Archive for December, 2009

Desert Disneyland


We form ideas on what a place is like before arriving or while sitting at home in our living rooms. Most of the time, the experience is altogether different. But Dubai was just as strange and excessive as I’d expected it to be. In some ways, it’s a place that needs to be seen to be believed because some of the things you hear about the city sounds so crazy. But then you see it and it’s kind of like ‘ok, yep, that’s a ski hill in a mall’ and you’re left with a somewhat empty feeling because all of it is just so unreal. Still, some things managed to surprise us and we had a great time in the city.


Arrived in Dubai


We arrived in Dubai today, after nearly nine days at sea. After navigating the Suez Canal and avoiding the pirates, we had an unfortunate delay in Oman. We had to make an emergency stop for several hours to disembark an older passenger who had heart complications. We heard later that the woman passed away in a hospital onshore. It was a sombre moment, but we didn’t know the lady in question. The stop in Oman also put us about 7 hours behind schedule, so we arrived in Dubai at 3:00pm today instead of 8:00am.

On arrival, we took one of the free shuttles into the city. We were dropped off at a relatively small mall, and made our way partly on foot and partly in a cab to Dubai Mall, right at the foot of the Burj Dubai. The Burj Dubai is currently the tallest building in the world, and it was very impressive. It dwarfed nearly every other building in the skyline. Unfortunately the observation deck isn’t open to the public yet, so we had to settle for the view from the ground. The Dubai Mall was huge, and we had to smile when we saw the full-size skating rink. After the mall, we headed back to the ship. Luckily we have most of tomorrow to explore more of the city before we set sail again. I think it will be very hard to fit the gigantic expanse of Dubai into the short time we have here, but hopefully we manage to hit on some of the good parts.

We beat the pirates

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we’ve made it safely through the Gulf of Aden, and are now past the most dangerous stretch of water. We are still traveling at night with the ship’s lights out, just to be safe. We are only two and a half days from Dubai now.

We heard something pretty funny onboard today. I met a man from California who, after commenting that we were probably the youngest people on board (something nearly everyone we’ve met has said to us), told us of a complaint he’d overheard recently. Apparently, while waiting to speak to someone at the guest relations desk, he listened to an old man complaining to the staff that there were young people on board! He’d apparently been told that no young people would be on this cruise. He was further upset that there had been ‘young person music’ playing on the pool deck, where he had ‘seen them’. Believe me when I say that none of the music we’ve heard so far is what I would consider ‘young person music’, unless Celine Dion counts. We couldn’t help but laugh when we heard that — age discrimination on a cruise, amongst passengers! We’d better watch out. And we thought the pirates were our biggest worry.

Dangerous waters ahead


After leaving Alexandria, we set out for Dubai, which is over 9 days of sea travel away. Right now we are in the middle of the Red Sea, approaching the south end that lets out into the Gulf of Aden. We have Saudi Arabia to our port side, and Sudan to our starboard.

Two days ago we passed through the Suez Canal. That was really interesting. The canal is only wide enough for a single lane of traffic, so we had to anchor at one end and wait for oncoming traffic to clear out of the canal. When it was time, we entered the canal with a convoy of other ships (mostly container ships) and sailed slowly along. There was land within throwing distance of either side of the ship, mostly desert. About two thirds of the way along, we reached Great Bitter Lake, a passing point in the canal system. Here we waited again for oncoming traffic to clear, and then led the convoy through the final stretch of canal and into the Red Sea.


The faces of Alexandria

Alexandria waterfront

After a day and a half at sea, we disembarked in Alexandria. We had only twelve hours to see what we could see, so we decided to walk as much as we could through the city. We didn’t try to arrange a visit to the pyramids or the desert, since we will be coming back through Egypt on our African overland journey next summer. Instead, we tried to soak in as much Alexandrian experience as we could.



Temple of Olympian Zeus

We got to spend a lot of time in Athens — I think in total we stayed nine nights. We used it as a base to explore Meteora and Santorini, while we waited for our visas for India to be processed. It was nice to spend a longer amount of time in one place. By the time we left, we were strolling through the city sans map, and had become recognizable regulars at the nearest (and most amazing) gyros shop.


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