1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Chapter 1, Fort Lauderdale to Papeete
Monday, January 22, 1990
We are already coming to the end of our first segment of the 1990 World Cruise
so it's time to publish the first epistle in my 'Tales of a Traveler'. Several
passengers leave us here in Tahiti so I can send my letters with them first
This cruise has certainly started out at a much more leisurely pace than last
year. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale Sunday, January 7, had a one-day stop in
Grand Cayman on the 9th, and then spent the next 10 days relaxing at sea! Some
people get a little stir crazy after awhile, but I enjoy being on the ship.
The ship isn't quite full on this segment and there are relatively few tours
the first three weeks, so office work doesn't demand a lot of our attention.
I've already gotten 4 afternoons off, 3 of which I was able to play bridge.
One of the young passengers, Griff Tully (23), who is traveling with his
grandmother just as far as Tahiti, is also a beginning bridge player and so we
played 3 times with the duplicate bridge group. . . his first time. We did
fairly well and had a lot of fun. He'll never forget one hand we played the
second day. I bid a Grand Slam with him having to play it, which he did
beautifully. We were the only ones that bid it so it gave us a top board.
Griff was ecstatic.
It looks like I'll have an excellent office staff to work with again. Parnell
Thomas, the Shore Excursion Manager for American Express, is on board as our
office manager. He is a low-key operator and leaves the other three of us to
do things as we see fit. Peter Jacobs is from England and he more or less
actually runs the office. He is a jolly, easy-going fellow, very fun to work
with. John Hallead, from Seattle, is the youngest of the three at 46, and he
is the accountant in the bunch. None of the three are the worrying type so the
stress level in the office is decidedly lower than with Jim and Tom. We still
get everything done that needs doing, of course.
My living conditions on the ship are also definitely better than last year,
though only as far as Hong Kong. I actually have a passenger cabin and it's on
the same deck as our Tour Office! It's wonderful! So now the Dining Room is
one deck down and the Ballroom one deck up. My cabin is at the back of the
ship, so I have a window to the back deck and I'm just a quick flight of
stairs from the main sunning area with the swimming pool. Such luxury! I
probably won't be thrilled about going back down to one of the staff cabins
when we get to Hong Kong, but I'm sure enjoying this for now. They have even
installed TV in the cabins with 2 movie channels, a ship information channel,
OceanSat news, and 3 channels for local programs when we're in port. The
OceanSat channel runs continuously with 20-minute segments of news, sports,
business and weather. It is just a printout system accompanied by classical
music, but it's great to be able to keep up with some of the major news. For
the weather they list 20 U.S. cities with their forecast high and low for the
day, then show a color temperature map and one with weather systems indicated
on it. One of the 20 cities just happens to be Great Falls, Montana, so it's
great fun seeing what kind of weather you're having in Montana! From the looks
of things these past 2 weeks it has sure been milder than a year ago. For
example, for today it's showing 45/32 and clear for Great Falls. In sports
they only give results from top 25 teams so MSU has a way to go before we
start hearing about them. On the other hand, it is soooo nice to be able to
get information by telex via Ron Anderson in New York. Great upset of Idaho by
John Hallead and I are at a table in the Dining Room with Martha Frasch and
Martha Jacobshagen. Ann Menges and I shared with Martha Frasch and Father
Norris for the last 2 weeks through the Panama Canal last year. We only eat
there on formal nights, as the 4 of us from the Tour Office have a table
together for informal and casual evenings. It breaks things up a little and is
kind of nice. The food seems to be exceptionally good this year. Our waiter is
a 21-year-old Austrian named Walter and he's just the nicest possible.
In Grand Cayman I was in charge of the afternoon tour. There's really not a
lot there, but the tour isn't bad considering. We went to a turtle farm to see
the giant turtles and how they're raised. A big storm in December had destroyed
much of the farm so they were in temporary quarters. There is a little village
known as Hell, named because of the strange black rock formations there. Really
interesting. We had a little punch break on the beach with live calypso music
and visited a small pirate museum. It was a weak start as far as excursions go,
but the next stop after 10 days was Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands where we
didn't even offer a tour. It's a pretty island, low-key, and lush. It felt
good just to walk around on land again and not have any particular
responsibilities. Now things will pick up a bit, but it's not going to be
really busy for several weeks yet.
It looks as though I'll be pretty lucky again with my overland tours. Jeff, I
won't make it on the three-day Ayers Rock tour because I 'have to' do Tour 14 -
Adventure Down Under. It's a 7-day tour from Suva, Fiji to New Zealand and
Sydney, Australia, returning to the ship at Cairns. It uses every type of
transportation from plane and ski plane to motor coach, van, jet boat and ski
lift. There are only 6 passengers on it (costs $4000), so we should have a
good time together. Out of Hong Kong I get my long-awaited trip to Nepal, Tour
58 - Imperial Kingdoms and Imperial Capitals, two nights in Kathmandu and two
nights in Bangkok. From Bombay they've put me on the Taj Mahal trip, Tour 72.
For the Petra trip, Tour 86, Peter said we'll work it out so all 4 of us can
get there. That should be fantastic! Plans are also for me to be on Tour 92,
overnight in Cairo, and on Tour 133, 3 days in Rome. I'll be sure to take some
good slides for you and keep in touch with postcards.
The ten days at sea may have seemed long to some people, but I was certainly
never lacking for things to do. Other than the fact that I already have a nice
tan and have played lots of backgammon and cribbage, I've been nearly full-time
employed working feet! I've done more these last two weeks than in the last 5
years. It started out when Renee from the Operetta trio had a sore throat and
stuffy sinuses and had a ballroom show coming up in the evening. I offered to
see if I could help relieve it and it helped a great deal. The next day, Brad
from the trio was developing bronchitis so he asked me to help head that off.
I worked on both of them several days. When Parnell, my boss, heard that he
told me he had a stomach problem and hasn't really felt well for about 4 years
and it had been worse the past month. I've worked on him about every day and
he's feeling better than he has in years. He's really enthused about it.
Martha Frasch from our dinner table complained one evening about a pain that
had developed in her thumb so that she could hardly lift a glass or turn her
key. I found the sore spot on her other thumb and she about hit the ceiling!
After a few minutes it had relieved the pain and I'm not sure which of us was
more surprised. Peter from our office has psoriasis quite severely and has had
for years. I just started working on him yesterday and couldn't find any spots
that were extremely sensitive. Maybe it's because he's diabetic and his feet
are puffy so it's hard to get to the nerves. At any rate, a few hours later he
remarked that his toes had always been numb and he was starting to feel them
again. Maybe next treatment will hurt a little worse.
One other interesting discovery here in the office. . . Of the four of us,
three of our mothers are named Gladys. How about that?
That's enough for this chapter. I'll start the next one with details about our
tours in Tahiti and Moorea, both gorgeous tropical islands.
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Chapter 2, Papeete to Cairns
Sunday, February 4, 1990
If Tahiti is beautiful Moorea is paradise! After spending a day in Moorea my
memory of the beauty in Tahiti dimmed. If I could make any changes to try to
make it lovelier, I can't think of a single way I could improve on it. It
didn't seem quite as hot as Tahiti and the sky was deep blue behind the stark,
jagged peaks of the volcanic ridge. Vegetation is lusher too, and our tour took
us snaking up a road into the middle of the crater to a high point which
commands a spectacular view clear back down to the bay and the Sagafjord. Our
guide, Juliana, had a good sense of humor and explained all about the plants,
history, and way of life in a most interesting manner. After the short morning
tour I joined the full-day tour over at the Bali Hai Hotel for a delicious
Polynesian buffet lunch and a native dance show. Then we relaxed in the pool,
in the ocean, lying in the sun and playing ping-pong. Tough work, this
The next four days were at sea. I spent a lot of time working feet and about
as much time trying to keep people from finding out about it. Not really, but
I wouldn't have time for anything else if I worked on everybody that needed
it. It has been quite satisfying seeing positive results. The Friday morning
after Moorea John Hallead called and said he had a temp of 103, so I worked on
him before work and again before lunch. It did seem to help, but I've never
worked on anybody with more painful pressure points. He's had other health
problems as well, so it's not surprising that I'd find a lot on his feet. I
went to bed that Friday night and didn't wake up until Sunday morning! Boy was
I tired. Actually, we crossed the International Dateline and Saturday, January
27th just disappeared from our calendar. One of the passengers had pulled a
good prank by inviting passengers to a party for the whole ship on Saturday
night. The cruise director and his staff composed a daily program for the 27th
that was just hilarious.
Monday, January 29th was the start of our big 'Adventure Down Under'. I was
able to hear the first 45 minutes of the Super Bowl on cabin radio and left
the ship at noon with SF leading Denver 20-3. They should have just quite
playing then. We had a half-hour ride to the airport in Suva, Fiji. That part
of Fiji is not quite as nice as the rest and more resembles the Caribbean. We
had a short flight to the other side of the island to where the international
airport is at Nandi. We stayed at the Regent of Fiji, a luxurious beach resort
where they know how to spoil people. Very hot and humid but the beach was nice
and rooms air-conditioned. After dinner we saw a show of Fijian traditional
songs and dances. Unusual to hear 4-part harmony from such music, but this was
full and rich.
The next morning we were up at 2:00am to catch our flight to Auckland! In the
airport we saw a gal wearing of University of Montana shirt, but she was
German and had got it in Germany. Very strict agricultural controls going into
New Zealand and by the time we got through it was almost time for our flight
to Christchurch. Our rep met us and all went smoothly. The operation on the NZ
part of our tour is the most efficient I've seen anywhere. Christchurch is a
very English town with lovely yards and flower gardens. The temp was over 100
the day before, but was a pleasant 65 for our city tour. Nice climate, rarely
frosts, but the heat is also rare. Later we continue with a flight to Mount
Cook, elevation 12,349, and took a spectacular scenic flight by ski plane and
landed on the immense Tasman Glacier. Perfect blue sky. Shades of Grindelwald
but wilder. Waterfalls all over. We stayed in the Hermitage Hotel and had an
elegant dinner as we watched the sunset turn Mount Cook shades of rose and
Wednesday was no letup. We flew to Queenstown, resort town on Lake Wakatipu.
We promptly boarded a cable car for a 1500' ride up Bob's Peak and enjoyed
lunch at the Skyline Restaurant and watched a video production of the
spectacular Southern Alps. Our tour continued out to the Kawarao River to
watch bungee jumping. People secure a big bungee cord to their ankles and leap
off a 130' bridge and bounce up and down like a yo-yo. The first leap douses
them headfirst into the water. Crazy! I would have done it, of course, had I
not been on tour. On to Arrowtown, a charming little gold mining town. The
countryside is a pastoral shepherd scene. Over 60 million sheep in NZ and only
3 1/2 million people. The highlight of that day was a jet boat ride on the
Lower Shotover River. WOW!! A jet boat can go in less than 4" of water and you
can actually drive them right up onto the beach when the ride is over. We went
racing through the rocky, winding canyon at breakneck speed. The driver would
go right at the cliffs and rocks and miss them at the last second or spin
360-degree circles in open water. Thirty minutes of thrilling emotion! What
Thursday morning was bright and sunny but our destination for the afternoon,
Milford Sound, had low cloud and fog. Lucky for us, it cleared for us and the
afternoon, as in Grindelwald 2 1/2 years ago, turned out to one of the
clearest of the year. The 40-minute flight is billed as the 'Most Spectacular
Flight in the World' and I doubt if anyone in our group would argue. The
Southern Alps are range after range of rugged, snowy splendor. This is what
mountains should be like! We landed at Milford sound, in reality a deep fjord,
and had a luncheon cruise out to the Tasman Sea. Such breathtaking nature.
