'Smell the sea and feel the sky. Let your soul and spirit fly.' - Van Morrison
It’s hard to comprehend being on a ship at sea for seven straight days without stopping. From Cochin, India, we need to cross the Arabian Sea, enter the Gulf of Aden, negotiate the Bab Al-Mandab Strait before entering the Red Sea. We finally reach the Red Sea on day five of our seven day marathon.
By now, we are in the rhythm of ship life. Each day I plot our voyage on Google Maps, which is somehow able to, with the help of WIFI, show me almost exactly where we are at any given time. The midday report by the Captain usually confirms our location. He also advises if we are to expect inclement weather and when we expect to see land.
Once into the Gulf of Aden we must skirt the coast of Yemen due to the small risk of pirate attack. Since pirates use small craft, the Captain assures us that the threat is almost non-existent, but for the safety and well-being of the passengers, protocols are put into place to assist with early detection of rogues whose main goal is to overtake vessels for ransom. The protocols include a passenger and personnel drill, which places us away from windows should an alarm sound. It all sounds very dramatic, and the drill is carried out without any issues. We are now past the threat from pirates as we steam ahead towards Egypt.
So, what does one do during the long, hot 25-hour days? No, you did not read that incorrectly, nor have I made a mistake. Since leaving Singapore, we gradually lose time as we cross the time zones, and we need to lose a total of five hours by the time we reach our destination in Greece. There’s plenty to do and the variety of activities is quite staggering – even for the extended days.
I am happy that there is a series of lectures, one of which is delivered almost every day. Connie Kirker, a retired professor of art history, provides an interesting array of lectures that are relevant to the places we are about to visit. We have been given an insight into Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, classical architecture, and a history of Petra in Jordan. As we approach Egypt, I am sure that the lectures will touch on what we will see in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. I really like her lectures but spend time obsessing about the spelling mistakes in her slides – and I’m not talking about the different spelling conventions between USA and Australia either…
In Cochin, we took on board three cultural ambassadors who are providing lectures and workshops on Bollywood, Kathak and Garba dancing. Although dancing is close to impossible this close to having surgery on my knee, I do like to sit and watch the attempts by passengers, which is perhaps more entertaining than the workshop itself. The participants are becoming more adept, more fluid in their movements and I suspect the program is very successful.
Perhaps the part that I love the most is to sit in the lounge on level 10 and watch the sea that we are travelling upon. We are travelling at a faster pace than cargo, container, and oil tankers and I seem to gain a little personal satisfaction when we pass them on our journey towards the Suez Canal. I do like the space as I can listen to music, read my book, write in my journal, or simply sit and watch our amazing horizon.
Yesterday, as we passed through the Bab Al-Mandab Strait, the narrow section between the end of the Gulf of Aden and the beginning of the Red Sea, we were able to see Africa on the port side and the Middle East on the starboard side of the ship. I was most excited to see land after over five days, even though the land appeared to be uninhabited: hills in the distance.
My favourite time of the day is after we’ve eaten in one of the restaurants, when we gather in the cabaret theatre for the evening’s entertainment. I’m surprised that, so far, most of the entertainers are Australian and all have been excellent.
Lastly, but not my favourite activity is the daily walk around the ‘jogging’ track. I do not jog, but to keep up a level of fitness, I need to take to the track several times a day – just to keep my dodgy knee moving and in anticipation of our next few shore excursions, which will prove to be challenging.
It’s time to head outside to check out the sunset, which happens to be on our side of the ship today. The next time you’ll hear from me will be in a couple of days – after our next shore excursion.