Category Archives: 2009 World Cruise

2009 World Cruise – April 20 & 21 – Days 105 & 106 – Cape Town, South Africa

The day at sea was pretty rocky as we navigated the Mozambique Plateau; two currents flowing in a southerly direction along the coast – the Mozambique and the Agulhas.  The information from the navigator had warned us about abnormal high waves preceded by a deep trough that may be encountered between Durban and Cape Town.  It was even too windy to walk on the rolling deck.

We were invited to dinner with the Captain that night – well us and about 20 other people.  We sat with the Comptroller who was from The Hague, Netherlands and three  other couples from our deck.  We got all gussied up and had our photo taken by the ship’s photographer.2009-apr-16 2009-apr-19-world-cruise-captains-dinnerThe coast at Cape Town was a multi-layered hazy silhouette as we approached the harbour the next day. 2009-04-20_7317 2009-04-20_7320We were due to dock at Cape Town at 1 o’clock but the high seas and gale force winds closed the port.  We had been scheduled to go on tour at 2 PM but the excursions were cancelled (I really wanted to go on that one too.  It was a trip to the Gold Museum where they collect, design and make gold jewelry followed by a trip to the diamond showroom.)  We dropped anchor at three and the pilot came onboard, but the wind rose again and he left.  We were able to walk the deck for our ten laps.  It was a struggle on the starboard side but the port side was alee so it was much better.

The motion calmed enough to take some photos of Table Mountain from the deck.  All excursions were cancelled at 4:30 and we spent the night anchored off shore.2009-04-20_7329 2009-04-20_7322 2009-04-20_73312009-04-20_7330 2009-04-20_7325 2009-04-20_7333 2009-04-20_7336When  a cloud settles on the top of Table Mountain they call it a table cloth.2009-04-20_7321The next morning we were able to dock and we set off for our last game drive.  Once again we had a long drive – almost 2 1/2 hours – and we left the ship at 6:30 am.  The sun wasn’t even up.2009-04-21_7127 2009-04-21_7144We headed north and east out of the city, past rocky terrain with sagebrush scrub, but once we passed through the 4.5 km Huegonott Tunnel we were in grape and citrus country.  It was beautiful countryside.  There were vineyards in all directions as far as you could see; something like driving through California’s Napa Valley – but with the occasional shanty town.

There were two types of grape trellises; those growing on vines up and down rows like we see at home or in California, and others that were like overhead carpets where the vines grew up the trellises and accross the top to form a huge green blanket.  The grapes on the vines were for wine, the grapes hanging from the ‘blankets’ were table grapes.2009-04-21_7121 2009-04-21_7122 2009-04-21_7124 2009-04-21_7125 2009-04-21_7126We were given breakfast upon our arrival at the Aquila Private Nature Reserve.  As we departed for our game drive the wind was still blowing and it was quite cold.  We were out for 2 1/2 hours and we were somewhat disappointed as Aquila was not so much a Game Reserve as a Game Farm/Rescue Facility.  If we had been told this from the beginning it would not have been an issue because people would have had the choice to go or not.  As it was many people were displeased to learn the animals are partially fed because the land is quite barren and could not provide the required nutrional levels and that they were ‘rescues’ that, it was hoped, could be released to the wild again.  This was not in any way a bad thing and the animals had plenty of space and looked well cared for, it just was not what people had been told to expect.2009-04-21_7139 2009-04-21_7135 2009-04-21_7134                  These crocs have spent too much time in the red mud.

There was a lot of semi-arid land for the hoofed animals, but we only saw 2 young elephants, 1 giraffe, 5 rhinos and 6 hippos, a distant Cape Bufallo and a couple of ostrich.  2009-04-21_7187 2009-04-21_7189 2009-04-21_7150 2009-04-21_7159 2009-04-21_7166 2009-04-21_7176 2009-04-21_7178 2009-04-21_7194 2009-04-21_7170 2009-04-21_7195 2009-04-21_71962009-04-21_7264We did see several types of antelope, both blue and black wildebeest, and springbok which we had not seen before, but none of the ‘free roaming herds’ as advertised.  2009-04-21_7201 2009-04-21_7174And all the big cats were kept in enclosures.  I will admit it was nice to see lions and a cheetah up close and it would have been unlikely we would ever have seen them in an open setting, but again, not quite as advertised.  They were lovely animals though, and were relaxed.  None of them exhibited the stress pacing we had seen before in zoos or parks.2009-04-21_7226 2009-04-21_7207 2009-04-21_7206 2009-04-21_7281 2009-04-21_7275 2009-04-21_7278 2009-04-21_7290 2009-04-21_7285 2009-04-21_7268 For the first we returned early from a tour.  Many of the people on the bus were not very happy and I think the shore excursions people would be getting some negative feedback on the day.  People were not upset with the animals they saw or the setting, guides or vehicles, it was more that the reality did not live up to the information we were given in the brochure.  So many of the people on a world cruise are regular travellers (some people do the World Cruise every year!  Or, at least, every other year.), so they are very aware of ‘advertising hype’ in tour write-ups.  It wasn’t at all a bad day, just a somewhat disappointing one in a general sense.  And I was very happy to see the cats.  My strategy of booking lots of animal tours worked out and we did see all of the Big Five except the very elusive leopard, plus many, many more of Africa’s amazing animals.    ( And I like cheetahs better than leopards anyway.)2009-04-21_7300 2009-04-21_7310We have one more day in Cape Town before we Round the Horn and sail up the west coast of Africa.

