Thursday, March 31, 2011

On the Red Sea

Last evening we left the Arabian Sea and entered the Red Sea. We will be
sailing on the Red Sea for the next two days until we reach Aqabq,
Jordan. Sea days are spent reading, napping, gambling, bingo, etc. But
not in that particular order. In addition, there is generally a lecture
dealing with something about the area that the ship is sailing. This
morning the subject is the Red Sea.

This afternoon we will be playing Bingo and hope that our luck will
finally change today. So far, no luck at all. Later on before dinner
there is a cocktail party put on by the American Express Travel hosts.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Salalah, Oman

Wednesday March 30, 2011 8:20 AM (12:20 AM EDT)

Yesterday we were in the port city of Salalah, Oman in the western part
of Oman and maybe an hour drive to Yemen. After breakfast we took a tour
bus to visit Mughsayl Beach, a wide white sandy beach overlooked by high
cliffs. In addition to see the scenery at the beach area, we had hoped
to see some of the spectacular blowholes. Unfortunately, it was nowhere
near high tide when the blowholes generally occur. Maybe the next time.
(I'm somewhat limited in the number of photos because the slow satellite
link to get to the internet. As it is, two photos take forever and I'm
paying $.60 per minute for internet time.)

After leaving the beach area we stopped to see a Frankincense tree (as
in Gold, Frankincense and Myrh). That is a Frankincense tree along with
our guide in the first photo. The tree is cut, the sap runs out and
after a time it hardens. It is used for perfume. At one time it was
worth its weight in gold. After that we motored to the purported burial
site for the Prophet Job. Whether or not there actually a Old Testament
Prophet Job, there is a picture of his tomb above.

After visiting Job's tomb we motored to the Al Hosn Palace, the
residence of Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman. Although Muscat is the
capital of Oman, the ruler lives in Salalah. Nearby the palace is the Al
Hosn Market and it appears that most of the shops are for tailors. There
were shop after shop of tailors on each street and alley.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Muscat, Oman

Sunday March 27 12:59 AM (4:59 AM EDT)

Today we are in the port of Muscat, the capital of the Sultanite of
Oman. We left Dubai yesterday at about 10:00 AM and we cruised very
slowly until about 5:00 AM when we arrived at Port Sultan Qaboos. We
cruised very slowly because it is not a long distance between Dubai and

After breakfast at about 9:00 AM we took a shuttle bus into the small
port town of Mutrah and wandered around. In addition to the many mosques
in Mutrah, the biggest attraction is the souk, or market. There they had
everything for sale - shirts, veils, skull caps, brass items of all
sorts. In fact, it was possible to purchase a brass lamp, as in Aladin's
Lamp. We passed on this though. We are not shoppers. The photo here is
an old fort that looks down on Mutrah and was probably erected to
protect the harbor from thieves and pirates. I don't know how old it is.

An item I neglected to mention earlier is the age of the passengers on
the Amsterdam. I know that the average age of passengers on Holland
American cruise ships is generally older than most cruise lines. This is
generally because the length of the cruises are longer and older folks
are retired and can be away from home for longer periods of time. This
cruise is longer than most, it being 110 days, although we are only
cruising for the final 33 day leg of the cruise. That being the case,
the folks here are old and I mean old! I suspect that when Nancy and I
came on board the mean age of the passengers dropped between 10 and 15
years! We are just kids on this cruise.

Thats it for now. We will leave Muscat at about 10:00 PM and sail for a
couple of days to Salalah, another port in Oman.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Still in Dubai

Friday March 15, 2011 4:27 PM (8:27 AM EDT)

Our three stay in Dubai was certainly interesting. Everything in Dubai
seemed surreal and too big. When we saw resort development such as
Atlantis on the Palm (the artificial jetties and islands in the shape of
a palm tree in the sea) they all had (or would have) 500 godzillion
hotels with 100 godzillion restaurants and 50 godzillion water parks. It
was all very interesting but at the same time unreal. It prides itself
on becoming THE tourist center of the Middle East . . . and I suppose
would like to include Europe. Every building is unique such as the
hotel in the shape of a sail boat shown in the picture.

This morning after breakfast and reading the newspapers we checked out
the hotel and took a cab to the cruise port. I don't know how many folks
were joining the cruise here in Dubai but there did not to seem very
many. This is our third time on the m/s Amsterdam and everything seems
the same. Later on at dinner we should find from our table partners how
well the cruise has gone. Yesterday while waiting for a dhow cruise on
the Dubai Creek we met a couple from Tampa who have been on the cruise
from the beginning in January. According to them folks were not pleased
with some of the itinerary changes and dropping the Egyptian ports. We
will have to see how it turns out.

One of the ports added to the itinerary is Ashdod in Israel. There we
planned to take a ship's tour to include stops in Jerusalem and
Bethlehem. Unfortunately, there was a bombing in Jerusalem on Wednesday
so we will see what if anything changes because of that. Also this
morning I read in the International Herald Tribune that there were
rockets launched from the Gaza Strip and they flew over Ashdod. It seems
that the entire Middle East is going to hell. I'm sure that the Captain
of the Amsterdam will only stop at that locations that are safe.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we will again be in Dubai (we have been here since
Wednesday) until 10:00 AM when we leave here and head for Muscat in Oman.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Before I talk about Dubai, I must mention a bit about the Doha Airport in Qatar, our lay-over point in flying from London to Dubai. The airport is very large, modern and comfortable. As with most airports in the Middle East there is a mosque in the airport. (Actually two mosques, one for men and one for women.) We have been to large mosques in Casablanca and they have large washing facilities for hands, face and feet before the prayers. In the airport the closest they have is the men's room. In the couple times I used it (we were there for 5 hours) there were men washing in the sink of the hands and face. The last time in there, there was a gentleman washing his feet in the sink. No foot baths in the mens room!