Waterfalls. Mountain peaks. Seals. Whew. On the way back we flew over 1900'
Sutherland Falls, the third highest in the world. Back in Queenstown we had a
dinner cruise on an old steamship, the T.S. Earnslaw.
The next morning we flew back to Christchurch and had lunch at the ritzy
Parkroyal Hotel. Then we had the afternoon free to wander around and shop or
just relax. I went to several banks looking for the old style coins, which
occasionally show up in circulation. At the reserve bank they gave me a
complete set from a half schilling right down to a half penny. At 4:00pm we
went to the airport for our flight to Sydney, but it ended up being 2 hours
late. The weather in Sydney was bad because they were getting the tail end of
a cyclone. It was 11:00pm before we finally headed for the hotel amid a
torrential downpour. We stayed at the very expensive Hilton on the 32nd floor.
Good view when the clouds broke. The next morning the rain continued but not
quite as bad. It didn't really dampen our tour and we were glad that the bad
weather came there and not in New Zealand. We toured the Opera House, which is
an architectural wonder. Sydney is laid out beautifully around the harbor. We
had the pm free to rest, shop, or explore. In the evening we had our final
dinner together aboard the M.V. John Cadman cruise boat. It's a fancy floating
diner with white linen and the works. It was so pleasant watching the shores
of Sydney harbor glide past the windows and seeing the lights twinkle on as
This morning we had a 7:45 flight from Sydney to Cairns and the morning news
said the cyclone had changed course and was now headed directly for Sydney and
was expected to hit about 9:00am. The wind was coming up and rain was flooding
streets, but our plane got off at 8:00 and before long we were flying through
blue skies on the way back to our Sagafjord home in Cairns. This is the rainy
season in Cairns, but it's bone dry. Normally they have only two temperatures
here: hot and hotter. We're lucky. Today it's only 90 and humidity only 40%,
which is certainly bearable. In 1 1/2 hours we sail away again for Darwin.
Home sweet Home!
segment of the cruise has been a wee bit more action-packed than the first.
'Tis a beautiful island, Tahiti. I was in charge of the full-day island tour
and we had a hot, sunny day. This is the rainy season in the South Pacific and
they had had buckets of moisture the previous two weeks, so we were there at
the right time. We made a compete circle of the island and made photo stops to
view the lush vegetation, spectacular mountain range, and the island of Moorea
just 12 miles across the water. The artist, Gaugin, spent much of his life
painting here and we visited the museum about his life and work. There is a
botanical garden around the complex also and we enjoyed the freshness of the
trees and flowers as we marveled at the color and fragrances. Lunch was at a
restaurant over the water and we could throw food scraps to the sharks and
watch them gobble them up. On the way back we took a short walk through
grottoes filled with little pools and waterfalls and visited an ancient
Polynesian ceremonial ground.
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Chapter 3, Cairns to Hong Kong
We got back just a few hours before sailing from Cairns, so didn't partake of
any of the tours there, but reports were highly favorable. The first afternoon
there was a train tour up into the rain forest and mountains. The full day in
Cairns was filled with a trip by catamaran out to the Great Barrier Reef.
Raves, Raves, Raves! I'll just have to wait until next year for those. John
stayed behind to do the tour of Ayers Rock so I was in charge of the computer
and telexes for four days. I really enjoyed that, as it's been fun becoming
proficient with it. Monday my four Tour 14 passengers wanted to meet me for a
drink to say thanks for a great trip. Ned waxed eloquently as he spoke for the
bunch about how much they appreciated my care on the trip. They also gave me
an envelope with a kind letter in it, which went as follows:
"Dear Kent, We come to the end of a memorable tour of Nandi, Christchurch,
Queenstown, Auckland, Mount Cook, and Sydney under your concerned guidance. It
has been more than a Tour; it is a royal experience. No one could have been
more thoughtful, caring, and selfless in providing us with so many exciting,
interesting, and learning events than you. Our lives have been enriched and
our view of the countries visited broadened. Above all we consider you as a
friend. P.S. We hope to keep in touch with you. A small token of appreciation
The letter was nice enough, but the 'small' token of appreciation turned out
to be $600! Couldn't believe it.
After 3 days at sea we docked in Darwin, Australia - Drearsville. There is
very little to see in the city with respect to tours. The city was totally
destroyed by a cyclone in the mid 70's and has been rebuilt more utilitarian
than beautiful. Fortunately I was on a full day trip by plane and motor coach
to Kakadu National Park, which is the famous Outback. We flew in a DC3 for 1
1/2 hours, including a scenic flight over 2 waterfalls. It was hot and humid,
but worth the trip. This is the wet season in Darwin but they've had very
little rain. We had a boat ride through the lagoon, enjoying the birds and
looking for crocodiles. Because of the drought the water level was over 6 feet
lower than normal this time of year. Lush vegetation, colorful birds, fragrant
flowers. We did manage to see a couple crocs swimming in the water and one up
on the bank hiding behind a tree. After a nice lunch we boarded our bus and
worked our way back towards Darwin. First stop was Roulangie Rock, a huge hill
with steep cliffs and big boulders where the Aboriginals find protection in
the wet season and spend their time painting scenes in the caves. Most of the
ones we saw weren't old, dating clear back to the 1960's and 70's. Much of the
area is sacred to the Aboriginals, though, and thus closed to the public. In
those areas there really are ancient paintings. The weather was too hot to see
much wildlife, but on the ride back we saw a couple wallabies (small kangaroos)
so we drove onto a little side road to get a better look. One came flying out
of the bush and darted across the road right in front of the bus. Later we
also saw a dingo, a wild Australian dog. Finally we stopped for photos at the
giant termite colonies. These are big towers over 10-feet high, built by tiny
After two sea days we arrived in Bali and had a wonderful full day tour. Bali
is a mostly Hindu province in a Muslim country, Indonesia. Fascinating
similarities to West Africa. Colorful batik clothes, low income, friendly
smiling people, antiquated methods of doing most everything. Rice, rice, rice.
Every shade of green imaginable. Everything with the rice is done by hand and
they use oxen to plow the fields. We stopped a few minutes to watch the
harvesting/threshing process, no doubt the same as it was done in Biblical
times. Shopping was fun in Bali. Things were quite cheap and bargaining was
the fun part of it. I bought a couple batik shirts. Others bought woodcarvings,
paintings, chess sets, tablecloths, etc. One of the funniest things for me was
the popularity of American boxing. We happened to be there during the Mike
Tyson / Douglas fight and not a TV set in the country was tuned to anything
else. There are temples everywhere, at least 3 to every village, and they are
mostly open-air style. After a buffet lunch at the Bali Hyatt we watched a
performance of the Barong Dance, a native show that evolved out of their
culture and religion. Great costumes and an interesting story line. Back to
the little shops by the pier with another passenger to see what kind of
treasures we could find. I managed to pick up some old Indonesian coins so I
Wednesday was Valentines Day and we had a decorating contest for cabin doors.
Some people were quite extravagant and creative. It was also John's 48th
birthday, so we had a birthday cake at our table in the dining room. We've
been playing a lot of backgammon and trivial pursuit lately between our long
hard hours of work.
February 15 we docked in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei. Do you know anyone who's
ever been to Brunei? The temp was pleasant at 6:30am, but it warmed up quickly
to about 90 by midday. Brunei is not a touristy area. It's interesting enough,
but the country just doesn't need it and has never pursued attracting visitors
or accommodating the few who do find their way there. The King of Brunei is
purportedly the richest man in the world and the country is pretty much a
welfare state, heavily dependent on oil. Oil makes up 99% of Brunei's exports.
We're told the average income is $18,000, but I have to wonder if they didn't
add in the King's income when they did the averaging! Nobody on the ship had
been here before so it was a new adventure for all of us. We had 5 tour buses
reserved for the morning and afternoon tours and the ship's agent had also
ordered 3 buses to run as a free shuttle into town for those not on tour. We
managed to get our tour off without too much difficulty, but the shuttle buses
never showed up. There were some unhappy people and they accused the ship of
doing it on purpose in order to sell our 'expensive' tours. In a country that
doesn't have tourism you can expect problems and we had our share. We knew the
buses wouldn't be air conditioned, but they don't even have guides as such.
They had gotten teachers and media people to do it with mixed results. In the
morning one of the drivers tried to just dump his people off at the mosque and
abandon them and another one just left his bus and the people sitting in it
for half an hour. We did get things worked out and the afternoon tour went
much better. Actually it's an interesting place. We visited the national
museum and an arts and crafts gallery. There is a whole village on stilts in
the harbor with 40,000 inhabitants out of BSB's total 250,000. Beautiful
elaborate mosque paid for by the King's mother and built in 1959. The palace
is mammoth with 2400 rooms! Great contrast in homes. There were elegant homes
with fancy cars parked under them, side by side with poor run-down places.
Houses are elevated due to flooding, snakes, bloodsuckers, and other
undesirables. We had our share of complaints about the tour, but we had warned
them ahead of time and I, personally, thought it was a great adventure. Hong
Kong on Sunday.
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In the first letter I'd said there would be 6 passengers on my big tour, but
the couple from Spain was forced to cancel, so I just had 4 passengers and
myself. At the beginning it took a bit of tactful maneuvering because the two
couple were not naturally compatible. The one woman, Shirley Miller, was kind
of an airhead and very verbose. That grated on Ned Arbury's nerves. Ned is 76
and I think he kind of viewed Shirley as an immature early retiree or
something. Then we were all shocked to find out that Shirley was the oldest in
the group at 80 - we couldn't believe it. That put things in perspective and
for the rest of the trip we all got along great and became good friends. One
more thing to mention about New Zealand is the wonderful people there. Some of
the nicest I've encountered anywhere. They are so polite, friendly, warm,
gracious, etc. I'm sure Jeff could attest to that from his trip. If I had to
move somewhere New Zealand would be it!
as the tour to New Zealand and Sydney was, it was good to get back on the
ship. It's such an ideal way to travel; to be able to take trips and come back
to your own 'home' and store all your treasures without having to carry them
around everywhere you go. It's easy to see why people come back to the world
cruise year after year.
Chapter 4, Hong Kong to Bombay
Friday, March 2, 1990
Backing up to Hong Kong, now. Last fall I took 6 Hong Kong students around
Yellowstone for a couple days in my little car, as they couldn't afford to
rent one. We had a good time together and close fellowship to be sure. When
the Sagafjord pulled into Hong Kong, four of them were waiting on the dock to
welcome me and spend the day with me. I was on the morning tour, but there was
room on my bus, so I just took them along. Hong Kong Island is a tiny little
place with millions of people, but also with beautiful mountains. We drove up
to Victoria Peak for a panorama of the island, drove through Chinatown, and
took a Sampan ride for 20 minutes in Aberdeen Bay. A Sampan is a little
covered, motorized boat that scoots you around the harbor to show you life on
the water. After the tour I was able to get my friends on the ship for lunch
with me in the dining room then we went off shopping and exploring together.
They took me to a good optometrist where I ordered prescription sunglasses for
$35. Not bad. Got a Chinese haircut, which looks almost as good as the ones
Bev gives me at home. Later I changed money to pay back my friends, as they
had paid everything up to that point, but they wouldn't let me pay them even
for the glasses. They said each time I wear them I should think of them; I was
their guest in Hong Kong.