2009 World Cruise – April 17 – Day 102 – Richards Bay, South Africa

On our second day at Richards Bay we visited the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve.  The park name is pronounced nothing like the letter combinations look.  It is Shoo sloo wee-Um fō lō zee.  I can only remember this because it was so unusual I made a point of learning it.  At one time there were too different parks with a corridor in between.  Hluhluwe was mostly for game and Umfolozi, since it was on the wetlands, had mostly birds.  The corridor lands were acquired and the parks joined together.  It is government owned and managed.  2009-04-17_6067 2009-04-17_6071 2009-04-17_6072 2009-04-17_6073 2009-04-17_6076Once again we had a lengthy (90 minute) drive to the Reserve.  Our guide, Helmut, was a one-man South Africa bashing team.  For the entire trip (there and back) he regalled us with all the reasons people should not come to South Africa;  the crime rate, unemployment, lack of education, issues with tribal areas, AIDs, big factories, brain drain (skilled doctors, engineers, etc, leaving for work overseas), currency de-valuation, inferior housing, power black-outs and illegal users.  I think he covered just about every aspect of the economy and life-style.  A really cheerful fellow.  Not really a good spokesman for his country.  He also spoke insensitively about the black population even though our driver was black.2009-04-17_6097 2009-04-17_6098The common name for the fruit of this plant is “Old Man’s Testicles.”

The driver of our truck at the reserve did not seem too motived to locate any animals and for the first part of our game drive he stuck to the paved roads – but we still saw animals.  When he moved off onto the dirt roads, though, we saw more.2009-04-17_6084 2009-04-17_6086 2009-04-17_6093_edited-1 2009-04-17_6101 2009-04-17_6107_edited-1 2009-04-17_6117These zebras were enjoying the shade at one of our pit stops.  I noticed that they usually stand like this, one facing one way and the other right alongside facing the other.  I am sure it is a survival instinct so there are eyes and ears on the lookout in all directions.

This old Cape Buffalo moved along very slowly.  I don’t think its remaining lifetime was very long.2009-04-17_6121We had been warned that all animals have the right-of-way in the reserves and when we encountered an elephant snoozing in the middle of the road all the vehicles just stopped and waited to see where he wanted to go.  By the time he moved there were five tour trucks, a dump truck and two private cars sitting at a standstill. 2009-04-17_6132 2009-04-17_6136There was another bull elephant off in the brush somewhere that was calling out and the fellow in front of us did not like what he was saying.  Eventually he wandered down the road and then off into the bush to investigate and we were all able to resume our drives.2009-04-17_6137 2009-04-17_6140 2009-04-17_6141There was quite a large herd of Cape Buffalo crossing the river.  2009-04-17_6151 2009-04-17_61582009-04-17_61542009-04-17_6146We saw a herd of Gazelle wandering down the road,  another Nyala Antelope, and some more giraffes and elephants before we left the park and headed back to the ship.


20090416_592520090416_6384 2009-04-17_616420090417_6537                 All in all it ended up being a pretty decent critter day.2009-04-17_6177



2009 World Cruise – April 16 – Day 101 – Richards Bay, South Africa

Richards Bay is South Africa’s largest harbour.  It is situated on a large lagoon off the Mhlatuze River on the northern coast of KwaZulu-Natal.  Originally it was a make-shift harbour during the Boer War of 1879 (used by Commodore of the Cape, Sir Frederick Richards).  The first sanctuary was created here in 1935 to protect the ecology around the lagoon but by 1943 it was expanded into the Richards Bay Park.  In 1954 a plan for a community was laid out and a formally recognized town was proclaimed in 1969.

The harbour is linked to Johannesburg by railway and an oil/gas pipeline. Both an aluminum smelter and a fertilizer plant were constructed at the lagoon and titanium is mined from the nearby sand dunes. Diamonds and gold were discovered in South Africa in the 19th century and mining became the foundation for rapid economic development.  By the 1990s services contributed almost 60% of the GDP, with industry providing 35% and the final 5% comes from agriculture.

Despite the hot temperatures we were welcomed by Zulu Dancers – with bare feet. They were extremely agile and did not appear to be bothered by the hot pavement or temperatures.2009-04-16_6190 2009-04-16_6195_edited-1 2009-04-16_6196The April 16th day in Richards Bay was an add-on due to itinerary changes with the cancellation of another port-of-call, French Comoros – so we were able to schedule another game drive to Zulu Nyala, a private reserve 90-minutes drive from the port. Upon our arrival we were served a delicious lunch (HAL definitely makes sure you are fed, and fed well, on these shore excursions) before climbing into the back of open-sided trucks.  2009-04-16_6203 2009-04-16_6204 2009-04-16_6206At the lunch stop we saw the nests of Weaver Birds in the trees.  These clever birds build numerous hanging nests to disguise which nest holds the eggs as a way to trick predators.2009-04-16_6207 2009-04-16_6209 2009-04-16_6210_edited-1Also on the grounds were a couple of  nice, gentle crocodiles.  Probably not.2009-04-16_6211 2009-04-16_6215 2009-04-16_6216A few Plains Zebra (pronounced like the British zed, not the American zee) roamed freely on the grounds.  I guess they liked the lawn grass.2009-04-16_6217 2009-04-16_6221 2009-04-16_6225 2009-04-16_6227Each of the open sided trucks could carry 10 passengers.  We were on the last one be to loaded (a good strategy for avoiding full buses or vehicles) so there were only 6 of us.  Friends James and Cherie and I had the upper front seat and John was on his own in the seat behind. We were on different sides of the truck so any animal photos I might miss, John could get.2009-04-16_6231zulu-nyala-027 2009-04-16_6232Our driver was named William and he, like Patrick in Kenya, asked us which animals we most wanted to see and did his best to locate them within the park grounds.  He did well too.  We saw giraffes, hippos, rhinos, wildebeest, antelope, and many other animals and birds.2009-04-16_6233 2009-04-16_6236 2009-04-16_6239 2009-04-16_6242_edited-1 2009-04-16_6247 2009-04-16_6255I don’t think there is another animal more stately than a giraffe.  They just have such great posture and presence.  Even when they walk they look regal.

