set sail earlier in the year, this was replaced by a 2nd day in Israel and it was a very worthwhile extra.

Another early start, not quite as early as yesterday though, and we are off North East in great weather towards the Sea of Galilee which, we are told, is 212 metres below Sea Level.

IMG_1489
Israeli Navy at work

Not, however, before we see some activity from the Israeli Navy.

Again, as with many tourist destinations in Egypt it is all about remembering the name from your religious education in School and putting a physical destination to the names.

We are now both suffering with the effects of my cold but this is a little walking tour so we will benefit from lack of exertion.

The drive out of Haifa is in a more built up part of the suburbs of Haifa which itself is a fascinating place which appears to be well served by public transport and has a very steep garden to explore – if only we had time.

IMG_8450
One of the frequent trains that stopped at Haifa port

Our guide (not as good as yesterday’s guide, sadly, gives us a potted history of the Sea of Galilee area which is just under the Golan Heights which was the subject of an Israeli annexation from Syria in the 1967 conflict but is now a peaceful border, perhaps because Syria has other things on it’s mind!

IMG_8395
Church of the Beatitudes

Our tour is to see some of the religious sights around the Sea of Galilee and our first stop is at the Church of the Beatitudes a Catholic Church near near Tabgha and Capernaum and near the location of the Sermon on the Mount.

Inside, there are mosaic symbols on the pavement representing Justice, Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance, Faith, Hope, and Charity.

IMG_8406
Mosaic and walls of old church

The church also houses a stone where apparently, Jesus broke bread.

Next stop was the St Peter’s Church Capernaum, a Modern building built on the site of an earlier church but suspended above the old ruins.

IMG_1494
Church of St Peter at Capernaum

Sadly we were not able to enter the church as a service was taking place but we were able to get to see underneath the Church and visit the Statue of St Peter nearby.

Nearby were the Greek Orthodox Church and Old Synagogue which we were able to walk around but by now it was getting very hot so not a long time was able to be spent as the old Synagogue are ruins and open air.

Walking around these old remains does put things into perspective when you realise how old they are and how long they have been there.

IMG_8421
Slimy eel like creatures at the Sea of Galilee

We did get to the water’s edge with it’s strange fish in the Sea.

IMG_8430a
Golan Heights remnants of the 1967 war.

We are now off around the East shores of the Sea of Galilee past the Golan Heights which still retains some elements of the conflict and one of the remaining kibbutz (Maagan).

Having crossed the River Jordan at the top of the Sea of Galilee, we are now taken to Yardenit, a Jewish centre on the river just after it leaves the Sea of Galilee at the Southern end where baptisms still take place and where, it is said, that Jesus was Baptized.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I will say that I thought the centre was a bit commercialised with nothing really to suggest there were at any time old buildings albeit that there were some parables set in wonderfully presented tiles in so many different languages and of course there is the ability to get your feet wet in the River Jordan.

IMG_8433
Beautifully inscribed tiles

Whilst on our journey back to the ship, we pass a number of both Israeli and Arab settlements, the Arab ones being distinctive not only because of the minarets pointing high into the sky but also because predominantly, they have flat rooves, the Jewish ones having A-frame rooves.

By the time we get back to the ship, we are just in time for the it to move berth for a few hours to let another cruise ship in before we set sail on our 4 days crossing of the Mediterranean Sea without stopping before we get to our final port of call on this cruise, Cadiz.

As with our visit to Jerusalem, this was a wonderful experience, again bringing to life the stories written in the Bible all those years ago.

IMG_8400
Inside the Church of the Beatitudes

Jerusalem

IMG_8382
The Western Wall, Jerusalem

Sunday 7 April

We are in Israel, our ninth “new” country of this cruise and an early start for a 10+ hour trip from Haifa by coach to Jerusalem.

Whilst there is limited walking on this tour it does mean there are a few of the less able walkers on the coaches of which there are at least 4.