The second day in Hong Kong I did Tour 53 to Macao by jetfoil. One fellow
showed up 20 minutes late, but we made it to the jetport on time. It was foggy
so we were delayed anyway. We had enough of going through immigrations that
day, coming and going in both Hong Kong and Macao. It was noon before we
started our tour in Macao, a Portuguese colony. Portuguese is one of the
official languages, but less than 7% of the population can speak it. English
is more common. We stopped at a Chinese temple. . . incense, buddhas, colorful
streamers and paintings. There were shrines to the dead and people would bring
them food every day. Gold and silver colored decorations ensured the deceased
would be wealthy in the next life. I'm glad we don't have to rely on that.
Then we went to the great gate to Mainland China. There is lots of traffic
through it these days with fairly liberal clearance. It wasn't always so, but
today Macao and China do a lot of trading with each other and depend on each
other for many things. Great shopping in front of the gate for all the
wonderful treasures coming right out of China. . . and cheap. Had a beautiful
lunch in a restored fort, which is now a hotel/restaurant, Pousada San Diego.
Good setting, delicious food. After a visit to a cathedral and the impressive
ruins of St. Paul's we went to the Mandarin Hotel/Casino for an hour rest
stop. Macao is famous for its gambling. I didn't bother to try my luck, but
our local guide won $50. We caught the 5:30pm jetfoil back, but the fog was
really bad by then and things were chaotic. We barely managed to get our whole
group on and then didn't leave until 6:45. Got back to the ship 2 1/2 hours
late at 8:40, just in time for people to rush in and get dinner before
closing. It was a good day, though. Macao has super shopping bargains and the
European influence is evident in the buildings.
Our big adventure to Kathmandu and Bangkok started Tuesday. Monday evening,
however, there were more reports of unrest in Nepal and one couple was
threatening to cancel. We called KTM and were assured all was normal. No one
chickened out and by 2:30pm all 20 of us were on the bus for the airport. We
had a Boeing 757 on the Royal Air Nepal flight to KTM. Nice service - they
even serve free drinks in coach class, but grapefruit juice was strong enough
for me. A 5-hour flight and 2 1/2 hour time change. Weird. I slept a bit on the
plane and we arrived in KTM at 9:20pm local time. There was a bit of confusion
with customs due to video cameras and one couple having over $4000 with them,
but we survived. Our local guide was a young man named Vijay, who was very good
and spoke English clearly. We went right to our hotel, the Soaltee Oberoi, the
best hotel in Nepal. . . 5-star there, 3-star anywhere else, but other than
lumpy beds, it was a beautiful place and food was certainly adequate. No TV,
but we're talking Nepal! It was 46 degrees when we arrived and that was a
pleasant change from the South Pacific.
Wednesday was a wonderful day in KTM. We awoke to thick fog, but it soon burned
off and we had a lovely day, 70 degrees. First thing in the morning though, one
of my passengers from Switzerland showed up with a swollen face due to an
allergic reaction. They had called a doctor, but were told it would be awhile.
So of course I worked his feet and by the time the doctor got there at 8:45, it
was already much better. The doctor said it was only a reaction to the feather
pillow and gave him something for it also. At any rate, the doctor only charged
them $20 for everything and they were able to go on tour with us. We started
off in KTM City. Fascinating - like going back in time. We walked into the old
town to Durbar Square where hawkers were selling all kinds of treasures. We
went to the temple of the Living Goddess and she put in an appearance for us.
The Living Goddess is actually a young girl who is chosen between 5 and 7 years
old. There is a long series of tests that are given to all eligible girls from
certain royal families and they check to make sure their blood type is OK and
their zodiacal sign. When they've narrowed down the selection they put the
remaining girls in a dark room and try to scare them. The last girl to cry
becomes the Living Goddess and remains that until puberty or until she loses
blood in any way. She is taken from her family and put with the caretaker
family in the temple of the Living Goddess. She never leaves there except on
rare royal occasions and her feet must never touch the ground. After her reign
she returns to her family and is free to lead a 'normal' life. That's not easy
after being pampered for so long and it's also considered bad luck to marry a
former Living Goddess. The family does receive much money and gifts, however,
and of course it is considered a great honor.
Walking around the city bombarded us with a myriad of contrasts, the old, the
new, temples, traditional garbed monks, crazy driving, honking, three-wheeled
taxis. We visited a stupa, one of the Buddhist temples that are dome-shaped and
have the all-seeing eyes on all four sides of the tower in the middle. Any time
you see pictures of those eyes on a temple you know it's in Nepal. We went to a
temple complex along the river where they cremate the dead. They do it on piles
of wood right on the riverbank and when it's over they cast the ashes into the
river. From there we took a beautiful drive out through KTM valley and up over
the hills to another valley. The steep foothills of the Himalayas are covered
with terraces, which have rice in the wet season and wheat and mustard in the
dry season. Lots of brick houses, loosely constructed. Lunch was at Dhulikel
Mountain Resort, a BBQ on an open-air terrace with a spectacular panorama of
the foothills and terraces and the cloud-covered mountains in the distance. On
the return to KTM we went to Patan City, neighbor of KTM. Patan was my favorite
in Nepal. Their Dhurbar Square was smaller, but so full of life and colorful.
Temples, hawkers, cows in the streets, merchants, colorful clothing, and nice
t-shirts for $3! At 5:00pm we went back to the hotel after a long and full,
but not overtiring day. There's a third city in the area named Bhadgaon, which
we did not visit because of possibility of unrest or demonstrations there.
Time wise it wasn't really feasible anyway and we certainly weren't lacking
for sights on our tour.
Thursday morning was nice with a light breeze and partly cloudy skies. We left
the hotel at 9:00am for the airport and our scenic flight over Mt. Everest and
the Himalayas. On the way to the airport we could see the distant peaks, so we
knew conditions were good for our flight. The flight was on a Boeing 757 with
a 3-3 seating configuration. They don't sell the aisle seats though, so
viewing is good. It lasted an hour and it truly was fantastic. Mt. Everest was
no disappointment, a great black triangle rising up out of snowfields and
glaciers. We were fortunate with the weather as the clouds began settling in
toward the end of our flight. So many peaks over 20,000' and such savage
wilderness surrounding them. Wonderful! Eight of the highest mountains in the
world are entirely within Nepal or fall on its borders with Tibet and India. A
plethora of 'lesser' peaks, most of them thousands of feet higher than any
summits in Europe, Africa or the Americas, march range upon range across the
northern reaches of this small country. Until 1949, Nepal's mountains were off
limits to foreign climbers and the Nepalese were not interested in scaling the
peaks themselves. So, climbing in the Nepali Himalayas is relatively new and
even today there are strict regulations controlling expeditions. Mt. Everest
has been scaled by about 200 people and another peak, Annapurna, has claimed
one life for each one who has reached the summit! Climbing the Himalayas must
be exhilarating, but for the moment I'm happy to have seen them.
After our flight we transferred to the international terminal and waited there
over three hours for our flight to Bangkok. I didn't mind - I got 15 postcards
written and sent. We flew Thai Air and the service was equally as good as Royal
Nepal. In BKK we pretty much whisked through immigrations, got our luggage,
and were met by our local guide, Maria. She's a character and after the calm
demeanor of Vijay in KTM, it was quite a reception. The Shangri-La is a
fabulous hotel right on the riverbank. Beautiful rooms include all kinds of
amenities such as a bowl of fruit, robe and slippers. I was on the 19th floor
with a balcony over the river. The hotel's riverfront terraces and restaurants
are decorated with trees and shrubs, all lit up with little white lights at
night. Temps were pleasant at night, so we ate out on the terrace.
Friday was a full day in Bangkok. We started at 9:00am with a Klongs Tour. The
Klongs are the canals of BKK, which are teeming with life. Many people live on
the water and there is a floating market where you can buy everything under the
sun right from your boat. Our guide wanted to show us how easy it is to get
something to eat on the water, so a little boat pulled along side us and the
woman proceeded to make an omelet while we watched. It's placed on a banana
leaf and served with a little bag of hot spices and seasonings. In an earlier
letter I think I mentioned Tony (Brian) Levinson, a 23-year old student
onboard from Florida to Hong Kong with his grandmother. We've really enjoyed
his company on the ship and participation in Trivial Pursuit and Backgammon
etc. Anyway, he was on this tour with me so I offered to let him eat part of
the omelet, which he willingly did. He asked why I didn't offer it to any of
the others and I told him they wouldn't touch it. He didn't believe it so I
asked if anyone wanted to try it. Not a person on the boat would dream of it.
We enjoyed it, however, and were never the worse for it. Most of these people
are sooooo careful about what they eat off the ship. Our boat stopped at a gift
shop and crocodile/snake farm. We watched part of a snake show and it was
amazing to watch them handle those poisonous things. One fellow had three
cobras on stage. He picked up one in each hand and the third one he grabbed
with his teeth! Then they brought out a 10-year old python, which was huge. It
took 4 men to carry it and they had to very carefully secure his teeth. I was
as close as I cared to be. When we got out of the boats I found the fellow
selling monkey masks at the same place as last year, so I quickly bought 5 of
them for $10. On the way back to the hotel for lunch we stopped at a
jewelry/silk store where some of my people did lots of buying. They do have
high quality products there and excellent prices. I got a Thai silk shirt and
tie. Silk shirts are not the most practical but they look nice for special
occasions. We got back to the hotel at 1:00pm and I didn't have much time for
lunch so all I had was pineapple and chocolate ice cream. Quite substantial.
They have such good fruit in this part of the world.
After lunch we got back on our bus and drove to the Grand Palace. It was as
exciting as last year and we had bright sunshine. It was hot, but not as bad
as last year. Also, our first night in BKK there was a stiff breeze, which
blew the smog out of the city, so it was a pretty nice day. I was impressed
all over again with the exquisite beauty of the temples and palace with all
the precious and semi-precious stones inlaid in the walls. The bright sunshine
on them created a dazzling brilliance. After walking around there we watched a
15-minute slide show on the King of Thailand. He's quite impressive. Definitely
committed to creating a better lifestyle for his people and he's immensely
popular. His actual residence palace is a huge acreage in the city, which has
its own crops, dairy, research station, etc., so he can monitor progress and
be involved directly with agricultural improvements, which will improve the
standard of living in his kingdom. He's only 62 years old and may he live many
more years. His son, on the other hand, is unpopular and doesn't seem to have
the interests of the people at heart. The Thais also resent him for divorcing
his wife and in general leading an immoral lifestyle.
From there we wound our way through the increasingly horrid BKK traffic to a
Handicraft Center where we watched people make carpets, wood carvings, and
silver jewelry. There was amazingly intricate woodwork and they would carve
huge scenes in tables and chairs. Dinner that night was an astounding BBQ,
grill and buffet out on the terrace. It was a fine last meal for our group
before returning to the ship the next day. I ate mostly satays dipped in
peanut butter sauce. . . yummm. In the evening I took a long walk down Silom
Road, which is the main area for gray market goods. I didn't find any pants I
liked, but I got a nice Ralph Lauren shirt for $4 as well as some odds and
We left the hotel the next morning at 6:00 for the airport and arrived back at
the ship at 1:00pm. I was pretty tired, but I saw Allison, the ship pianist,
and we decided to ride the cable car up to Mt. Farber for a nice view of
Singapore and over to Sentosa Island where we took a ride around the island on
the monorail. I kept nodding off on the monorail, of course. It's kind of a
tourist island with beaches, birds, animals, butterflies etc. Similar to a
Disneyworld it's divided into History World, Nature World, Sun World, and Fun
World. We didn't have time to take advantage of too much of it, but it was fun
to see a little. Singapore continues to be one of the cleanest and safest
cities in the world. Already in the airport there are warnings that Singapore
has a death sentence for drug pushers. In public toilets there is a $250 fine
for not flushing the toilets! A rather regulated society, but it makes it a
nice place to visit. And the flowers and gardens are immaculate!