2009-04-16_62762009-04-16_6384  2009-04-16_6484                                         These are Nyala antelope.

Of course, giraffe are also quite comical and very ungainly when they bend down to eat grass or drink water.  Personally, I think this injures their pride so they try to stick to eating leaves from the trees.2009-04-16_6287 2009-04-16_63272009-04-16_62972009-04-16_62992009-04-16_63052009-04-16_63092009-04-16_63402009-04-16_63472009-04-16_63482009-04-16_63502009-04-16_6354_edited-12009-04-16_6366                                                          Blue Wildebeest2009-04-16_6373 2009-04-16_6376 2009-04-16_6381_edited-1 2009-04-16_6454Impala – the McDonalds of the Savannah – notice the M symbol.

There are six white rhinos and one black rhino at Zulu-Nyala.  We did not see the black but we did see all six of the white.  The name difference has nothing to do with the animals colour; they are all pretty much the same, from grey to brown.  White Rhinos have a wide, square upper lip, which the Afrikaans (Dutch origin) people called Wyd – anglicized to White.  The Black Rhino has a narrow, hooked lip.  Black Rhinos are extremely endangered and several of the sub-species are already extinct.  The Northern White Rhino is also severly threatened.

Poachers are very sophisticated these days and use social media to read the geo-tags on photos that people post.  This gives them the date, time and location in various parks and open plains where they know rhinos have been and makes it easy for the poachers to locate and kill them.2009-04-16_6397_edited-1 2009-04-16_6399 2009-04-16_6405 2009-04-16_6408 2009-04-16_6429 2009-04-16_6436                               Rhinos like to wallow in mud to keep cool.2009-04-16_6441Much of the movie “Out of Africa” starring Kate Bassinger was filmed at Zulu-Nyala.  Part of the agreement was that the house ‘set’ that was built for the film was to be left standing after shooting was completed.

2009-04-16_6456 2009-04-16_6460 2009-04-16_6461 2009-04-16_646920090416_6032 2009-04-16_6463 2009-04-16_6462 2009-04-16_6467_edited-1 2009-04-16_6468William tried very hard to find the elephants for us without success, but that was okay as we had seen them in Kenya. It was 6 pm by the time we returned to the parking lot.  All of the buses were loaded and waiting since one person from each bus was on our truck.  Oops. 2009-04-16_65012009-04-16_6475                                       That was a great, great day!

2009 World Cruise – April 15 – Day 100 – Maputo, Mozambique

2009-04-17_6178The day after we left Mombasa was Easter Sunday and we received a nice large chocolate rabbit.

Two days later it was another formal night and the theme was Casino Royale.  There were large playing cards, dice, and black and red streamers all over the ship.  I was always impressed by the effort they made to decorate for special nights.  They only did it every few weeks so it was always a treat.2009-04-13_5650 2009-04-13_5653 2009-04-13_5654 2009-04-13_5660 2009-04-14_56252009-04-14_5641                       The sunset that night was pretty nice as well.

Maputo, Mozambique was the first of four consecutive days in port. We arrived in Maputo, the largest city and capital of Mozambique at 8 AM.  Mozambique was a Portuguese colony for many years until independence was granted in 1974.  Over 250,000 ethnic Portuguese left the country virtually overnight leaving no skilled professionals to maintain  the infrastructure.  The economy plummeted as a result.  The governing party turned to the Soviet Union and East Germany for help, but by the early 1980s the country was bankrupt.  The Civil War, which lasted until 1992, further weakened the economy, but with the war ended growth and stability are returning.  Tourism is playing a large role in the country’s recovery.

Obviously, with such recent political and economical storms there were not a vast selection of tours available.  We did a five-hour excursion that was basically an overview of the area in and around Maputo.

We were first driven out to the countryside, past the river where ladies do the laundry and to the Pequenos Libombos Dam.2009-04-15_5550 2009-04-15_5552 2009-04-15_5563 2009-04-15_55622009-04-15_5571 2009-04-15_5574 2009-04-15_5584 2009-04-15_5585 2009-04-15_5586 2009-04-15_5587 2009-04-15_5549 2009-04-15_5588 2009-04-15_55892009-04-15_5599Upon our return to Maputo we had a walk around the Jardim dos Namorados (the Public Garden) and a drive past the Costa Del Sol (beach front).

