Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 108 - Haifa, Israel 

Monday, April 28

The meeting time for the tour "Leisurely Jerusalem" was 7:00 so I had my alarm set for 6:30.  I woke up at 6:22 before the morning show was even being broadcast!  I was in the Queens Room by 6:50 to get my tour number.  Turned out my dinner friend, Lynn, was on the same bus.

We set out a few minutes after 7 and had to go through passport control.  We were on the road heading south to Jerusalem by 7:30.

One of the first things we learned was that today is the Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day.  What a special day to be in Israel!  At ten o'clock a siren would sound and everything in Israel would stop.

Our first comfort stop was in a place called Latrun.  Right next to the restaurant is Yad La'Shiryon Latrun, an army museum.  We were going to only stop for a few minutes but our guide, Yakov, said that we would be on the road at 10 so instead, he was able to get us into the grounds of the museum and observe their ceremony.  There were a group of young members of the military (Jewish Israelis must serve in the military at the age of 18 - men for three years, women for two) taking part in the ceremony.

After the ceremony was over we headed on to Jerusalem.    On the road we passed a pretty church dedicated to John the Baptist and also Yad Vashem the national memorial to those who were victims of the Holocaust.

The Israelis consider Jerusalem their capital city although most countries do not and have their embassies in Tel-Aviv.  I knew Israel had a complicated history but did not realize all the divisions (that you can't see so much in person) that still exist.  The more our guide talked about it the more confused I became so I won't explain.  I will leave it with there being a great deal of contention over Jerusalem.

We drove through the new city and stopped at the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) for a photo and also passed by a number of the government buildings.

Lunch was at a kibbutz which was much different from what I was expecting.  Many of these now have hotels, restaurants, convention centers, and banquet halls.  There was a whole range of foods but they keep kosher so no dairy products since we had meat.  The food was excellent.

After lunch we went to the Mount of Olives for an overview of the old city and a short shopping break.   The view of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock was spectacular.  Jerusalem is the third holiest cities in Islam because Muhammed was supposed to have ascended to heaven from the Temple Mount.  We stopped at the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was supposed to have prayed and wept among the ancient olive trees (some of which are almost a thousand years old) before his crucifixion.

The last stop was at the Western Wall also known as the Wailing Wall.  There are separate sections for men and women to pray or leave messages in the cracks in the wall or, like the woman next to me, cry pitifully.

We had another comfort stop at Latrun on the way back and got back to the ship around 8 pm.  It was a long, tiring day and I went straight to the Lido for a dinner (where I chose a number of things I did not care for) and then back to my stateroom.

part of the walls of the old city of Jerusalem

Church of All Nations  (also known as the Church of the Agony)

Russian Orthodox Church

part of the Judean Desert which borders Jerusalem

the Knesset Building

a Jewish cemetery 

view of old and new Jerusalem

the Western Wall

Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony

all flags were at half staff for Holocaust Remembrance Day

Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque

another view of old Jerusalem

the walls of the old city

church dedicated to John the Baptist

buildings in Jerusalem are made from local limestone

all homes have to heat water using solar panels
the Garden (and gardeners) of Gethsamane

Smooth sailing until next time!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day 107 - Suez Canal

Sunday, April 27

We waited our turn to convoy through the Suez Canal in the pre-dawn hours.  I awoke about 6:00 and went out on the balcony.  It was cold!  Put on my bathrobe and shoes but could only stay out a little while.  I put the TV on Channel 40 which shows the bow and also carried commentary by Commander Jeff Tall.

Since I had not gone to bed until 1:30, I was still sleepy so I propped myself up in bed and cat-napped between commentaries on the TV.  I got up a few times and snapped some photos and then snoozed some more.

Got up for good at 10:00 and surprisingly did not watch the morning show because I did not want to miss the commentary.

The large forward deck on 5 and the smaller one on 6 which are usually "crew only" were open for us.  I started on 5 and watched for awhile and then went to 6.  ( On my next cruise I will have a front facing cabin on deck 6 on a very similar class ship.  I wanted to see what the view was like.)

Since I had been up off and on since six, I was hungry so off to the Lido at 11:30.  As I was eating Hilda came along and we ate together.

Decided that my balcony had a wonderful view so returned to watch Egypt float by.  I was a rule breaker for once and propped my balcony door open so I could hear the commentary.  The weather was perfect with a light breeze.  The sun did not start warming things up much until about 2 pm and then it was time to get ready for Needlework/Knitting group anyway.

Although I really love the sea, today made me think I might want to try one of the river cruises in Europe.  Being so close to land and watching the farms and roads, towns and houses go by is very interesting.

Only eleven at Needlework/Knitting group today but we did have a gentleman join us for the first time.  He is the father of the production manager onboard.

Trivia was in the Garden Lounge again today (more football in the pub).  Judy and Mike showed up so today we were the "Three Travellers".  We had 14 correct and the winning team had 17.

Picked up an ice cream and came back to sit on my balcony.  Although it was in full sun the breeze kept the temperature very comfortable.  I decided that I should have become a rule breaker earlier.  Leaving my balcony door open allows me to hear and smell the sea better and gives a nice fresh breeze.

Evening trivia only gave me ten correct.

Only Lynn, the priest and me for dinner.  The priest is leaving tomorrow in Haifa.

Picked up my orange juice and got ready for bed.  My tour starts at 7:00 AM!!!  And it is 11 hours long.  Yikes!