Saturday evening in Singapore was Cunard's World Cruise Society Dinner for
repeat passengers from previous world cruises. We had 300 people all dressed
up for a black tie affair and we took them from the ship to the Oriental Hotel
in eight buses. I was on the first bus and when we got to security at the port
gate the security officer wanted to see everybody's ship ID card. The first
woman he asked in the front seat didn't have hers so he wanted to send us back
to the ship to get them. I explained the situation and one of the women pleaded
with him not to spoil our evening, so he finally let us through. He hassled
several of the other buses as well. We arrived at 6:30 and the thought of
standing around at a pre-dinner social hour was more than I could stomach, so
I went upstairs to the shopping mall, found a USA Today and enjoyed that until
dinner time! You've been having a most wonderful winter in Montana according
to weather reports I've been getting. (As I write, the TV screen above me
shows 60's over much of central Montana). It was an elegant dinner and some of
the best veal I've ever had. On the way back to the ship we sat and waited at
the gate for 20 minutes as our driver supposedly didn't have the proper permit
and they were going to arrest him for trespassing! We finally got to the ship
with police escort and they dealt with it later.
Monday, February 26 we docked in Penang, Malaysia about noon. We had 8 buses
on tour with mixed results. The tour was different from last year and I
enjoyed it. We went to the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, Khoo Kong Si Temple,
and the Botanical Gardens. Last year we went to a batik factory and snake
temple, but didn't include it this year and some were unhappy about that.
After the first stop we lost a woman so I stayed and found her and joined
After Hong Kong I was to move to a staff cabin, but at the last minute was
allowed to stay in my own. Yesterday I went down to R-3 to start moving in,
but was told this morning I could move to another passenger cabin until Haifa.
Wonderful! Parnell really goes to bat for us.
The last few
days have been a bit crazy. Wednesday night at midnight we got a call from New
Delhi saying they couldn't find a plane for our tour to the Taj Mahal from
Bombay only 2 1/2 days later! Minor detail; we'd only chartered the Boeing 727
for our 100 passengers a year ago. You probably read about the plane crash in
India in mid-February. They grounded all their Airbus aircraft and thus were
scrambling to fill in with any planes they could find, including the one we
had reserved! We immediately started telexing and phoning to get the big guns
in New York, Hong Kong, D.C., etc. on the case, pressuring Indian Airlines and
the Indian government. Losing this tour would wipe out any profit we'd make on
the whole world cruise. Thursday morning we had our tour forum and still had
nothing concrete to tell tour members, other than that there may be a
possibility of leaving Saturday evening and coming back late Sunday night.
Mild murmur in the group when we told them you can imagine. Late Thursday we
got a call that they needed the names within an hour! We made an announcement
for people to come to the Tour Office and we had just enough people cancel
because of the change that we didn't have to cancel anyone ourselves. Whew!
More on that in the next letter, but as of now it looks like things will work
out and we'll at least escape with the shirt on our backs.
Return to Top   Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Chapter 5, Bombay to Haifa
Sunday, March 18, 1990
It's quite an ordeal getting the ship cleared by customs in India. First of
all, they have tables set up for local officials in the ballroom with a pen
and pack of Marlboro cigarettes at each place setting, not to mention all the
fruit and food. Before it's all over there is normally whiskey and perfume
involved. Typically, we weren't cleared until after the announced time of our
tour departures so it was a bit of a madhouse boarding the buses. In the past
we have always had good guides and successful tours in Bombay, but this time
things were less than wonderful. The buses weren't great, mikes didn't work or
were nonexistent, and the guides weren't close to the caliber we expect in
India. In spite of the problems the tour wasn't too bad. Bombay is a
fascinating city no matter how you slice it. There are 9 1/2 million people,
yet only 2% of the population has 98% of the wealth. Terrible slums contrasted
with European style architecture of public buildings and private mansions. We
made a photo stop at the public laundry. It's huge and primitive with sheets
and clothes draped over bridges and railings as far as the eye could see.
Mostly men doing the work, of course. We visited the Handy Museum depicting
the life of Mahatma Handy in the house where he actually lived. After a few
more interesting stops we got back to the ship in time for lunch before
meeting my Taj Mahal group at 3:45. There were 67 of us who finally went.
Parnell went ahead to the airport to get our boarding passes and this time it
worked a bit better than last year when we arrived at the airport 15 minutes
before departure and had one boarding card too few. We had considerable
trepidation about the tour. Because of the disruption in service there were
delays of 2 and 3 DAYS for flights all over India. We were told that Indian
Airlines had guaranteed our flight would be on time as partial compensation
for taking our charter away. At the airport we were told the flight was
reduced to just one intermediate flight and by the time we boarded they said
we'd go to Agra first, and that is just what we did. Nonstop and only about 1/2
hour late, so we arrived at our Mughal Sheraton Hotel in Agra in good time,
about 9:30pm. So far so good and we went to be relieved that the tour had at
least started out well.
Sunday was a fabulous day. We left the hotel at 6:00am while it was still dark
and got to the Taj just as the morning light was beginning to reveal the
wonders around us. Ahhhh! The fabled Taj Mahal! It was no disappointment. Our
first glimpse was in the soft pre-dawn glow that enveloped everything in a
mystical haze. The hues of the magical domes changed subtly as the sun came
nearer the horizon and finally pierced through the heavy air. Enchanting. It's
easy to wax poetical about the Taj. It is the result of a touching love story.
The Shah Jahan had it built as a monument to his beloved wife who died young.
It took 20,000 men 20 years working day and night to complete it. It's all
marble inlaid with more marble and precious stones. His desire was to build a
duplicate across the river and connect them with a marble bridge, but his son
came to power before he had the chance and had him imprisoned the last 8 years
of his life in a fort overlooking the Taj.
After breakfast we did our morning sightseeing through the Indian countryside
to Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted city. Legend has it that a Muslim Shah had
many wives and concubines, but no sons. He went to a Hindu wiseman who told
him if he'd marry a Hindu woman he'd have a son. He did and he did so he built
the beautiful, red sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri as a tribute. The palace
is well preserved and restored as well as much of the inner city. The 30-mile
drive through the country was equally exciting. Teeming with life. People,
people, people! On the way to Fatehpur traffic wasn't too bad because there
are good TV programs Sunday morning and all the people watch them. On the
return the streets were full of humanity! We saw ancient mile markers, which
are 15' high towers. Sloth bears on a rope are forced to do tricks for
tourists who will pay. Wheat fields. More crazy driving - the only law is
don't hit anyone else. 'Dung buns', or cow pies mixed with straw to provide
fuel for cooking. Abject poverty. In the hindu religion people hope they will
be better off in the next life and present conditions are meant to be as they
are. It's an effective way of controlling the masses. Back in town we stopped
at a marble inlay shop and workshop where we could see the same kind of work
done at the Taj Mahal, and of course, have opportunities to buy.
After a beautiful buffet lunch with both western and Indian food we went back
to the Taj for more in-depth exploring. Much different in full sunlight. We
had time to go inside the building, see the tombs, and inspect the artistry
close up. Every angle gives a different perspective and photo. I went through
a fair bit of film you can be sure.
People are always so afraid of the food and water in India (with reason), but
the Sheraton provided the most fabulous buffets for us and I've not heard of a
single person getting sick. We ate and drank everything we had cautioned
people not to. Wonderful. At 8:15pm we headed back to the airport to find
another nonstop flight to Bombay. Such a deal! The flight crew wasn't told
until they got to the airport in Jaipur that they were to divert to Agra or
they probably wouldn't have showed up for work. But they did and we got our
flight to Bombay as promised. We arrived back in Bombay at 11:30pm, zipped to
the buses and got back to the pier at midnight. The ship had had to pull out
of the harbor at 7:00pm due to the tides, so we all boarded a tender boat and
had a half-hour scenic moonlight ride across the harbor to the Sagafjord. What
a satisfying feeling to get back to the ship having run an outstanding tour in
what started out as the most adverse of circumstances. Tour members were
unanimous in their praise and news spread quickly through the ship how
marvelous everything was, much to the chagrin of those who had decided not to
It would have been nice to have a relaxing day at sea that Monday. At sea it
was. Relaxing it was not. A large number of new passengers had boarded in
Bombay and they all needed to pick up tour tickets. Parnell had a morning
lecture and John had gone on an overland tour to Jaipur and Delhi, not
returning until Karachi, so Peter and I were really swamped. Worked in the
office till nearly 8:00pm so I just went up to the officers' mess for dinner
with Peter. It doesn't take as long as the dining room and it's a chance to be
away from the passengers. In spite of all the work I managed to get in an hour
of bridge that night and cleaned up. As tired as I was I had enough energy for
bridge. Fortunately, we gained an hour that night.
No break at all as we arrived in Karachi, Pakistan the next morning. We
expected no problem with immigration there but that was not to be either. The
first thing the officials said was only those passengers on tour could even go
ashore. If you want to start a riot on a ship like the Sagafjord, that's a
good way to start! It took some fast talking and probably bribes as well, but
they finally agreed to let everyone off. Another mad dash for the buses as we
were again cleared late and it was our biggest tour of the cruise with 9 buses
and 320 passengers. It was a pleasant day in Karachi with temps in the 70's so
we really didn't need the A/C buses we had. Microphones and guides would have
come in handier! Only 2 or 3 out of the 9 buses had actual guides at all.
There was potential disaster there, but again, the very color and fantasy of
Karachi helped overcome the drawbacks. A crazy, bustling, exciting city.
Trucks and buses are decorated with gaudy designs like nowhere else I've ever
seen. We went first to the mausoleum of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of
Pakistan. A large, white marble monument, it has traits of the Taj Mahal and
the Jefferson Memorial in DC. From there we visited a large mosque with marble
tiles and mirror tiles in the ceiling. The acoustics were impressive. A whisper
would echo through the whole room. Our guide, Rosheed, demonstrated the Moslem
prayers for us. Naturally no women or non-Moslems are allowed inside on their
holy day, which is Friday. Our next stop was a shopping emporium and I asked
the guide if we were going to have enough time for the museum. He said the
museum was not in the itinerary and I said that it better be. Fortunately most
of our 9 buses were there at the same time so we quickly found the man in
charge and told him to instruct all guides and drivers that we would go to the
museum. We really have to keep on the tour operators in some of these countries
to keep them from substituting too much shopping for features that are promised
in our tour brochures. All but one bus made it to the museum then and it was
really a nice one. Back at the ship Parnell, Peter and I took a car to the
Sheraton for a lunch away from all the passengers. They were there too, of
course. Later, Shirley Zuffinetti, a passenger friend, and I went for a ride
in one of the colorfully decorated buggies pulled by a horse. That was a lot
of fun and gave us a chance to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the
Karachi street scene. Then street shopping. . . I bought t-shirts and a set of
6 onyx goblets. All in all Karachi was a fascinating port.
After a busy day at sea (not made any easier by the copy machine being out of
order) we docked in Muscat, Oman Thursday morning, March 8. It was exciting
because we were the first passenger cruise ship to ever visit Oman!! We
arrived to blue skies and pleasant temps. It felt so good to feel a dry heat
again. The rugged, bare mountains rose stark behind the port city for Muscat -
Muttrah. The ship was cleared by 8:15 and all the buses for our tours were
lined up in order and neatly numbered. Comfortable, air-conditioned buses.