2009-04-15_5592 2009-04-15_55962009-04-15_5594 2009-04-15_5595 2009-04-15_5600 2009-04-15_5604  We were pleasantly surprised at the modern high-rise buildings in the city and the clean streets.

2009-04-15_5544 2009-04-15_5591 2009-04-15_5607 2009-04-15_5608 2009-04-15_5612 2009-04-15_5614 2009-04-15_5618 It was a nice overview of an area that, unfortunately, is still riddled with unrest, so we were blessed to be there during a time of welcome and peace.

2009 World Cruise – April 10 – Day 95 – Mombasa, Kenya

The second day in Mombasa was slightly cooler than the previous day.  We drove 90 minutes to Shimba Hills National Reserve.  Our driver, Patrick, was a Christian with a heart for mission.  He partners with an organization in Spokane to provide medical clinics, school uniforms & tuition, and sponsorship for 126  chuildren in Kenya.

We saw different scenes and scenery on our drive to the reserve than the day before, yet they are located in the same area.  We actually passed the entrance to Shimba Hills on our way to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary the day before.

2009-04-10_3964 2009-04-10_3965 2009-04-10_3966 2009-04-10_3967 2009-04-10_3968 2009-04-10_3969 2009-04-10_3972 2009-04-10_3974 2009-04-10_3980Patrick asked the five of us in his van which animals we most wanted to see, and since he knows the park well, he did his best to find them. 2009-04-10_3982 2009-04-10_4051 2009-04-10_4024 2009-04-10_4029 2009-04-10_3988 2009-04-10_3993 2009-04-10_406420090410_4058_edited-1 2009-04-10_4036 2009-04-10_4041Shimba Hills is the only reserve in the country where one may see the rare sable and roan antelopes, one of the most handsome species of antelope.  We were fortunate to see both the black and the roan.  Loved their big pointy ears.20090410_4189 2009-04-10_4071_edited-1 20090410_4008_edited-1 20090410_4012_edited-1At our lunch stop at the hotel restaurant we enjoyed watching the fish eagles and walking the boardwalks.

2009-04-10_4095 2009-04-10_4099 2009-04-10_4108 2009-04-10_4104 2009-04-10_4079 2009-04-10_4082 2009-04-10_4084 2009-04-10_4087 2009-04-10_40932009-04-10_4089 2009-04-10_40902009-04-10_4091 2009-04-10_4101We were scheduled to be returning to the ship after lunch, but Patrick took us on a second game drive to try find the elusive giraffe – with no luck unfortunately.2009-04-10_4117 2009-04-10_4129 2009-04-10_4135 2009-04-10_4137We were due to return on board at 2:30 and we didn’t get back until 6 pm.  We had a wonderful day with new friends Hanson and Janice and her 93-year old father John; who was a real trooper and great fun.20090410_4265 2009-04-10_4140 2009-04-10_4142 2009-04-10_4148 2009-04-10_4150We had a short wait while the ferry unloaded before we could drive on and go across to the port.  It was interesting to see all the different people and their burdens getting off.2009-04-10_41622009-04-10_41532009-04-10_4156 2009-04-10_4157_edited-1 2009-04-10_4161This fellow is talking on his cell phone while he pulled that load of fuel tanks up the ramp!20090411_43542009-04-10_4163         And another group is waiting at the other side to get on.

We had a third day in Mombasa due to itinerary changes but the two tours we had done were the ones offered for the third day as well.  This gave us the opportunity to have a lazy morning, do some laundry while so many people were off the ship, write emails, and read our books.  About three o’clock we wandered down the gangway to the huge market that was set up on the pier; and even bought a few things.

2009-04-11_5666 2009-04-11_5668 2009-04-11_5669 2009-04-11_5670 The ship sailed away in the late afternoon and had four sea days before our next stop at Maputo, Mozambique.

2009 World Cruise – April 9 – Day 94 – Mombasa, Kenya

Let the critters begin!!

As per the new schedule arranged before we went to the Seychelle Islands, we were three days at sea before reaching Mombasa, Kenya.  The Captain sailed quite far south and then came north along the coast of Tanzania to avoid pirate activity.  The day before we docked in Mombasa we heard that pirates had commandeered five ships in the previous 48 hours, one of which had re-taken the vessel; one pirate was in custody and three others had fled in their boat.  They were getting braver and going after ships much further offshore than had been the case for quite a long time.  I am sure our Captain and crew were very happy to be safely out of those waters.

There was an overland excursion offered when we arrived in Kenya; a three-day trip to Maaisa Mara National Reserve.  I seriously considered booking it but decided not to since we had taken two expensive tours (overland in China and the flight to the Taj Mahal) already.  My rationalization was that if I booked a safari tour at every one of our African ports of call the chances were very good that we would see all of the Big Five (lion, cheetah, elephant, rhinocerous, and water buffalo), plus many other of the continent’s animals for less cost than the overland.  I worried that this might not be the best decision but as I say, “You can only do the best you can do with what you know at the time.”  That’s my story and I’ll stick too it (for now).