Unfortunately, some of the less able are accompanied by some people with less brain cells.

IMG_1465a
Latrun Trappist monastery

The 2 and a half hour drive to Jerusalem is firstly over very green undulating ground some of which is used for banana trees, grape vines, olives and oranges to name but a few.

IMG_8340
The Menorah

We pass into the hilly terrain around Jerusalem with a comfort stop near a Military museum and Monastery for Silent Monks, the Latrun Trappist monastery, before passing the Israel Museum and stopping outside the Israel Parliament, (Knesset )

There we have explained to us the seven branch Menorah which is situated outside of the Knesset and was made by the German sculptor, Benno Elkan who died in 1960.

The Menorah portrays 29 formative events and concepts from the Old Testament and the History of the Jewish people and arrived in Israel in 1956.

We then move on to the Garden of Gethsemane next to the Sanctuary of Gethsemane, a wonderfully preserved place of worship and opposite the Golden Gate of the old walled city.

IMG_8365
Golden gate from Gethsemane

As you would expect, despite the crowds, the area is peaceful.

Unfortunately, we have limited time in the gardens but there is time to see the ridiculously old trees before we are taken into the adjacent Sanctuary which contain wonderful paintings on the walls and ceilings.

IMG_8378a
Jerusalem hillside tombs

All around the Sanctuary and Gardens and even over the road to the Walled city of Old Jerusalem and it’s Golden Gate there are tombs of famous (and not so famous) people mentioned in the Bible

It is here that somewhat amazingly that we can hark back to our religious education at schools and all the places mentioned in the Bible only to now find ourselves in the midst of these place names for real.

Now off to another great lunch, cooked Kosher of course, at the Leonardo Hotel in Saint George Street.  It was a buffet with wine, and very welcome.

IMG_1485
Tourists at the Western Wall

Our final stop on the tour is at the Western (wailing) wall inside the walled city.

As you can imagine, the place was crowded and of course, men and women are separated when visiting the wall.

Even the security at the entrance to the square was gender separated which did manage to confuse one elderly tourist although I think she might have had a pacemaker as she was channelled through a separate security area to her husband.

There are more women than men but the men’s area is bigger and with less chairs to sit on. I must admit I did feel a little uncomfortable taking photos of those at prayer although no one appeared to mind but there were other photographic opportunities though.

IMG_8386a
Clock at the Western Wall

We had been given a slip of paper to write a little prayer/message and put it in the cracks in the wall which tradition says are taken up to heaven.

Men have to wear a head covering but these are supplied by a charity free of charge or for a donation. Not having any Shekels with me, I hoped a $ would suffice.

Apart from the Western Wall I am not sure what else there is to do inside the walls as we did not have time for anything other than the wall and an uphill walk to the bus.

Our tour guide today has been excellent, a young woman who whilst being very proud of her country and its traditions is very modern in her outlook.

IMG_8347
Jerusalem Old town

I must say, a refreshing change from many of the tour guides we have experienced as her ability to part knowledge to us and her enthusiasm was wonderful.

Drive back to Haifa is again 2 and a half hours although had there been no traffic hold ups, it might have been under 2 hours. I did notice though that the trams sped past fairly full with not just Israelis but also Arabs who at least on the places we visited, live side by side in peace.

A very enlightening and worthwhile tour albeit that it is probably a place that I would not necessarily return to.

Pirates and the Suez Canal

IMG_8306Monday 1 April

No April fool jokes from the Captain, unlike another cruise we were on, and after our port talk on Haifa we relax for the rest of the day following the 24 or so birds that fly with us for virtually the whole day – they must be exhausted.

Another dressing up day – 3 more to go after today – and entertainment by Wayne Denton with his tribute to John Denver. I am sure we have seen him before but another viewing was well worth it.

Tuesday 2 April

Our 2nd of 6 consecutive sea days although one of these will be going through the Suez Canal. Dolphin watch revealed one dolphin to me but others saw more.