Great organization. Oman turned out to be a fabulous country to visit and one
of my favorite ports in the world. Our guide was Ajit from Sri Lanka and our
driver from the Philippines. The Omanis themselves are not involved in tourism
where they might come in contact with infidel foreigners! The country has only
been open to tourism at all since 1987. The ruler, Sultan Qaboos, 49, was
educated in the UK. His father had gained great wealth from the oil trade but
kept it for himself instead of improving the lot of his people. He'd said,
"What is good for my people is whatever I decide is good for them." When young
Qaboos first returned from abroad his father put him under house arrest, but
soon the tables turned. Sultan Qaboos came to power on July 23, 1970 and
exiled his father to England where he died 2 years later. Qaboos immediately
started ambitious programs of developing Oman. In 1970 there were only 5 miles
of asphalt road in the entire country (a little smaller than Montana). Today
they have one of the most beautiful networks of roads and bridges I've seen
anywhere; over 25,000 miles of paved roads. Along the freeways all the
roundabouts (interchanges) are decorated with the most beautiful monuments and
flower gardens and lawns. Trees and flowers are all irrigated with an
underground system using desalinated seawater. In 1970 there were only 3
schools in the country with 900 students, all boys. Today there are 750
schools and half the pupils are girls. A university, opened in 1986, has 1100
students, majority girls. In 1970 there was only one hospital and now there are
many. You can imagine Sultan Qaboos is immensely popular. The first tourists
allowed in were 'infidel' Swiss and Germans who had to be over 35 and married.
Those restrictions have been relaxed some but tourism is still suspect and it
will probably be a long time before you see lower and middle class visitors
running around unchecked. As we drove through the spread out area of Muscat we
were impressed with the well-planned, immaculate roadways (designed and built
by the Germans), lovely homes and mansions, nice cars, uncrowded spaces and
the neatness. Amazing. So different from Brunei, which one would expect to
have some similarities. We drove along the coast for over an hour then turned
inland and stopped to explore Al Hazm Fort (1708). We climbed around, up and
down as Ajit gave us a glimpse of Omani history. Amazing these old people
followed so well! Twenty minutes further into the barren mountains and desert
sands we came to the oasis town of Rustaq and stopped at another fort, which
has been completely restored. Nice job. Spectacular desert and mountain
scenery, actually somewhat similar to Palm Springs, CA. Our lunch was at an
idyllic hot springs oasis called Nhakel. Box lunches had been brought from a
hotel in the city and there was a gracious plenty! . . . a plate of chicken
with two salads, 2 rolls, 2 bananas, an apple, cheese sandwich, chilled prawn
cocktail, and a delicious caramel custard dessert. Wonderful. A pleasant picnic
area on the bank of the hot spring runoff. Back in town we stopped for photos
of a magnificent gold-domed mosque and drove to Old Muscat, which is the
center for the palace, majestic hotels, and 2 Portuguese forts up on the hill
to guard the old city. Talk about picturesque! The Al-Bustan Palace Hotel cost
over a quarter of a billion dollars to build! The Palace is exquisite, but the
Sultan actually prefers living in a modest 4-bedroom house on the edge of town.
Our last stop was at the Muttrah Souk, which is their local market. Not at all
touristy, just full of things that any Omani would need for daily life. Most of
us regretted having to sail away at 6:00pm from this newfound wonder. Not only
was the Sagafjord the first cruise ship, but we were some of the first
Americans. Until now about the only Americans to visit were employees in Saudi
Arabia coming for vacation. We were told that more Americans visited Oman in
that one day than all those who had visited before put together! We all hope
to return and in fact the ship is looking into the prospect of having the 1992
World Cruise Society Dinner at the Al-Bustan Palace Hotel in Muscat. That would
be a dinner to beat all dinners! We had over 350 passengers (out of 500) on
tours in Oman with near unanimous satisfaction.
It was nice having 5 days at sea after Oman before the onslaught of Egypt and
the Mediterranean. Backgammon, rest, reports, tour preparation, bridge, etc.
Our overland tours to Moscow and Rome had to cancel due to low participation.
Sunday, March 11 we had country fair on the ship in the afternoon. Our office
had a geography trivia game with 2 tour tickets for full-day tours as the
prize. Proceeds went to the orphanage in Pattaya, Thailand and our booth
raised over $300. On to one of the highlights of the cruise. . . Aqaba,
It was fantastic seeing Petra, but it didn't come without its price! To begin
with, immigration officials didn't even board the ship until 8:00am and then
demanded that all passengers get their passports individually and fill out a
landing card. Some fast-talking got them to finally release the Petra buses
with a group permit for each bus. We had 6 buses and over 250 passengers go to
Petra, the ancient city of Selah. I had to do the morning tour in Aqaba before
taking a private car at noon and zipping to Petra to see it as well. We had 3
buses and 110 people for the morning and it was a fiasco. It was billed as a
relaxing morning with just time at the beach and a glass bottom boat ride and
brief sightseeing on the way back to the ship. I knew we were in trouble when
they put NO local guides on the buses. Then we went to the Coral Beach Hotel
instead of the promised Holiday Inn. No shops, nothing. The glass bottom boats
were like little, old, decrepit rowboats and the only way to board was by
climbing a 4-rung iron ladder propped against the bow. (This for people who had
opted for an easy alternative to Petra!) The first boats were out to the 'coral'
and back in 15-20 minutes. I objected strongly to that so the last ones went for
about 40 minutes. The ride was supposed to last about an hour. Then there was
nothing for the people to do and these passengers don't know how to relax so
they just waited around the hotel lobby an hour and a half for the buses to
come back. On the way to the bus they had a 15-minute stop in the center of
town with no information and that was it. They were not happy campers. We ended
up refunding 50% across the board. There was one bright spot in the tour. On
the beach an old Arab had a camel people could ride and one of our better
natured passengers decided to try it. Mary had a rough time getting on, as she
isn't very big to begin with. The camel was a dromedary, one hump, so the
saddle sits on the hump and there are two wooden posts in front and back of
the saddle. First she sat on the back post, thinking it was the camel's hump.
She was laughing and screaming and all of us watching were just in stitches.
Other tourists in the area congregated to see her antics and it was a good
show for all of us. Camels aren't the most graceful getting up and so Mary
almost went flying off when the camel got up and again when the camel got back
Anyway, at noon there was a private taxi there to whisk me to Petra along with
Renate, one of the pursers (reception) and David, one of the dining room
stewards. A magnificent drive. The rugged desert mountains are laced with
black volcanic stripes. A stark, unfriendly land, yet magically inviting. It
was cool and the sky was blue when we left Aqaba, but it wasn't long before a
few low clouds began invading the horizon. As we climbed higher through the
barren landscape the clouds thickened and turned to fog. As we traversed the
high ridge it was clear to the north and cloudy to the south and we drove in
and out of fog. A few places there was even snow by the road. Spectacular
scenery with similarities to some of the Utah national parks. We got to Petra
at 2:00pm, snorted down a quick bite to eat and then joined Parnell and Peter
for a horseback ride down into the Siq. The Siq is a long, narrow, winding,
entrance leading into the ancient city. It is much like The Narrows in Zion
NP, but no river in the bottom. Petra, The Rose-Red City half as old as time,
was a wealthy kingdom in the centuries before the Christian era, but it was
finally conquered by Rome and eventually just faded into the memories of
history, deserted and forgotten for many years. It wasn't rediscovered until
1812 when a Swiss adventurer risked his life by disguising himself as an Arab
and ventured into the area. Today visitors from all over the world gaze
astounded at the temples and buildings carved into the colored sandstone
cliffs of Petra. There are signs of antiquity all along the half hour ride
through the Siq, but we still weren't quite prepared for the first glorious
glimpse of the ancient treasury as we rounded a bend between the towering
cliffs. And then we were there! The colors. The formations. The carvings. The
columns. The pervasive evidence of history. We dismounted and walked around
feeling dwarfed by the ageless wonders surrounding us. There is not much
remaining inside the buildings but with facades such as these the interior
doesn't matter. The amphitheater is still in excellent condition. Many of the
pillars are in superb condition. It was a fabulous experience and one of the
real highlights of the cruise for a lot of us.
The next morning Peter left with his Tour 90 for an overland to Luxor and
Cairo. That left me at the counter with Parnell or John filling in
occasionally. There were the expected complaints about the morning tour and
even a few about Petra. Most people raved about how great it was but anytime
you have 250 people on tour there are bound to be problems. Some people didn't
like the horses, the walking was rough, the ride too long etc. We just wrote
down the complaints and survived the day. That evening we anchored off Suez in
preparation for the traversing of the canal. It was a bit humorous. Cunard in
New York had forgotten to prepay the Suez Canal fee so the ship had to come up
with over $100,000 from various offices on board. We loaned them $40,000
ourselves! These things do happen.
Friday, March 16 I took 31 passengers and started off on an adventure to Cairo
and the Pyramids. In the morning things looked bleak. We had to rely on local
boats to take us from the ship to the shore and they were supposed to be at
the ship by 5:30am. By 6:00 they hadn't come yet and the captain told us he'd
have to leave as soon as the pilot arrived to take the ship through the canal.
The pilot showed up a bit after 6:00 and the boats were right behind. Whew!
The sea was rough and it was difficult boarding. The temp was 50 and the boats
were open. We had a cold, wet, windy ride for 20 minutes to the pier. The pier
was worse. It was about four feet above the boats and we pretty much had to
physically haul people up. Other than a few scraped knees and ankles, though,
we survived and boarded our very nice bus. We still had some hassles with
customs, but we left the port by 7:45am. Our guide was a gal named Mona and
she was excellent. Lots of good info. The Suez Canal was built way back in
1859-1869 and today is Egypt's #1 source of income at $2.5 billion annually.
Oil is #2 and tourism is #3. Egypt is roughly 3 times the size of Montana with
55 million people, almost all of them on a narrow strip of land within 2 to 3
miles of the Nile River. The pyramids were built in the period known as the
old kingdom from 2700 BC to 2200 BC. The pyramids, of course, were built as
tombs for the Pharaohs for the life hereafter.
It was only about an hour and a half drive from Suez through the empty desert
to Cairo, and as traffic wasn't bad (Friday is the Moslem holy day) we arrived
at the Egyptian Museum by 9:30. Mona gave us a good 2-hour tour, showing us
all the treasures of King Tut's tombs and many other things. I'm not much for
museums, but our 2 hours there went by quickly. We were all getting hungry and
tired but we couldn't eat until 1:00 and couldn't check into our rooms until
after that so we decided to go to the bazaar in the old city. Egypt must have
the most fascinating, magical bazaars in the world. Everything imaginable and
prices are cheap. . . if you bargain them down, of course. Finally we made it
to lunch at the Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel, a five-star hotel. We hadn't
eaten since 5:00am so it was delicious. Rooms were beautiful as well with
balconies over the Nile. At 3:00 we headed out again for sightseeing at the
Citadel in Old Cairo. The Citadel is an ancient fortress in the old section of
Cairo. A mosque inside was an added attraction. Of course we had to either
take our shoes off or put on cloth slippers over our shoes. I always enjoy
walking on marble floors in stocking feet.
In the evening we drove out to the pyramids and sphinx at dusk to watch the
Sound and Light Production. Using lights, music, voices and the natural
wonders there, they trace the history of civilization in Egypt. Beautiful to
see the pyramids all lit up at night. Back to the hotel for dinner and then a
very worn-out group trundled off to bed!