From the port we had to take a very short ride on the Likoni Ferry to the mainland; a couple of hundred meters, but it was packed with people and vehicles. There were as many waiting on the other side to board for the return trip.  The vehicles drive on first and there is literally a ‘holding yard’ – covered enclosure – where the pedestrians wait until the cars and buses are on board, then as many people as fit in the space are allowed on.  Rush hour every ten minutes!20090410_4256_edited-1The nine-hour tour to Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary included almost 5 hours of driving on bumpy, dusty roads to get there and back.  As I have said before, the long drives to go inland on some of these excursions don’t bother us because we get to see so much of the countryside, local people and communities. During the drive John was transported back to 2008 when he and our daughter went on a mission trip to build a medical clinic at an HIV/AIDs orphanage in Zambia.  So much of the landscape, buildings and the activities of the people were the same.

2009-04-09_3761 2009-04-09_376220090409_4279_edited-1 2009-04-09_3763 2009-04-09_3765 2009-04-09_3766 2009-04-09_37682009-04-09_3769Within the sanctuary we only saw elephants from a distance half-hidden by brush.                                                2009-04-09_3784

2009-04-09_38022009-04-09_3838 2009-04-09_3805_edited-1The Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary was created to provide a safe corridor from Shimba Hills Reserve (where we were going the next day) to the forest.  It is ‘historically’ a bull’s area although you can see the occasional female and her calf.  The sanctuary is a community-based project that supports 200 families who voluntarily contributed the communal land for the preserve; agreeing not to farm this important elephant habitat.  The people live nearby and manage the sanctuary, earning more from tourism than from farming.  It has enabled them to build school classrooms and enjoy a steady water supply.

20090409_36552009-04-09_38392009-04-09_37852009-04-09_39152009-04-09_3792 2009-04-09_3786      This is a very large millipede that you do not want to bite you.

At the Hotel/Camp where we had lunch we had a great view of a watering hole where a small herd of elephants congregate.2009-04-09_3841 2009-04-09_3842 2009-04-09_3843 2009-04-09_3865 2009-04-09_3864 2009-04-09_3849Elephant trunks apparently are heavy and a tusk is a good place to take the weight off.

There was also a big warthog that like to wallow in the mud at the edge of the waterhole.

2009-04-09_3871 2009-04-09_3874 2009-04-09_3875One of the elephants took exception to the presence of a couple of other elephants in the water and would come stalking over to chase them away.2009-04-09_3894 2009-04-09_3884 On the drive back to the port we saw all these people with nets standing in the river.  It looked more like they were collecting the weeds or grass than fishing.2009-04-09_3916 2009-04-09_3917 2009-04-09_3918 2009-04-09_3920We had a short game drive at the end of the tour and saw this warthog and her three babies scurry into the brush as the vans drove by.  2009-04-09_3932 2009-04-09_3935And this colobus monkey was making sure she wasn’t too visible.2009-04-09_3937 20090409_3546            I really like the thick-trunked Baobab Trees.2009-04-09_3944 2009-04-09_3946 2009-04-09_3948The dry season allows much of a store’s merchandise to be displayed outside.

We returned to the ship in time to clean-up and attend the Maundy Thursday service provided by Pastor Jack.  The next day was Good Friday and we would be off to Shimba Hills for most of the day.  Holland America has a Protestant Pastor, Catholic Priest, and Jewish Rabbi on all of their long Grand Voyages.  They provide worship services for guests and crew, and there are also prayer and instruction times available for the predominantly Muslim Indonesian crew members.

We had an enjoyable first day in Africa.  We had two more days in Mombasa, then a stop in Mozambique, before Richards Bay, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa – animals every day until we reach Namibia on the west coast.


2009 World Cruise – Mar 31 – Day 85 – Muscat, Oman

The night we were at sea between Dubai, UAE and Muscat, Oman there was a severe lightning storm.  I slept through it all while John sat up and video’d the storm.  While we walked the deck for our usual two miles we had to battle wind and a rolling deck from the churning sea.2009-03-31_2811 2009-03-31_2802 2009-03-31_2804 The captain announced there was good chance of rain the next day for our stop in Oman, which will be interesting since it is a desert country located along the south coast of the Arabian peninsula.

Our tour was an all-day (9 1/2 hours) trip to see the Forts of Nizwa (the former cultural and political capital of Oman).  Nizwa was 1 1/2 hour drive from Muscat through the Western Al Jajar Mountains.2009-03-31_2806 2009-03-31_2809 2009-03-31_2808               Note the tiny people in the lower center of this photo.

There was only one stop on the way to Nizwa; the ruins at Bilkat Moz; which was built into a steep hillside. 2009-03-31_2814_edited-1 2009-03-31_2818 2009-03-31_28172009-03-31_2826 John and our friend Harold from Melbourne, Australia had an in depth conversation as we walked back to the bus.

We spent over an hour at the 17th century Nizwa Fort before lunch.  The fort had access to freshwater even during a siege due to an irrigation system developed by the Queen of Sheba in 550 BC.  Underground channels brought the water from nearby wells into the fort.2009-03-31_2831I loved all the pots and urns on display in the shops on the way to the fort.2009-03-31_2834 2009-03-31_2835 2009-03-31_2836 2009-03-31_28402009-03-31_28412009-03-31_28682009-03-31_28392009-03-31_28472009-03-31_28492009-03-31_28552009-03-31_28562009-03-31_28572009-03-31_2865How could you not love all the angles, shapes and arches in an Arabian Fort?  So much fun to photograph.

