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Who Says Cruising Isn’t Exciting? P.S. Don’t let the exciting parts in here put you off!
By Mike Ashcroft and Diane James
In September 2014 we joined MS Rotterdam – Holland America Lines flagship – at Southampton, England, for a month-long cruise to Dubai, UAE. Now, if you know your geography, that’s a long way, and takes in pretty much all of the places where our civilisation began.
NEW TO CRUISING OR SEASONED CRUISER?
Either way, and whether you chose quite a long cruise like this or a week nearer home, if you are a virgin cruiser there are a few things that you need to know.
Never mind the men, we have it easy. A couple pairs of trousers for evenings, swim and normal shorts, a few shirts, a dinner or formal suit for formal evenings, and we’re all set. This is when I am glad I am a man. But, the women have a whole different thought process. OK… at least 5 swimsuits. Shoes? Don’t get me started. Semi-formal tops and trousers and skirts or dresses. Formal evenings? Well, you wouldn’t want anyone seeing you in the same outfit twice, right? So, I get to only take one pair of shoes, as Di is going to need all the space she can get for dresses. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I am proud to be seen out with Di and other well-dressed women.
Often Cruise ships add what seems like overly generous tips to your bill. But the fact is that this gets shared out between the crew. So, for the kitchen, laundry, housekeepers, engineering, etc., (crew that you won’t meet and may not see) it is a fair way to do it for the excellent services they provide. We usually additionally tip separately to our cabin attendant(s), waiters, etc, if they do a good job (which they always do).
EXCITEMENT DURING CRUISE TO DUBAI:
As a by-product, we met some special people (you often do), including Viv and Jill – WAVEJourney, when we were in a trivia quiz team together which made for some combined serious knowledge.
MS Rotterdam sailed from Southampton, heading for our first port of Lisbon, Portugal. Several hours before arrival there was an announcement to clear the top decks as a rescue helicopter was picking up a fellow passenger in medical trouble. Two helicopters arrived (not sure why two) and took him off to hospital. We returned to our normal routine, and our visit to Lisbon went without a hitch.
Onwards we sailed through the Mediterranean (getting more tanned every day and cementing new friendships) until we arrived in Israel, where we had two stops. Our first stop in Israel, was to go to Jerusalem where we had booked a local tour company as we prefer sightseeing in smaller groups. Naturally, Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall lived up to all of our expectations, especially with our local guide taking us to parts that the normal tourist groups and big motorcoaches on tour wouldn’t see. As it was a special Holy Holiday for all three religions (Jews, Christians and Muslims), there was a very heavy security presence (most of whom looked bored).
All of a sudden, we became aware of what could only be described as automatic gunfire followed by an explosion. It was outside the Old City walls so we were not in any direct danger. Later we found out that a suicide bomber was challenged by security forces, and was shot as he ran towards the city entrance. Now we began to realize why we were about the only cruise ship in the Eastern Mediterranean at this time. Nobody else (cruise ships) was going to Israel or Egypt, so we had it all to ourselves.
Several more interesting stops later, including transit of the Suez Canal, and we started to get drills for anti-piracy procedures (told you it wouldn’t be boring). The ship had high pressure fire hoses to use if approached by a suspect vessel in addition to “sound cannons” which direct a high decibel beam at such a vessel. Several drills later, we were still pirate free.
Continuing on cruising we rounded the Horn of Africa (pirate central) and headed into the Persian Gulf. To our right (starboard side) was Iran. No problem to us… we thought… What would they want with a cruise ship? Maybe they didn’t read that part, as the attack alarms were sounded as four very fast boats, with what we found out later to be Iranian Militia, came straight for us. The ship went to maximum speed of 25 knots (that’s fast for a large ship) and the gunboats circled and harassed the ship.
What we didn’t know until later was that as the only cruise ship in the region we were being followed just over the horizon by a Royal Navy warship; who on receiving an SOS call from MS Rotterdam, launched their helicopter gunship. I assume that the Militia became aware of this as they hightailed it back home before the helicopter arrived. Phew!
Another nice stop included Abu Dhabi, UAE, where we visited Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the most beautiful mosque we have ever seen. Last stop on our cruise was Dubai, where we disembarked without further drama and flew home.
So, if that was your first cruise, would you be put off cruising? I doubt it. It is our favorite way to travel, and if you get an extra bit of spice it’s a bonus. If you’ve never cruised, try it… If you have you will know just what I mean!
Mike Ashcroft and Diane James live in the middle of beautiful England. They have been in love and together since 2002. This cruise was their 110th holiday together, so they don’t have a whole lot of money left, but boy have they got memories, photos and new friends out of it. Mike and Di are both 63, still working (they need to fund their fabulous holidays), and are parents and grandparents (and proud of each one of them).