After a good night's sleep we were refreshed and ready to continue our
adventure. We drove directly to the Great Pyramid where we had a chance to
take photos and to venture inside to the small internal passages. It's not a
place you'd want to get lost, but it was a thrill to be inside. We then
proceeded to a big sand dune on the edge of the desert for a panorama of the 3
pyramids together. There were lots of camels to ride there, so quite a number
of the group, including myself, went for it. For $2 it was good fun and a good
picture. We drove back down below to the sphinx and an ancient temple for
another half hour stop. The sphinx is under restoration so photos aren't great,
but he's still the sphinx! He's missing his nose and legend has it that it was
shot off in the Napoleonic wars. Next time I return maybe he will be all put
back together again. Our final visit that morning was to a Papyrus Institute
where we saw how they make paper from papyrus and paint scenes on them. One
woman stayed on the bus and when I went to check on her she said she had
papayas in her back yard and right now they sell for only 50 cents apiece. So
they don't all have perfect hearing. . . .
We had lunch at the Mena House Hotel at the foot of the pyramids. This is the
oldest hotel in Egypt and important historically. This is where Churchill,
Carter, Kissinger and many other foreign diplomats and dignitaries have stayed.
It was nice dining beside a swimming pool with a view of the great pyramid in
It was 3-hour drive from there back to the ship in Alexandria, but the Sahara
had plenty of interesting sights. Where they have water they really can make
the desert bloom. The city of Alexandria is much more European and cosmopolitan
than Cairo. Cairo has 19 million people and Alexandria a mere 4 million. It was
cold and windy when we got back to the ship and we still had time to do some
shopping from the street vendors and hawkers before we had to get back on the
ship. I bought a few t-shirts and 5 papyrus prints for $1 each. It's amazing
the bargains you can get just before the ship sails from these different ports.
Vendors want to just unload their wares and will do it at almost any price.
Never buy when the ship first arrives! It seems almost all our tours in Egypt
were successful and that's no small achievement in a country where you can
never count on anything to get done and bribery and extortion are the normal
way to do business. Every official who deals with the ship wants his share of
cartons of cigarettes, perfumes, whiskey, or outright cash. In light of that
I'm especially thankful that my tour went so well. The people were highly
satisfied and as Karl Brubaker would say, "A good time was had by all!" Before
we pulled out of port the cruise director announced that they were expecting
gale force 8 winds (out of maximum 12) and that people should fasten down
anything that might break. As it turned out, there was a bit of pitching and
rolling, but nothing like we expected.
This morning we were at sea so our office was open, and at noon we arrived in
Haifa for a stay of one full day and two half days. More about that in the
next chapter. This one is plenty long enough! The ship will be really full for
the 4 days between Haifa and Istanbul, so now we finally do have to leave our
lovely passenger cabins. Even Parnell has to suffer with a staff cabin without
facilities for these few days. Peter and I have to share, but for that we at
least have a bathroom in our cabin. He's moved in already and I'll have to
move after I get back from Galilee tomorrow evening. Enough already.
continues. Our original Tag Mahal itinerary called for a Saturday morning
flight to Agra, returning Sunday afternoon. After losing our plane, the only
alternative was a scheduled flight leaving Bombay at 6:10pm for Jaipur and two
other cities, which Indian Airlines said they would divert to Agra for us. The
thought of 3 intermediate flights was the main reason we had enough people
cancel to bring us down to our allotment of 70 seats. The new schedule meant
arriving late at night, seeing the Taj at dawn the next morning, a morning
tour of Fatehpur Sikri, a pm tour of the Taj, dinner at the hotel and another
late night diverted flight to get us back to Bombay. The ship was to sail from
Bombay at 7:00pm, but the captain said he'd hold it for us until we arrived
back after midnight. Friday evening before Bombay the captain was told he
might not be able to dock until noon, so then we were really thankful our Taj
tour had already been rearranged! You never know what to expect when dealing
with India. The nice thing about the change was it allowed us to also do the
Bombay city tour.
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Chapter 6, Haifa to Canakkale, Turkey
Tuesday, March 27, 1990
Shalom Y'all! Ports have been flying by fast and furious as our 1990 World Cruise rapidly sails to the end. From the South Pacific and Southeast Asia we have moved into the lands of the Bible and ancient history. The Cradle of Civilization still shows evidence of brilliant minds.
Sunday, March 18 we docked in Haifa about noon. In spite of bureaucratic immigrations in Israel we made it off the ship in pretty good time. I was in charge of the afternoon tour and we had 3 53-seater buses for 145 passengers. We never like to load our buses more than 80% of capacity, but we had to here. We finally managed to get everyone on and the buses off. As much desert as there is in Israel and all through the Arab countries, Haifa and northern Israel are green. When the Jews first came here they had to drain swamps to make the land arable. We first drove up Mt. Carmel to the shrine of the Bahai faith, a gold-domed building surrounded by immaculate Persian gardens. Then to the top of the mountain for a nice panorama of Haifa and area. We could almost see to Lebanon, which is incidentally, the only Arab country with no desert. We proceeded to the ancient crusader city of Acre for the bulk of our tour. Acre is a fantastic walled city on the sea with a huge fortress, old churches and cobble streets. The fortress is laced with secret passages to provide escape routes to the sea in emergency. It was built largely by the crusaders. After they'd arrived from Europe they had nothing to do so they started building. The only architecture they knew was European and cathedral style arches. The only material they had was the local stone. So they combined the two and created amazing edifices with stone arch ceilings. Quite a unique combination. Much of the fortress is below ground today, but wasn't when it was built. The area has been conquered by many different factions over the centuries and each one turned it into rubble and started building a new level. When the crusaders were here they always had a fear the Moslems would return; thus the passages to the sea. Acre is still inhabited and we wandered the little streets and alleyways admiring the buildings, shops, children playing, and laundry hanging out the windows. We ended our walk at the sea where we found lots of small fishing craft and nets alongside luxury yachts. Enjoyable tour. Temps in the 60's.
Monday was another gorgeous, clear day and I had 33 passengers on my full day tour to Nazareth, Tiberias and Sea of Galilee. John had taken an overnight tour to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and Peter left with a small group to the Dead Sea and Masada. I was in the main cities the last time I was here so I was looking forward to Galilee. As we wound our way through the gentle countryside I kept thinking of the hymn, 'Ye Fair Green Hills of Galilee'. Such a contrast to the southern reaches of this small country. Water from the Sea of Galilee is used heavily for irrigation and everywhere one sees groves of citrus fruit, vegetable gardens, and many varieties of trees and wildflowers. It's spring now and the land is really coming to life. In Nazareth we had a photo stop at Mary's well then walked up to the Church of the Annunciation. The old part of the church is on the ground level and restored. Above it, a lovely new sanctuary has been built with stained glass and the works. We drove on to Tiberias on the shore of the lake for a fine lunch of St. Peter fish. They serve it whole on a platter and it's delicious. On to Capernaum and the Church of the Multiplication, the supposed place where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. As is typical of the Holy Land, there is a church or monument on almost every spot where anything important may have taken place. On top of the Mt. Of Beatitudes we had a great view of Galilee and our guide had one of the passengers read the beatitudes. Nice. Then we visited the Capernaum where Jesus spent much of his early days teaching. The actually ruins we saw were from the 4th Century AD, but no doubt built on the original ruins. From there we boarded a boat to relive Peter's favorite pastime and returned to Tiberias. I didn't try walking on the water, but it was easy to think back to so many of the stories associated with the Sea and the area. After a short visit to a diamond factory we stopped at the Jordan River. Several people wanted their bottles filled with water from the river to take home with them, of course. It looked wet to me. Then as the sun was setting on the Golan Heights we wound our way back over the fair green hills of Galilee toward Haifa while our guide played a video of scenes of Israel, accompanied by Israeli folksongs. A perfect end to a perfect day. All our tours in Israel went quite well and the guides seemed very capable.
Finally we had to give up our wonderful passenger cabins and move down to the bowels of the ship. The ship is overbooked from Haifa to Istanbul so we had to make do. Even Parnell had to take a cabin without private facilities for a few days, which is unheard of. Peter and I had to share, but as compensation our staff cabin had a bathroom. I went to see the cabin and it only had one bed. They put a rollaway in and there was no room to turn around. We had them take out a chest of drawers, as we had no intention of unpacking for just a few days anyway. The worst part is no TV for OceanSat news, but at least there's one in the office. Looks like a real cold spell in the northern plains for the first day of spring! We sailed from Haifa Tuesday noon so the office was open in the afternoon and we were busy.
Wednesday noon we pulled into Rhodes, Greece. We had a tour to Lindos scheduled for 1:30pm and a Rhodes tour for 2:00pm. No buses. No agent. It's easy to grow gray hairs in this job if you take it too seriously. It was 1:15 before the agent arrived and said due to a strike the tour to Lindos was cancelled. So we gave people the option of canceling or going on the Rhodes tour. Most did the latter and our buses did get there and the tour went smoothly the rest of the afternoon. The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Not much left of it (Pyramids are the only remaining wonders) but the old city of Rhodes was just wonderful. The city looks either new or well restored, but is original and dates back to the 5th Century BC! Neat cobble stone streets, trees, gardens, moats, functional gates, graceful arches, and Grand Palace. Peter, Parnell and I checked on the tour by private car then had coffee. Peter gave me the afternoon off so I could call home. I changed plenty of money to cover the call, which should have cost about $3.50 a minute. The meter went from 1 to 2 and stayed there so when I went to pay for my call it was only 100 Drachma, only 60 cents!! What a bargain! Ship sailed at 6:00pm and this is one of those ports you hate to leave. Super.
No time to sigh over Rhodes, though. The very next morning we were in Kusadasi, Turkey for our tour to Ephesus. Oh Grand and Noble Ephesus! One of the cruise highlights. We had a cool but bright sunny morning as we drove for 20 minutes along the coastline to the ancient city of Ephesus. The city was originally built at the foot of a mountain, but later swamps and malaria forced them to build up the sides. We started at the top and wandered down through the ruins. There are so much of the ruins left and much of it has also been restored. This is one of the finest Roman excavation sites in the world. I felt like royalty walking the marble seats all lined up in a row! The two-story library facade is well preserved and resembles the treasury in Petra. Most amazing is the stadium, which is a natural amphitheater with seating for 24,000! It's a hike to the top but worth the view. The Arcadian is a long street lined with marble statues and columns. We had to marvel how archaeologists work in this 2500 year-old site and find marble and great beauty. If someone dug through New York in 2500 years they would find glass, concrete and steel. And we think we're so smart. From there we drove to the Church of St. John where the apostle is buried. John allegedly brought Mary the mother of Jesus here and Mary's house is also in the area. A visit to the museum showed us many of the artifacts taken from the excavations. Elaborate. Ornate. Beautiful. Also many statues of Artemis, the fertility goddess. This was the great Diana of the Ephesians. In Ephesus I asked a passenger who is an evangelist if he couldn't just imagine the tumult crying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" He replied that he could more easily visualize Paul declaring, "Put on the helmet of Salvation!" Amazing just to be there. The temple of Artemis was one of the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Now there is just one pillar standing. On the cruise we have been to the sites of 3 of the original wonders: Cairo, Rhodes and Ephesus. How many of them can you name? More on that later. Beautiful day, beautiful tour.