From the top of the walls we had a nice view of part of Nizwa. 2009-03-31_2858 2009-03-31_2862 2009-03-31_28632009-03-31_28812009-03-31_2873                             This rock looks just like a crouching lion.

The abandoned ruins at Tanuf, home of Oman’s last Imam (religious leader), had an interesting tale.  The current Sultan’s father united the tribes of the country of Oman, but the Iman (who controlled 90% of the land) was not on board.  The Imam’s dissent brought the wrath of the Sultan down upon his dwellings in the form of air-raid bombing by the Sultan’s allies – the British Royal Air Force.

There were very few complete sections of walls to show the size or former granduer of the fort.

2009-03-31_2882 2009-03-31_2883 2009-03-31_2886 2009-03-31_2887 2009-03-31_2888 20090331_2884 20090331_298720090331_2977 2009-03-31_28942009-03-31_2900We only had a photo stop at Bahla, the UNESCO World Heritage Site 15th century fort that predates the spread of Islam in the region.

2009-03-31_2902 2009-03-31_2906_edited-2Our last fort on the tour was Jabrin Castle, called Palace of Gilyaroub.  It is famous for the beautiful ceiling decorations, wall murals and impressive architecture.  It is considered one of Oman’s most beautiful forts.

2009-03-31_2930 2009-03-31_2931 2009-03-31_2932 2009-03-31_2936 2009-03-31_2937 2009-03-31_2939 2009-03-31_29202009-03-31_2919 2009-03-31_2923 2009-03-31_2924 2009-03-31_2928 2009-03-31_2913 2009-03-31_2916While we were on our tour inland the rain came down in buckets in Muscat.  When we were driving back into the city the wadi’s (many of which had been dry for five years or more) were rivers of muddy water.  Our guide was very excited and told us we brought good luck to Oman by bringing the rain so we were welcome back anytime.2009-03-31_2945 2009-03-31_2948 2009-03-31_2951 2009-03-31_2952 2009-03-31_2953The Sultanate of Oman is a mountainous, dry desert country.  There are no lakes, rivers, or streams – although there are several oases with fresh water pools.  All the water for the 3.5 million population is supplied by de-salination and wells. It does rain in Oman several times a year but the rain we got that day was much longer in duration and a heavier downpour than they have had in many, many years.2009-03-31_2946 2009-03-31_2955There were traffic jams in the streets where people had just stopped their cars and gotten out to stand in the rain.  School had been cancelled by the Sultan and many of the children were seeing running water in the wadi’s for the first time in their lives.  It was a pretty neat end to a good day.

2009 World Cruise – April 4 & 5 – Days 89 & 90 – Victoria, Seychelles

The first day at sea after leaving Muscat, Oman, during the captain’s daily noonhour annoucements, he told us of some itinerary changes he had made to keep the ship out of range of the pirate activity that was active on the northeast coast of Africa at the time.  (The Maersk ‘Alabama’ was pirated while we were in these waters – re: Tom Hanks movie “Captain Philllips.” )  Our two-day port of call in the Seychelles was moved up a day earlier and we would be three days at sea instead of the originally planned four (which meant we needed to travel at full speed of 22 knots) and we would take three days instead of two to reach Mombasa, Kenya so that the captain can sail further out at sea and further south down the African coast before turning north and hugging the coast up to Mombasa.  These changes would allow the ship to get to Kenya without sailing in the vicinity of known pirate activity.

In order to ensure the ship and passengers were protected the entire time we sailed in the waters near Somalian pirates there was crew members with night vision binoculars and flak vests doing 4-hour shifts on watch on the promenade deck 24- hours a day.  All of the promenade deck  fire hoses had been charged and lashed to the railing and a sonic cannon was set up at each end of the deck and ready to break eardrums if necessary.  There was never a dull moment on the open sea.

The Seychelles are a group of about 115 islands that lie 1600 kilometers (990 miles) off the coast of east Africa.  The three central islands – Mahe, Praslin and La Digue – are granite, while the outlying islands are coral atolls.  The capital, Victoria, Mahe is one of the smallest capital cities in the world and the only major port in the Seychelles.  It is also the only town in the country; all the other communities are villages.

When the islands were discovered by a British East India ship in 1609 they quickly became a haven for pirates.  They were claimed for France in 1754 and the first settlers and slaves arrived in 1770.  Britain took charge of the Seychelle Islands after the Napoleonic Wars but the French language and customs remained.  Today, most locals will conduct business in French, speak English to the tourists and talk Creole (a French dialect) at home.
2009-04-04_3298 2009-04-05_3493Our tour the first day in the Seychelles – which was Palm Sunday –  took us into Victoria to see the famous clock tower, the post office, several churches, the market, and a Hindu temple before we visited the Botanical Gardens.  At the garden we saw the giant land tortoises and the coco de mer (double coconut), unique to the Seychelles.