Headliners was a tribute to Queen.

Wednesday 3 April

IMG_1453
Our ship about to enter the Red Sea

Early morning we enter the Red Sea at the point where Djibouti and Eritrea in Africa are opposite Yemen in the Arabian peninsula and possibly the closest to land we get in the pirate danger area.

We are probably under 3 miles from land on the Yemini side and 8 miles from land on the African side.

We had previously been given “training” to ensure we knew what to do in the event of pirates boarding our ship and many of the passengers were out with their cabin’s binoculars looking for small boats but us, we watch a film, The Green Book, about a black pianist in the early 1960s Deep South of the United States of America, the prejudice he suffered and his friendship with his white driver.

IMG_8270 (Djubiti)
The coast of Djibouti

Based on a true story, I think, and well worth watching.

An absolutely fascinating talk by Lieutenant Commander Ted Bath a Royal Navy Liaison Officer on the security systems in place as we progressed through the High Risk area of the Yemeni coast.

He had the audience in stitches some of the time with his tales from earlier trips but it was too much for one passenger who somewhat disgustedly asked why, if cruise ships were so low priority on the pirate’s radar (because of the numbers of people on them) why did we have to have the lights dimmed at night, because as a result he couldn’t drink his G & T on the balcony as his want.  The trouble was, I think he was being very serious in his questioning!

Entertainment tonight is from Duo Free Action, an Acrobatic Duo with some stunning circus acts. Very flexible people.

Thursday 4 April

Another calm sea with little wind as we chug up the Red Sea, Africa on our Port side and Asia on our Starboard side.

An afternoon show for a change, Wayne Denton again with his tribute to Neil Diamond and evening entertainment from a trio of female Scottish singers, The SwingCats with their 50s and 40s music.

Friday 5 April

A bit cooler on the balcony this morning and sea a bit rougher as we approach the upper reaches of the Red Sea which is so named due to the Red Algae present at a certain time of the year.

I have a head cold getting to me, hope I have stopped sneezing and using so many tissues by Sunday.

Comedian tonight is Mike Doyle with even more comic take on life on Arcadia – very funny.

Saturday 6 April

IMG_8290
Entering the Suez Canal

Entering the Suez Canal at about 5:30 am, it seems there is no fanfare, no signage to start with and no locks.

Egypt is now all around us with the Gulf of Aqaba having left us on the Starboard side a day ago.

IMG_8293a
It’s a convoy

The transit is in a convoy northbound at about 8.5kts and we have one cruise ship and at least two big freighters behind us whilst little boats criss cross behind us with anything from cars, people, goods and livestock on them.

What was noticeable however were the guards who all seemed to have weapons deployed on the Eastern side, with some of their barracks nicely camouflaged and looking inland as we pass.

IMG_8297
Egyptian barracks on the East Bank of the Suez

Some were quite friendly, waving to us as we pass slowly on our way northwards, others not so with trained eyes spying on us through their probably very powerful binoculars.

There is a distinct “brown” feel to all the buildings and soldier’s uniforms, not surprising as we are in the desert.

The Western side is far more populated than the Eastern Side although the Egyptians are building a concrete jungle near the Bridge on the Eastern Side for about 1 million people; an Egyptian Milton Keynes!

IMG_1463 (Ismalia)
Ismailia

Ismailia, on the Western bank seems to be largish settlement although judging by the wall, the residents have difficulty in freely accessing the canal.

The ferry across the canal is still in use despite the construction of a bridge a few years back which strangely is not shown on Google maps.

IMG_8308a
Monument to the builders of the canal

We pass a monument built to commemorate the workers who built the canal which is somewhat huge.

My photo doesn’t do justice to the size as there was nothing around it for comparison.

Strategically placed buildings are in evidence all along the East Bank, presumably the soldier’s quarters and set back are one or two settlements with a few ferry crossings in evidence.