Friday I got to return to one of my favorite cities, Istanbul. It was a long walk from the ship to the buses because a Russian ship was in the closer berth. There was some confusion but we managed to get the tours dispatched OK anyway. It was hazy/foggy in the morning, but it soon burned off and we had a nice day. It was the beginning of the Moslem month Ramadan and Friday is their holy day anyway so we proceeded directly to the Blue Mosque to beat the 11:00am closing for prayers. The blue Mosque is as exquisite as ever with its mosaic tiles and pastel colors. It has one enormous open dome in the center, supported by 4 half domes on each side. Most mosques have 4 minarets and this is the only one in the world with 6. The story has it that the sultan asked the architect to design a mosque with gold minarets and in Arabic the difference between the words gold and six is only a 't' at the end. Building gold minarets didn't appeal to the builder so he pretended he misunderstood. The sultan was so pleased with the design of 6 that he decided to go ahead and build it that way. Next to the Blue Mosque is St. Sophia's. Both of these mosques were originally built as orthodox churches and converted by Moslem conquerors. Moslems don't believe in having any graven images or likenesses of humans no matter who they are, so they destroyed or whitewashed over all the frescoes and paintings of saints, Mary, Jesus etc. St. Sophia's is now a museum so they've been able to restore some of the originals. Turkey is one of the few secular states in the Moslem world, but even here there is some pressure by conservative groups to turn it back into a mosque. Our guide asked us to pray that wouldn't happen! The last visit was to the Topkapi Palace. Besides the lovely grounds and gardens they have many rooms displaying various furnishings, porcelain, crystal, silver, etc. The grand finale, though, was the crown jewels. Four rooms of incredible jewels and precious stones. A jeweled dagger, enormous emeralds, jeweled plates and utensils, and an 86-carat diamond! Enormous! The tour ended at Istanbul's marvelous Grand Bazaar. Nothing like it in the world. It is a covered bazaar with 42 MILES of little streets and shops all under one roof. 40,000 shops!! There are different sections: brass/copper, gold, leather, carpets, silver, onyx. It is the most colorful and mesmerizing collection of shops imaginable. I love it! I spent the afternoon just wandering around and enjoying. That evening was the last evening in port during the world cruise so the four of us from the office went out for dinner. Took a long drive along the Bosphorous to a fish restaurant. It was nice, no doubt, but we were more than a little surprised when we got the bill for $165! Oh well, Parnell paid for it and he'll put it on account somehow.
I had Saturday morning free so I wandered around the bazaar. Out the back was more of a local bazaar with old books, stamps and, just for me, coins! I bought an 1857 silver coin from the Ottoman Empire then found a table with a whole pile of coins for 8 cents each and another pile for 10 cents each. A real bonanza for me. Coins from Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Algeria etc. In the afternoon we sailed on up through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea. For the first time on the cruise we had to set our clocks ahead, as the USSR is one hour ahead of Turkey. Not only that, but that night was also when Europe went on summer time, so we lost an hour in the afternoon and again that night. Only fitting that the Russians make it hard on us!
Sunday morning in Yalta we awoke to pea soup fog. We had amazingly few hassles with officials and their bureaucracy, but the fog stayed with us the whole day. Our half-day tour was one of the low points of the cruise because you couldn't see half of the things in the program. Oh well, I was on the full day and it turned out fine. We went first to Livadia Palace, the site of the big Yalta Conference of WWII. The palace was the summer home of Nicholas II, but the events of 1945 are what really put it on the map. Guides there used to bring tourists into the conference room and say, "And this is where Stalin gave everything away to Churchill and Roosevelt!" The rhetoric of our guide was toned down greatly from that and he talked openly of different historical perspectives. The second palace we visited was the Ulupka Palace and it also played a role in the talks. It was built by a British architect and has interesting similarities to Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. Beautiful parquet floors, frescoed ceilings, great towers and turrets. In spite of the fog, it was definitely springtime and fruit trees were in blossom everywhere. The visibility was too bad, as the area is mountainous and quite lovely. The highlight of our tour was lunch and show at the Yalta Hotel. First we were served a lunch like I've never seen in the USSR with all kinds of hors d'oeuvres, cheeses, meat, borscht, caviar, puff pastries, stew, dessert, and lots to drink. That already had the people in a good mood and then came the Ukrainian Dancers. This hour and a half show rivaled the Mazowsze we saw in Warsaw 3 years ago. Fabulous dancing, singing, costumes, and orchestra. I think the Soviets must have invented harmony and developed the human voice to precision. I just wished Mom could have been there to hear that tremendous singing. Most passengers agreed it was one of the best shows they had ever seen anywhere. We got back to the ship by 3:30, so we still had time to explore for an hour. Since it was Sunday most of the shops were closed but there were lots of people on the streets and I managed to buy some of the wooden dolls. One old woman was selling fake furs and John asked if he could take her picture. She put on a big smile for him, I put my arm around her and we posed. After the photo she was saying I could be her son and she found a younger woman for me to get another picture with. I gave them each a postcard and pen from the ship and soon people were gathering around us and we were giving out more cards and having to autograph them. Brian and Angela Mills, the dance team on the ship, were also with us and one of the shopkeepers gave Angela a belt that was a perfect match for her outfit. We had lots of fun for a few minutes but had to go back 'home'.
Shandra Scammon met me in Varna, Bulgaria the next morning along with her 6 teammates. They are studying over there and decided to make a holiday out of it and all come to Bulgaria to see me. What fun we had. I just dispatched the morning tour and had the rest of the day free with them. What tales they had to tell as they've watched the changes in Europe the past few months. We walked into town to the aquarium and to the Orthodox Cathedral. It was so good to see Shandra again and we didn't run out of things to talk about all day. For those of you who know Shandra that will be no surprise. The best part was being able to take all 7 of them on the ship for lunch in the Lido Cafe. They couldn't believe the food. All the fruit, veggies, diet coke, and cheeseburgers. It was a treat watching them enjoy the meal and passengers near us were quite amused as well. Bob had 4 cheeseburgers among other things! A couple passengers gave them some chocolates to take with them as well. We also gave them fruit and a few other important items to take along. I loved having them visit and I know it was great for them too.
Back through the Bosphorus. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Troy. We anchored off Canakkale, Turkey and took local boats to shore. We had apprehensions about our tour to Troy because we had heard there just isn't much there. However, our guides were good, buses were nice, weather was beautiful and things went well. During a lovely drive through the country our guide gave us a history lesson. That area was the site of one of the biggest battles of WWII. In 1915 over half a million died. Turkey was allied with the Germans in that one and they mined the Dardanelles. The British and French minesweepers removed them but just before they continued through the straits the Turks planted a whole bunch more and ship by ship was blown up. The battle in the trenches was also catastrophic. Every day at 5:00pm each side would blow a horn and there would be a 4-hour ceasefire. They'd come out of their trenches, shake hands and the fun would begin. The Brits played cricket. The Turks had no idea how it went but they watched. After the games the trading began. The Turks had food, the Brits medicine. At 9:00pm horns blew again and back they went into the trenches firing again. Tragic. Next month is the 75th Anniversary of the battle and dignitaries plan to come from all over the world to commemorate it. Of course, the more ancient battle was fought at Troy. There's not much left of the city today but our guide was good at telling the stories. Troy was built on 9 layers, beginning in 3000 BC! History and legend are inseparable here as archaeologists combine artifacts with the stories of Homer. Supposedly the war between the Greeks and the Trojans was fought over the beautiful woman, Helen who Paris had kidnapped and taken to Troy. But, as our guide pointed out, "Who would ever fight 10 years over a woman?" Trade routes were probably more at issue. At any rate the Greeks finally built a huge wooden horse and left it outside the city gates of Troy with a lone priest to trick the Trojans. The Greeks withdrew to the beaches and the next morning the Trojans came out thinking the Greeks had given up. The priest told them the Greeks made the horse so big so it couldn't be taken inside the city. They felt the gods would be on the side of whoever possessed the horse. The Trojans, of course, pulled down the city gates and walls to get it inside and in the night out came the Greeks, joined by the ones who had retreated, and that was the end of Troy. Today they have a huge wooden horse for visitors to see and it makes a great photo. All in all, a nice tour.
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Chapter 7, Canakkale to Fort Lauderdale
Friday, April 13, 1990
Ports came fast and furious through the Mediterranean. On Wednesday, March 28 we docked in Thessalonica, Greece to a beautiful sunny morning. I was on the half-day tour. Our guide started out not saying much, but our first stop was the museum and there she wouldn't stop talking. From there we drove high up the hill to the Citadel overlooking the city. There is still a fair bit of the old city wall standing. Most of the ruins today are actually after the time of the Apostle Paul, but nevertheless, this was the home of the Thessalonians. We visited the St. Dimetrius Church. Dark and gothic with impressive stained glass windows. The best part was below the church. About 100 years ago they discovered tunnels and catacombs. They've cleaned it up and turned it into sort of a museum and it's fascinating. We had a final photo stop at the White Tower by the sea before returning to the ship.
The very next day we were in Athens, one of my favorite cities in Europe. It didn't start out too well, though. The people had to walk quite a way from the ship to the loading area and then cross a terribly dangerous street to reach the buses. There was heavy traffic and drivers had no intention of stopping. Parnell was furious and nearly called everything off. Amazing we didn't lose anybody. After that things improved rapidly. Our guide, Stella, was excellent and spoke good English. Most of our morning was spent at the Acropolis. The air was clear and the temp in the low 70's so the view was great and walking comfortable. Walking up we stopped at Mars Hill where Paul preached to the Athenians. On to the top. There was a special program for school children that day so there were hundreds of them all over. It's always a thrill to be at the Acropolis and see the Parthenon and the hills of Athens and the sea in the distance. They are in the process of restoring the Parthenon so there were some big cranes at work. It was considerate of them to only work on one wall at a time so as not to spoil the view too much. When it came time to leave for more sightseeing on the way to the Grande Bretagne Hotel for lunch I was missing one woman. Fortunately, I knew who she was, so I sent the bus ahead while I stayed behind to look. It was only about 5 minutes till I found her and we took a taxi to the hotel, arriving before the group. That was handy because it gave me a chance to see where we were eating, location of restrooms etc. Superb lunch with complimentary red and white wine. Delicious profiteroles in chocolate pudding for dessert. The afternoon we spent at the Archaeological Museum with some free time for shopping or enjoying a cup of coffee at the outdoor cafe. Nice tour, happy passengers, happy me! Back at the ship I went out to check out the shops in the area but saw a crowd of people along the sidewalk in front of the harbor. A Russian ship (The Odessa) was parked next to ours, the same one that had had the closer berth in Istanbul, and many of its passengers were on the sidewalk selling wares from the USSR to get hard currency. No drachmas for them, only $$$$. What fun! It was like a big flea market. I managed to get 9 little matrioszki dolls as well as some Ukrainian wooden plates and spoons. I also gave some of them soap and gum from our ship. Some of the best shopping of the cruise.
How wonderful to have a day at sea again between Athens and Catania. Even though we were busy in the office it was a break not to have tours to run. Played more backgammon out on deck with John and won enough to finally put me back in the plus column of wins/losses. He was ahead of me by over 35 games at one point, but his lucky streak ended and I've been gaining ground quite steadily. Also managed to get in another foot-working session with Parnell. That is one of the most amazing success stories. He feels so much better than he's felt in years and now it's hardly painful anywhere on his foot. At the beginning his feet were soooo sensitive.
Lunch was the Norwegian Gala Buffet on that day at sea. It is quite beautiful, but it doesn't tempt me too much anymore. I had mostly cheese and crackers and some fruit. I've been working out and watching what I eat and when I get home I'm going to whip Jeff in racquetball!