2009-04-04_3301 2009-04-04_3302 2009-04-04_3304 2009-04-04_3306 2009-04-04_3307 2009-04-04_33082009-04-04_33142009-04-04_33342009-04-04_33362009-04-04_33382009-04-04_33442009-04-04_33452009-04-04_33482009-04-04_33672009-04-04_33202009-04-04_33422009-04-04_33402009-04-04_33412009-04-04_3339We were driven to the highest point on the island for a photo stop before being taken to a restaurant at the south end of the island for lunch.  There was time alloted for a swim after lunch but the surf was pretty high and strong so we just enjoyed a walk on the lovely beach.2009-04-04_3366 2009-04-04_3376 2009-04-04_3381 2009-04-04_3404 2009-04-04_3387 2009-04-04_3388 2009-04-04_3391 2009-04-04_3403_edited-2 2009-04-04_3405 20090404_3169 2009-04-04_3400 2009-04-04_3399 2009-04-04_3398On the way back to the ship we stopped at a Craft Village where we saw demonstrations by traditional artisans; as we know one must ALWAYS have an opportunity to shop on each excursion.

Day two was a lovely sunny day and the water returned to its normal hues of bright blue and green.  We went snorkeling near one of the small outer atolls, Cerf Island.2009-04-04_3412 2009-04-05_3469 2009-04-05_34722009-04-05_3513_edited-1It was fun to feed the fish.  My little waterproof camera managed a couple of almost clear shots and a short video of the feeding frenzy over the chunk of bread.  Despite the sun screen we both got burned when we were snorkeling.2009-04-05_3481



We returned to the ship at noon, had a light lunch and caught the shuttle back to shore to explore Victoria on foot.
2009-04-05_3487 20090405_3416 2009-04-05_3490 We really liked the Seychelles and, except for the horrendously long flight to get there, could see ourselves spending vacation time on one of the islands.

And just to end our visit at these lovely islands in the same vein as when we arrived, the Captain cancelled our stop in Madagascar due to political unrest; which now gives us a third day in Mombasa.


2009 World Cruise – Mar 28 & 29 – Days 82 & 83- Dubai, UAE

2009 World Cruise – Unlike the rest of the ports of call on this cruise, except Hawai’i, we have been to Dubai, United Arab Emirates before.  Our son worked for a company based in Houston, Texas for two years and in 2007 he accepted a transfer to Dubai.  We visited him in 2008, but we didn’t see a great deal of the city at the time.  Our ship was docked in Dubai for two days.  We planned to spend most of our time with our son and he was going to tour us around a bit.

Joseph and his girlfriend Carrie were waiting to greet us when we entered the teminal.  We had not met Carrie before as she and our son had just started dating in early February.  We had already arranged visitor’s passes for them so we took them on board, gave them a tour of the ship and had a buffet lunch in the Lido before going to Joseph’s apartment to visit and play a game (we play a lot of games in our family).  Carrie had friends flying in from the USA to visit her for a week so she had to leave after our game to pick them up at the airport.  The three of us walked to the marina for dinner (a really good Italian restaurant) before Joseph drove us back to the ship.2009-03-29_24792009-03-28_2365 2009-03-28_23782009-03-28_2382 2009-03-28_2377           Views from Joseph’s apartment at the Dubai Marina.

2009-03-28_23682009-03-28_2366Looking the other direction from Joseph’s balcony.  This vacant lot is now fully developed.  In the distance, through the sand dust in the air, you can just make out the beautiful Burj Al Arab; the world’s only 7-star hotel. You could take a shore excursion, or make your own reservation, and go there for High Tea – VERY expensive tea.  The Burj Al Arab, I think even more than the Burj Khalifa, has become Dubai’s signature building.

20090329_2446 20090329_2463 2009-03-28_2385The ship had arranged a free shuttle to take passengers into town from the port.  The next day we took the shuttle which dropped people off at the Burjuman Shopping Center.  Joseph met us there and we left his car and took a taxi to the famous gold souk.  The souk covers several blocks of small shops that sell gold jewelry.  There are even shops on a second or third level.  I have never seen so much bling in my life!  Absolutely stunning pieces.  Many of the sets in the window were for brides.  On her wedding day an Arab woman will wear many pieces of jewelry; a large necklace, earrings and several bracelets.  They must cost a fortune.  We also wandered around Old Town and through the spice souk where you can purchase anything and everything you would like to season your food.

20090329_2489 20090328_2453 20090328_2452The most amazing thing about Dubai is the architecture.  If you can conceive of a unique building someone in Dubai will build it.  There is a building that looks like a giant grain elevator but the middle is missing.  There are three buildings that are arranged like sections of an orange you have just peeled.  And, of course, there is the famous Burj Dubai, which was renamed the Burj Khalifa after the Sheik of Abu Dhabi after he gave Dubai a cheque for some astronomical amount of money to help them out of a financial crunch caused by the 2008-2009 global economic crisis.  This worked well all around because the Sheik of Abu Dhabi was planning to build his own tower that would be higher than the Burj.  Now he is saved the expense because his name is on the tallest building in the world-  and it’s just an hour down the road in Dubai.  Win. Win. 20090328_2395 20090328_2397 20090329_2468The Burj Dubai was still under construction when we there in 2009; all the windows hadn’t yet been installed. We spent 2015 Christmas with Joseph and Carrie in Muscat, Oman (They moved from Dubai to Muscat in November 2013) and we drove up to Dubai for the weekend (6 hour drive). One of the things we did was go to the viewing level of the Burj Khalifa, which is on the 124th floor.  Trust me, it is a very strange sensation to be looking down on the rooftops of towering skyscrapers.  It is VERY HIGH.