Some facts about the Suez Canal---
Opened in 1869
Is sea-level (no locks)
Everyday there are two southbound and one northbound crossing
All crossings are done as a convoy (we were number two of twenty-four going north today)
Speed limit is eight knots per hour
Usually 50-75 ships use it each day
Can hold some ships that don't fit in the Panama Canal (such as QM2)

I managed to take 115 pictures and we did not touch land.  I have picked some of my favorites.

a toll plaza

very fertile land on west side - east side was mostly desert

Suez Canal Bridge (built with the help of the Japanese)

one of the ferries that crosses the canal in between the ships in the convoy

War Memorial

Smooth sailing until next time!
Day 106 - At sea

Saturday, April 26

The morning started out with beautiful blue skies, so after the morning show I headed to the pool.  The first hour was hot and sunny and I swam twice.  During the second hour there were some clouds that dropped just a few raindrops.

The captain announced that we are officially out of the pirate zone so the decks are lighted at night and we no longer have the restriction of closing our curtains.

Came in after the noon announcements to change before picking up my passport (we will need them for immigration in Israel).

Ate lunch in the Lido and Phyllis, who I met in knitting group, came by and we sat and talked.  After awhile Hilda, from the dinner table, came by and sat and we talked until after 2:00.

Headed to Needlework/Knitting group and we had 25 present (the most I have ever seen).

Then it was up to the Garden Lounge where trivia was being held (football was on in the pub).  Our team is called the "5 Travellers" and we always seem to be one off the winning team.  Today we had 16 correct.

I sat on my balcony for over an hour.  It was breezy and the temperature was very comfortable.

Seven of us from dinner met to eat in the Verandah Restaurant which is the French themed restaurant onboard.  We were originally supposed to eat there on Thursday but they made a mistake on our booking so they gave us each a free glass of champagne.  It was the good stuff not the usual stuff from the cocktail parties which one of the entertainment staff calls "Chateau de Gangway".  I had a crabmeat appetizer, a delicious organic beef fillet, and a custard with a burnt sugar coating on it with strawberries.  We all had a good time and a good meal.  We spent almost three hours at dinner.

The show was a repeat so I picked up my orange juice and went back to my stateroom.  Sat out on my balcony after watching the port presentation on Naples.

The fillet steak

The custard desert

Smooth sailing until next time!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 105 - Aqaba, Jordan

Friday, April 25

I was awakened at 7:45 by a blast of Arabian music that I think was coming from the tugboat that was outside my room.  I had planned on getting up at 8:45 in preparation for my tour that started at 9:30.  I went back to bed for about a half an hour but then got ready while watching the morning show.

The main attraction (for cruise ships) of Aqaba is the Lost City of Petra.  It is one of the seven wonders of the world.  Unfortunately for me, the main way of getting there and back to the bus is a four to five mile walk in the heat (today was predicted to be 100F/38C).  I knew at least a year ago that I would not be capable of doing the walk.  There are horses, mules, donkey carts, and possibly camels that can be hired to take you in but there are parts where they are not allowed.  Cunard discourages you from these methods because they want you to stay with the tour guide.  And for those who know me, can you really see me on any of those?

Since I knew I would not be going to Petra, I chose the "Aqaba City and Wadi Rum" excursion.  We started with a tour of the city, going to the beach area, the Archaeological Museum and the site of the old city of Ayla.  We had some free time at each of these to look around on your own which I really like because you can concentrate on what interests you, not the tour guide.

We then drove for about an hour out into the desert and mountains to Wadi Rum.  We saw a number of small villages in a very inhospitable locale.  We stopped to see the 1916 train which supposedly was featured in Lawrence of Arabia which was filmed in this area.  (A number of movies were filmed here and we actually saw a film crew filming a different train.)

On the drive the guide told us about Jordan's four main problems.  These include the lack of water, they have no oil,  only about 20% of the country is green, and the number of Syrians that have come as refugees.

Our destination was a Bedouin "camp" that serves a typical local luncheon and provides glimpses of life here.  Luckily, the bathroom facilities were very western and had running water.  The large tent also had a couple of air conditioners (one of which I sat in front of with two of my CC friends, Andrea and John).  The sky was rather overcast while we were there which kept it from being as hot as predicted.

There were a number of salads, vegetables, chicken, meat (that we hoped was lamb) and honey laced deserts.  It was actually a very good meal.  There were two musicians (who actually played a number of Christmas songs as well as local music), a number of camels, and a man making desert scenes of sand in a bottle.

We returned to the ship a little after three and I considered going into town on the shuttle but decided I did not really need to get anything so I went to the pub and had a Pepsi instead.

4:15 trivia was poorly attended and terribly hard.  There were two questions asking who was the Prime Minister of Britain when an obscure event took place (like when one of Pink Floyd's albums - can't remember its name - came out).  I only had five correct (I think that is my worst trivia ever).

After that I went back to my stateroom for some balcony time.  Aqaba is Jordan's only seaside town and right across from my balcony was the city of Eilat in Israel (on the Sinai Peninsula).  A little down the coast is Egypt on one side and Saudi Arabia on the other.

Although I am not going to the main dining room for dinner, I did shower and change so I would conform with the dress code.  I was waiting for trivia to start when Judy came up and said she and her husband were playing and did I want to join.  I did and we had eleven out of 21 correct.  (What is added to cheddar cheese to make Ilchester cheese?).  They had done the Petra trip and said one person in their group fainted and they heard an ambulance had to be called for someone else.

Dinner in the Lido.  It was German themed and only so-so.

We sailed at 9:35 (all aboard was 9:30 so everyone got back promptly.  Although the pirate restrictions will not be lifted for two more days, we were allowed to stay out on the deck.  About 10:30 I picked up my OJ and came back to the stateroom.

Again I have two posts to fit in my pictures.

Views of Aqaba

part of the old fort built in 13th century

remains of the city of Ayla


Smooth sailing until next time!