We Docked in Catania, Sicily early on Saturday and the first passengers were waiting to get the best seats on the buses by 7:45 for a 9:00 tour! It was a nice morning and we could see snow-covered Mr. Etna and the smoke rising from the cone. By the time my bus left at 9:00 the clouds had rolled in and obscured the summit. I was on the full-day tour and we started climbing right up the side of the mountain. Catania itself was quite pretty. It is a very old area, but the town had been destroyed by the volcano in the 18th century and had to be rebuilt. So most of the architecture was a fairly modern baroque style, ornate and heavy. Not long after getting out of town we entered lava fields and volcanic rocks. Mt. Etna is 10,000 feet high and still active. The last major eruption in 1985 destroyed the little village and restaurants at 6500 feet, which was our destination. They've rebuilt the restaurants on the same spot. We were in the fog intermittently, but it would dissipate often enough to give us spectacular view of the crater and the lava fields. It was cold and windy up there, but there was an area of hot rocks and steam where we could find a nice warm place to sit. We had ample time to explore and to enjoy a nice hot cup of hot chocolate before beginning our descent towards Taormina. It was springtime and many fruit trees were in full bloom. We drove along the sea towards Taormina and the last few miles was a torturous, winding road where the drivers had to use their horns and even back up to get around some of the curves. What a lovely, quaint little village. No buses are allowed in town so we parked outside and walked to our luncheon hotel, the 5-star San Domenico. Delicious lunch. Pineapple and parma ham starter. Macaroni and eggplant second. Main course was swordfish. Then lemon sherbet. Finally coffee and Sicilian cookies. Yum yum! Passengers had the option of exploring the town on their own after lunch or going with the guide for a visit to the Greek-Roman Theater. It was decidedly worth the visit. Tit is a perfectly preserved theater dating back to both the Greeks and the Romans. The view of Taormina, Mt. Etna, the sea, and the countryside from the top of the theater was breathtaking. Managed to get everybody back to the bus for our picturesque drive along the coast back to the ship.
Sunday, April Fools Day, we were at sea again, so I went to church. One of the passengers, Robert D'Andrea, was the guest minister for the day and he was better than the regular. Bob and his wife Molly are from Florida and have a number of Mennonite friends, including Gerald Derstine. Bob owns a religious TV network. They're also one of the nicest couple on the ship.
Monday we were in Villefranche, France, the port for Nice and Monte Carlo. Leave it to the French to make things complicated. To begin with, it was a tender port so we had to ride the ship's boats to the pier. From there it was a good 10-minute walk along the water to where we could load the buses. Unfortunately, we could only load one at a time so we had to dispatch the full-day tour before we could even begin the half-day tour, which I was on. We left half an hour late at 9:30. We first drove into Nice with a photo stop on the way for a great panorama of the city, the harbor, and the mountains beyond. Nice is really a beautiful city with lots of flowers and neatly groomed parks. Between Nice and Monaco there are three main roads, which are called Corniches in French. There is a coastal corniche, a high corniche through the mountains, and the middle one called the moyenne corniche, which winds along halfway up the mountains. From Nice we took the moyenne corniche, which afforded us spectacular views of the villages perched on high ridges, the rugged coastline, and the rough mountains inland. In Monaco itself there are again more traffic restrictions so we had to park the bus in a big parking garage, take an escalator, an elevator and another escalator to reach the palace area on top of the hill. We first walked to the cathedral where several of Monaco's royalty are buried, including Princess Grace. On to the Palace Square. Elegant and royal, just as you would expect it to look. Back at the bus at 11:45 and another episode of the missing woman. Again I had to send the bus on and return to the top looking for her. I had just about given up when I reached the Palace Square and the Changing of the Guard was ending. I spotted her standing on the corner by the souvenir shop we'd visited. She didn't seem at all concerned and had understood a different time to be back. We can repeat things 3 or 4 times and some people will invariably be off in their own world. Then came the problem of finding a way to the main square down in Monte Carlo. As we began walking down the street a woman in a car knocked on the window and waved to me. It was Marjorie Copp from the ship who just happened to have a private car for the day with 3 other ladies, just happened to be going to Central Square in Monte Carlo, and just happened to have 2 empty seats in the back of the car! We entered the square in front of the Casino and the Hotel de Paris in grand style just as our group was arriving. Barely enough time to send a postcard and take a picture before we had to be on our way again. The Hotel de Paris is very elegant and if you're not dressed properly you can forget about going in to see it. We took the lower corniche back to the Sagafjord, winding in and out of the little bays at the foot of the cliffs. Expensive yachts graced neat little harbors. Even with all the complications the tour gave people a chance to see some beautiful scenery and enjoy the magic of Nice and Monaco.
After a quick lunch, one of my favorite cheerful passengers, Joyce Corley, and I set out to enjoy the village of Villefranche together. I had some Greek Drachmas left over so I went to a bank to change them to French Francs. In the process I picked up a 10 Franc commemorative coin and was told there were several made recently. Joyce and I had nothing particular we wanted to do so we visited several banks and I managed to pick up 5 different coins! We had a piece of pie and a lemonade together and it cost $12! France is expensive, after all. It didn't faze Joyce, though. After a quick stop at a grocery store to pick up some spices and other interesting French items, I commented that she doesn't even look at the prices. She just laughed and agreed that, no, since she was about 18 she really hasn't to worry about the price of things. She's just a normal gal, likes to laugh and have a good time, and you would never guess by looking at her that she has money. Her husband invented the machine used to shrink-wrap things in plastic in supermarkets; break, meats, etc. She was in a store in Singapore and saw them wrapping meat. There was her name on the machine.
Tuesday was another day at sea. Great news. University of Nevada Las Vegas defeated Duke for the NCAA Championship. First western team to win in 15 years. Hooray!
With the combination of summer time and reaching the western end of the time zone, it was still dark when we pulled into Malaga, Spain on Wednesday, April 4. Also chilly, but as the sun came up it warmed up and turned into a nice day. Our guide on the morning tour was not the best. Her name was Juliette and she talked a bit like she was drunk (she wasn't). Traffic was really slow, which made it difficult getting anywhere. We stopped for 45 minutes in the little village of Marbella. Quaint little town with narrow streets, some only 3 or 4 feet wide. The purpose for that is threefold: shade in summer, protection from enemies, and in case the villagers drink too much it's a big help for staggering home. The countryside is rather overdeveloped with little consideration for esthetics. Unfortunate. The natural beauty of the area is impressive. They've had a strange winter as has much of the Mediterranean. Almost no rain. Then a couple weeks ago tremendous winds came in from the sea for a prolonged period. It brought no rain, but a great deal of salt spray and contaminants. It literally turned all the trees from their fresh spring green to withered ugly brown. It will probably be fatal to most of them. From Marbella we drove a little further down the coast to Puerto Banus, home of the elite. Huge yacht harbor with hundreds of crafts, many of them worth millions. There is a beautiful residential complex there built entirely of marble. Glittering. The shops there are horrendously expensive. Fountains, gardens, cafes.
Had some free time to wander around Malaga in the afternoon. It's quite an attractive city as well. Big botanical gardens in the center of town. Ruins of an old fort and city walls overlooking the town from the hill behind. Good news back at the ship. New cabin. I've been very fortunate the whole cruise. I was in a passenger cabin from the beginning to Haifa, then moved way down to C-Deck to a staff cabin from there to Malaga, now back into a nice passenger cabin for the Atlantic crossing. It wasn't too difficult to move again, as I had just left most things in suitcases for the time spent down below. The staff cabin hadn't actually been that bad. It had its own facilities and was right next door to the Golden Door Spa, which made it handy for working out and swimming. It didn't have a TV though, so it was difficult to follow the news on OceanSat. How quickly we are spoiled! Anyway, my new cabin is on Main Deck, same as the Dining room, the furthest cabin forward.
Thursday was the last full day our office was open. Malaga was a major passenger transfer port so we lost 160 and gained 80 passengers. A decidedly younger mean age for this group. Several of them are Trivial Pursuit players, even Scrabble. It makes you realize how old some of our passengers are. Somebody remarked that you know it's a geriatric crowd when the midnight buffet is at 11:00pm! Lot's of funny things happen with people like these, though. Like the woman who asked one of the Pursers how to find the elevator that would take her to the front of the ship. The Purser told her the elevators only go up and down, to which she replied, "You're wrong dear! I took it yesterday!" Or the woman who asked if the crew stay on the ship at night! The best was a woman who called the Pursers to say she couldn't get out of her cabin. There were 2 doors. One went to the bathroom and the other had a sign on it that said 'Do Not Disturb'!! Never a dull moment.
April 6 we docked at our last port of the world cruise, Funchal, Madeira, an autonomous island belonging to Portugal. A cool morning set the tone for a fabulous day. We had 2 buses on the full-day tour. First stop was the Monte Church, a baroque chapel with immaculate gardens and a panoramic view of Funchal. We proceeded up over the mountains, winding our way down the north side. Spectacular scenery! Flowers all over the island. Wild nasturtiums graced the roadsides. Near waterfalls and streams were wild Easter lilies. We were amazed at the diversity of flowers all blooming at once. Masses of bougainvillea, azaleas, hydrangea, roses, camellias, rhododendrons, gladiola, jacaranda trees, and countless wildflowers. As we made our way across the island the scenery changed constantly. Rugged peaks and sheer cliffs. Snow on the top from a storm the day before. Higher altitudes resembled northwest Montana. Lower mountainsides could have been in Hawaii. Conifers, hardwoods, sequoias. . . trees from all parts of the world, and thriving. In my book, Madeira has the South Sea Islands beat all to pieces! We stopped to see a trout hatchery. In addition to the pools of different sized fish were little streams, waterfalls, flowerbeds and camellias and roses. Also a souvenir shop, of course. Prices decidedly lower here than in most of Europe. There is a typical cap in Madeira, which is a stocking cap with earflaps. Joyce Corley bought one for me and one for herself so we had to have our picture taken together. So cute. Warm caps though. Lunch was at a fine restaurant in a picturesque setting. Casa da Cha do Faial. Terraced mountainsides, little villages perched on ridges, wicker plantations in the middle of harvest. Breathtaking. The lunch was superb as well. The scenic drive continued after lunch, up and down, to the mountains, to the sea, through quaint villages. I don't think any of us were really quiet prepared for the stunning beauty of the island. A most perfect final port for our 1990 World Cruise with outstanding tours to close out our last chapter. Sigh of relief.
Our office was open the next morning just in case there was anything people needed to see us about, but there was really nothing. That was the morning the seas were rough. Early in the morning I suddenly woke up and had to grab the bed to keep from falling out! It wasn't much fun trying to sit in the office on a chair with wheels either. By 11:30 when we closed I was ready to go out on deck and get some fresh air. There was a strong wind and mostly obscured sun so there weren't many sheltered places to sit. Fortunately there wasn't much competition for what there was. The decks were soaked from a combination of wild spray and an occasional extra high wave. In the afternoon I played bridge. The card room is 5 decks above the water and several times waves completely engulfed all the windows.
The last week across the Atlantic was super for us. We had to spend some time cleaning up the office and doing some packing for ourselves, but there was lots of time to enjoy the sun, play bridge, backgammon, Trivial Pursuit, and just relax. Monday we had quite the shock. One of the couple that had been on many tours and had been about as much trouble as anybody left a note they wanted one of us to call. About a mistake in their bill, no doubt. Before we had a chance to call, he cornered John out on deck and stunned him by saying that they just wanted to thank us for the wonderful tours. He gave John an envelope with $100 for us to split among the 4 of us. A fitting ending for a wonderful cruise!!
EXEUNT!! Kent Kauffman
The ship was sailing over the sea, sailing along so merrily. All of a sudden a storm came up and the ship. . . No the ship didn't sink, but we did have a bit of rough water after we left Madeira. We have had an amazingly good cruise. During the cruise there were only two really rocky nights and I just happened to be off the ship on overland tours during both of them. The weather has been just fabulous, with the fog in Yalta the worst we had! Well, this is the final chronicle of our 1990 cruise. Chapter 7, a fitting number for a perfect cruise.
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