20090328_2399 20090329_2473The Burj is currently the tallest building in the world at 828 meters (2,722′) but Saudi Arabia began construction in 2013 on the Jeddah Tower which will be 1 kilometer tall (3,280′)  – 180 meters or 591′ taller than the Burj Khalifa.  The Jeddah Tower is slated for completion in 2020.  Dubai’s Burj Khalia took five years to build at a cost of US$1.5 billion.  In contrast Saudi Arabia’s new Jeddah Tower has a budget of US$20 billion!

After our walk around Old Town and the souks we went back to Joseph’s apartment for the afternoon.  We left at 4:15 to pick up Carrie at her apartment as we were all going to eat in the dining room on the ship.  Traffic was really backed up and we moved at a crawl.  As we neared Carrie’s apartment building we discovered that, since the day before, they had completely changed the road and we need to make a detour. (This was, and probably still is, a common occurrence in Dubai – roads just get changed without warning or notice.)  The normal 10 minute drive took 45 minutes and we still had a 40 minute drive to the port.   Dinner was scheduled for 6.  We pulled into the parking lot at 5:46.  I ran ahead and told everyone the others were on their way and we all sat down at the table only five minutes late.2009-03-29_2477_edited-1All the tables in a ship’s dining room are bolted to the floor.  They can’t just be rearranged to add more people.  Thankfully, since all aboard wasn’t until 11:30 that night, many people had chosen to eat in Dubai.  That allowed Heri, one of the dining room managers to bring up another small table from somewhere on the ship and set it at the end of our normal table for six.  We introduced Joseph and Carrie to our table mates Charles and Evelyn and Tim and Elaine and we all had a wonderful time at dinner.  Since he lives so far away from home it was a real treat for us to spend time with our son and meet his girlfriend (now his wife).  Two great days in Dubai.



2009 World Cruise – Mar 25 – Day 79 – Mumbai, India

2009 World Cruise – Our second day in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) began at 7 with an 8 am tour.  We were taken to see various places around the city.  It was just a 4 hour tour so we had the afternoon to relax and catch some rest after the long day the day before when we flew to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort.

Our first stop of the day was a photo stop at the Victoria Terminus Railway Station which is now a World Heritage Site and is having restoration work done.  The station was built during Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year.  The first train left from the station in 1853 and over half a million commuters per day pass through its doors. Rail is the primary way to travel distances in India and the trains are packed to the gills.  Although it is illegal, many people still hitch rides on the roofs of the train cars.2009-03-25_2018 2009-03-25_2028 2009-03-25_2035 2009-03-25_2050The most interesting stop of the day was to see the Dhobi Ghats – a huge outdoor commercial laundry facility.  The sink cubicle spaces are generational, meaning they get passed down from father to son.  The laundry work is a male occupation.  Often the men have a farm out in the country and sons, brothers or cousins will come into town  on a rotation to work in the laundry.2009-03-25_2040 2009-03-25_2044 2009-03-25_2041 2009-03-25_2042Laundry from all over Mumbai is brought here and soaped, soaked, boiled and beaten. They do the laundry for hotels and resorts, institutions like hospitals, factories, and private homes.  The men have their own private tagging system that allows them to hang laundry from different customers together but can be separated later.  As many men as are working in the laundry there are the same again going about the city collecting and returning laundry.  Everything is washed, dried, ironed, and folded and returned in 3-4 days.

The street vendors and beggars in India were very persistent and infringed closely on one’s personal space.  It was hard to witness the poverty and to see those who had been intentionally maimed as an infant so they could be beggars to help provide for the family.  Begging is an ‘honorable’ profession in many eastern countries and is extremely prevalent almost everywhere in India.2009-03-25_2046 2009-03-25_2047 2009-03-25_2056 2009-03-25_2058When we left the Dhobi Ghats we stopped at Mani Bhavan, the house where Mahatma Ghandi stayed whenever he was in Mumbia between 1917 and 1934.  After his death the owner of the house kept his room exactly as it was when Ghandi would stay including all of his books (about 50,000). The house is now a museum and memorial to the famous leader of non-violent non-cooperation where Ghandi’s life is portrayed in picture box dioramas, photographs and articles.

2009-03-25_2061 2009-03-25_2060 2009-03-25_2062_edited-1The Prince of Wales Museum was the next stop on our tour.  It is a beautiful multi-domed and arched building.  Unfortunately we only had a short time to look at a few of the exhibits.  I love museums and tend to wander around quite happily for several hours when I get inside one.2009-03-25_2073 2009-03-25_2069 2009-03-25_2074Our last stop was a short photo stop at the Gateway to India, the city’s most famous landmark; buiIt in 1911 it, too, is undergoing some renovations.2009-03-25_2080_edited-12009-03-25_2078_edited-12009-03-25_2076 2009-03-25_2079_edited-1The Taj Mahal Hotel (photo on the right) that had been bombed the previous November.  If I remember correctly there were about eight attacks on various places in Mumbai that month.

We spent the afternoon resting and reading.  The next day was a sea day and was India Dress Night.  I had found a nice outfit at one of the shops at the terminal so I was suitable attired for the occasion. Elaine also wore a lovely emerald green sari.  I’m not much of a fashionista, but it was fun to wear different national attire as we traveled around the globe.2009-03-26_2389 2009-03-26_2391