By about 2:30pm, the pilot disembarks and we are out in the Mediterranean Sea after our 12 hour transit and on our way to Haifa in Israel having probably used a whole box of tissues for a very bad head cold.

IMG_8320
Bridge and ferries at Ismailia

Muscat, Oman

IMG_8213
Port Sultan Qaboos

Sunday 31 March

Another day, another port – this time Muscat in Oman as we slowly make our way Westwards towards our finishing port.

This is our 11th country on our cruise and we didn’t really know what to expect. Docking at the port area of Port Sultan Qaboos we are moored near the Sultan’s two yachts, one of which is, we are told, the 6th largest in the world and obviously financed from the oil and gas industry as 78% of their wealth is generated from this source.

IMG_8212a
How’s this for a personal yacht!

Isn’t it a shame that our own Head of State had to relinquish her yacht when it became too old, what would a replacement have looked like I wonder?

The terminal building is a short walk away but the duty free area upstairs leaves you wondering what the country has to offer, nothing really other than tobacco and drink.

Internet was chargeable at US$ or €3.00 for, I think, an hour so we didn’t bother as we were on a tour at 11:30 for afternoon “tea” even though it was lunchtime.

IMG_1401
coaches waiting for the tours

Boarding the coach outside the ship’s gangway, we are driven 100yds to the terminal building to go through Security and get back on the bus.

However, we didn’t have to take our rucksacks etc. with us, so the point of that was?

IMG_1403
Former Treasury building

Once going, we head into the centre of Muscat, past the incense statue for our first stop at what is now the Finance Ministry but was a palace residence and is now also used to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Very shiny walkways but relatively flat terrain, the buildings are amazing and with few people out in the midday sun, photography is easy.

Our next stop is for lunch at the impressively extravagant 5* Al Bustan hotel.

IMG_1410
Al Bustan Palace hotel

We are sat in the foyer and served savoury snacks, sweet snacks and scones with tea or coffee – all wonderfully presented and delicious.

IMG_1414
Afternoon tea

The waiters filled the tea and coffee cups virtually continuously so we were never without a drink.

The foyer itself boasted the largest chandelier in the world, the floor was probably marble and the walls looked as if they were covered in gold.

It is a shame we were not allowed a look at one of the rooms.

We took much longer than planned to eat our “tea” but that didn’t spoil the other two stops when we set going from the hotel.

IMG_1419
Al Bustan Palace
IMG_8234
Royal Opera House, Muscat

Our next stop was the Royal Opera House, a startlingly white large building with a vast expanse in front of it, a covered walkway in front of the entrance and another wonderful foyer just inside the building.

IMG_1437
outside the Royal Opera House

As with many buildings we have seen today, they all have well tended and colourful gardens nearby and absolutely no litter.

Our last stop was the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque just for a photo stop.

It is only open to the public in the mornings and of course not on Fridays.

IMG_8245
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

The walkway up to the Mosque was again white stone although not as slippery as other buildings.

The Mosque has 5 minarets, holds up to 15000 worshippers and was completed in 2001 after a 9 year build.

IMG_8249a
Inside the courtyards of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Had we been able to go in, we would have seen the huge Persian carpet (230ft by 200ft) which was made as a single piece, weighs 21 tons and took 600 women, 4 years to weave and the 35 crystal chandeliers with gold plated metalwork.

I did, however, manage a sneak photo or two by the door that had been left open before a Security guard decided we had seen enough and shut the door.

Again, well tended plants, flowers and shrubs by the side.

We are back on board an hour late with the other tour that left about 2 hours after us also late back.

IMG_8262a
The incense burner

A really good day with a great tour guide and we are now off in our quest to go up the Suez canal and on to Israel without attracting the attention of pirates!

I think it would be nice to return here, much more civilized than Dubai.

Entertainment was from another comedian, Mike Doyle, but this time, he was good with lots of “home truths” about life on board Arcadia.

Think we have seen him before but he was worth the repeat performance.

IMG_8265a
bye bye Muscat