We arrived in Dubai early Wednesday morning about 3:00 AM and after going through immigration and customs we got a cab to the hotel. Arrived there about 4:30 AM after the cab driver had to stop at another hotel to find directions to our hotel. It is a small (and I mean small) hotel inside a cultural center with only six rooms. Different and very nice. It was originally the home of the grandfather of the current ruler of the UAE. Because we had been travelling all day and night we were tired and just as we crawled into bed at 5:00 AM the calls for prayer from about a half dozen mosques started, all with loud speakers. We have found that in Dubai a wake up call is not necessary.

Both Wednesday and Thursday we travelled all over the city in the "Big Red Buses" and saw quite a bit of Dubai. There is construction everywhere on office buildings, hotels, shopping centers, entertainment centers, etc. There is a lot of money in Dubai and have found that a large parts of the construction is being done by different members of the royal family. Although the capital of the UAE is Abu Dabi, the ruling family lives in Dubai. More about Dubai after we get on the ship. It is now 6:50 AM on Friday morning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Doha, Qatar

After two days in London we are now in the Doha, Qatar airport waiting for a 1:00 AM flight to Dubai. (It is now 9:5  PM.) Our flight from London was on Qatar Airways wide body jet. It held about 330 passengers bur had only less than 100. As a result we could sit any place we wanted to. Qatar Airways is a five star airline and we were impressed. Even coach (were we were sitting) was very good. Because the lack of passengers I was able to stretch out on four middle seats and nod for a while.

Yesterday we took the underground into London from our airport hotel and spent the entire day. We were not back to our hotel until about 9:00 PM. We took a "Hop-On Hop-Off" bus and tour the city stopping off when we wanted to. We spent a lot of time in the Parliament and Westminster Abbey area and even had a late lunch in a pub there. It was a pleasant day and, in fact, the sun even came out for a bit. In the morning it had been a tad cold and then again cold at night.

Tonight getting off the plane in Doha it was probably in the 70s so it was quite a change. Because we have a long layover the airline gave us a meal voucher so we had a sandwich. Now we wait and then on to Dubai.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

London Heathrow

After our late start (or early depending on how you view is) from home on Saturday, it is Sunday afternoon 3:00 PM in the Jurys Inn just outside Heathrow Airport. We left home Saturday morning at 3:45 AM to get in line for the first flight from Miami to La Guardia airport. We made that flight that left Miami at 6:30 AM or so and arrived in La Guardia about 9:00 AM. We then took the shuttle bus to JFK and then waited until the next flight to Heathrow which was not until 7:35 PM. We did get on that flight and both Nancy and I got seats in Business Class so it wasn't bad.

After we checked in the hotel we took a nap and got up at 2:00 PM and had lunch in the bar. Now just to rest. Tomorrow we will take the underground to London and spend the day there.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our Amended Cruise Itinerary

As we expected, the itinerary for our upcoming cruise is being changed based on the events in the Middle East. We had planned to visit three ports in Egypt: Safaga, Sharm El Sheik and Alexandria and had booked excursions to see the Nile River, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, etc. We have learned from folks already on board the ship that the Egyptian port visits had been canceled. It appears that in their place we will be visiting Salalah, Oman (we are already visiting Muskat) and Ashdod and Haifa, both in Israel. I am pleased that we will be visiting Israel as I always wanted to see it but really wanted to see Egypt. Maybe we will try again in a few years when the area is calmer.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Christian Rap Parody feat. VeeBee

The taller of the two dudes is that star of film and stage is Liam "Muldoon" Eagan.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Our Next Trip

Right now we are checking last minute details for our upcoming trip/cruise. Our plan right now is to leave home next Friday, March 18th and fly to London. Because we fly "stand by" for international flights so we can fly either First Class or Business Class, it appears we may want to fly Miami to LaGuardia, bus/taxi to JFK and then JFK to Heathrow, arriving Saturday morning. We shall see. In London we are staying at the Sheraton near Heathrow until Tuesday.  While there we want to visit London itself and Windsor.

On Tuesday evening evening we will fly Qatar Airways to Doha and then on to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Originally our flight left London at 7:55 AM and arrived at Doha at 5:25 PM, a hour and a half lay-over and then leave Doha at 7:00 PM and arriving Dubai at 9:05 PM. Yesterday I received an email from the airline and now we leave London at 11:00 AM and arriving Doha at 8:30 PM, leave Doha at 1:00 AM and arriving Dubai at 3:05 AM. This really sucks!

In Dubai we are staying at the XVA Art Hotel, a boutique hotel is located in Bastakiya, the oldest portion of Dubai. This portion of our trip we are really looking forward to as this is our first time in the Middle East. We will be staying in Dubai until we start our cruise.

The cruise on Holland American Line's m/s Amsterdam is the last leg of this year's World Cruise that started in Fort Lauderdale in early January. This is a thirty-two day cruise and we will be in Fort Lauderdale on April 26. Even today there are questions as to whether we will be able to visit some of the sights we have scheduled in Egypt and Jordan. A number of cruise lines have put off stopping at Egyptian ports until this Summer. We just have to wait and see. Here is a map of our itinerary: