Mumbai, India to Rome, Italy

Fourth Segment

 

To the Crew and Staff of the Pacific Princess

When we planned to embark on our one hundred and seven day odyssey around the world, it was difficult for us to fully appreciate what life aboard a ship would entail.   A friend with U. S. Navy experience said when I told him of the length of the trip, that it was “…. not a cruise, but rather a deployment”, in Navy terms.   Longer than most cruises, we were concerned if we would remain interested and engaged. 

Now as we complete this journey, our experience was an absolute joy and a fantastic learning experience.   This would not have been possible without the full involvement of each and every one of the crew and the staff.  They have been there 24/7 attending to our every wish and our every need.  With their ever present smile and their willingness to help and assist, the crew and staff have made our time on the Pacific Princess a most magnificent holiday.

From the restaurants and bars to the staterooms, from the gym and spa to the entertainment, from the front desk to the tour desk, from ship’s operation to the many facets of the ship that we do not see, the crew and staff have performed in a most exemplary way.   I have often joked with some of them …as they would respond that they are “excellent” …that they did not have to be such.   But of course they were EXCELLENT, every moment of every day.

We wish all of the crew and staff of the Pacific Princess Fair Winds and Following Seas in their future travels on the world’s oceans.  And we will look forward to sailing with each of them someday in the future aboard a Princess ship.  

 

Mumbai, India

 

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, built by the Mughal Emperor (an Islamic imperial power that ruled a large portion of India) Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite and last wife, Mumtaz Mahal.    The Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles.    In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage."

Building began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, and employed thousands of artisans and craftsmen.   The central focus of the complex is the tomb.   This large, white marble structure stands on a square pedestal and consists of a symmetrical building with an arch-shaped doorway topped by a large dome and finial.  The marble dome above the tomb is the most spectacular feature.   Its height of around 115 ft is about the same as the length of the base, and is accentuated as it sits on a cylindrical "drum" which is roughly 23 ft high.

Like most Mughal tombs, the basic elements are Persian in origin.   Four minarets frame the tomb, one at each corner.   The main chamber houses the false sarcophagi of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan; the actual graves are at a lower level.   The minarets, which are each, more than 130 ft tall, display the designer's penchant for symmetry. They were designed as working minarets — a traditional element of mosques, used by the muezzin to call the Islamic faithful to prayer.   

The Taj Mahal was built on a parcel of land to the south of the walled city of Agra. Shah Jahan presented Maharajah Jai Singh with a large palace in the center of Agra in exchange for the land.    The pedestal and tomb took roughly twelve years to complete.   The remaining parts of the complex took an additional ten years and were completed in order of minarets, mosque and gateway.  

The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia and over one thousand elephants were used to transport building materials. The translucent white marble was brought from Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia.    A labor force of twenty thousand workers was recruited across northern India.

The Emperor was deposed from power by his son and was then forced to live in Fort Agra, also a designated historic site today, where he watched the final completion of this shrine to the women he loved.  He subsequently died in that prison and was buried alongside his wife in the mausoleum.  

We had a limited opportunity to view life in Mumbai and in Agra, but it is sufficient to say that there are millions of people who live in extremely poor conditions and endure a meager survival.  I am sure that there are areas within these cities that are far better than what we experienced….we just did not have the opportunity to visit them.  

Clockwise from above left:

Taj Mahal;

Lila at the entrance to the Taj Mahal;

Taj Mahal from Fort Agra;

Life in an Mumbai abandoned hotel;

Fort Agra; and

the Mosque at the Taj Mahal

Below from the left:

The Gate to the Taj Mahal from the Courtyard and

Jamuna River behind the Taj Mahal

 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Dubai is one of seven autonomous emirates which encompass the United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation that was established in 1971 under British sponsorship.   Dubai receives much of its wealth from oil and natural gas deposits, much like many of its neighbors.  It has, however, expanded its trade with other countries as a means to ensure its economic viability when oil and gas reserves are depleted in the future.  

In earlier times, Dubai was just a small village with local people involved in fishing, camel breeding and farming.  In times past, there was limited trading in gold, silver and exotic spices, but the people of Dubai were quite successful in the construction of wooden ships and navigation such that trade was their primary livelihood. 

From the early 19th century, European countries were increasing trade in the region and often sought partners in the Gulf region to work with.   Earlier, at the beginning of the 19th century, England had signed a treaty with the Sultan of Oman to ensure that Napoleon’s military does not gain a foothold in Arabia.   But unrest in the region between competing tribes forced England to affect control along all the harbors in the region including Dubai and imposed a treaty of cooperation.

Certainly, the enforced treaty created an environment for enhanced trade and financial dividends.   By the 20th century, Dubai was recognized as a trading venue for all markets.  Later, imposed fees and taxes in the Persian Empire resulted in Persians coming to the area as did Indians who brought professional and specialized skills to the region.   By 1930, most of the population in Dubai were foreign born, and again setting the stage for a unique blend of cultures and heritage. 

Clockwise from above left:

Modern Sook in al Wafi Mall;

Burj Al Arab hotel;

Burj Khal Ifa Building and with us in front;

View from the top; and

Dubai Marina Mall

After WWII leaders of Dubai had the foresight to again focus on international trade, even while their economy benefitted from their oil deposits.   They improved their harbor, sustained their economic free trade operations and significantly improved their industrial capabilities.  

In the 1960s, the British were reducing their commitments in the region and in the area countries; the Emirates then had to organize their own defense and diplomacy interests.   Abu Dhabi and Dubai formed the federation with seven states that stands today.   Dubai is different in that it is only one city with one million people that have constructed a most modern city with all the amenities.   It is not without problems as they have recently realized economic concerns because of their significant expansion.  

I observed a very sterile Dubai…..a city with many malls, high rise buildings, hotels and highways.   They claim the highest, biggest and largest of everything they construct.  In my short time in the city I was in four (extremely ornate) malls and also went to the tallest building ever ….the Burj Khal Ifa which was opened to the public on January 4th, 2010.   The elevator brought us to the 124th floor (of 189 floors) in less than sixty seconds.   In addition, we visited the building that was designed to look like a sail, Burj Al Arab hotel (It contains two hundred suites with helicopter pickup at the airport), the Atlantis Hotel (the big suite costs $25,000 a day) and the Mall of the Emirates with an indoor ski run.  

From above left above:  Mall of Emirates Ski Run; Outside Dubai Mall; al Wafi Mall; and Outside Dubai Mall

 

Muscat, Oman

 

It has been said that Muscat, Oman had been an important seaport for twenty-four centuries.   Archeologists have identified relics that date as far back as the 6th century BC, when it would have been a trading center between countries in Europe and Asia.  There is evidence that this fabled port had Roman merchants, Indian traders and possibly Buddhist priests that were there during the first century AD.  

Many have come to this city to claim or control its riches or the city itself.   In the 3rd century it was ruled by the Sassanid Dynasty of Persia and later the Caliphate of Baghdad controlled the country for two centuries.   In 1507, Alfonso de Albuquerque, from Portugal arrived to raise the royal standard and focused on establishing Portuguese domination over the region.    Muscat was a Portuguese possession for one hundred and fifty years after that time.

In the 18th century, Muscat’s liberation was the result of conflict between Portugal, Persia and the Ottoman Empire.  Since then, Muscat and Oman, separate cities in the past, had been ruled by the Al Said dynasty.  In 1970, Qaboos bin Said became the Sultanate and initiated a determined program to modernize the social and cultural issues that affect the people.

Tourism has been a major focus where visitors can see an appealing mixture of the old and the new.   There is the Old Portuguese forts built high on the hills that were designed to protect the old city of Muscat against attacks from the Arabian Sea.  There are palaces, souks, museums and mosques that tell a great story of the past.   Muscat is a city right out of the Arabian nights, but Oman has also benefited from oil deposits that are expected to run out during this century and gas deposits that are being marketed throughout the world.  

Muscat’s population is 800,000 and Oman’s population is about 2.8 million people.   Its official language is Arabic, but English is used as well.   The government is an absolute monarchy and the religion is Islamic and we were requested to wear clothing that is fully respectful of their religious beliefs….long pants and shoulders covered.   Shopping in the sook was a pleasurable experience especially when they dressed me in local attire.   We visited the Grand Mosque which holds 20,000 people, the museum and one of the Sultan’s palaces.

 

Clockwise from above left:

 

Symbolic Incense Burner at Muscat Harbor;

Muscat Harbor;

Muscat's Old Town;

the Sultan of Maryland; and

Oman's Grand Mosque

Clockwise from above left:

 

Crowded Streets of the Sook:

Entrance Way at the Grand Mosque;

Arched Walkway on the Palace Grounds; and

Palace of Sultan Qaboos bin Sa'id

 

Safaga, Egypt

 

Safaga is the first port we visited in Egypt.   Not much going on in Safaga, it is located on the Red Sea, except for the beach activity and especially scuba diving.   To reach Safaga, we traveled through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait which separates Asia from Africa and connects the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.   It lies almost where Yemen is across the strait from Somalia, which is the area where pirates have repeatedly hijacked ships for ransom.   The Pacific Princess has a pirate avoidance program that effectively kept Somalian pirates at bay even as one suspicious boat approached within one hundred feet of our ship as we transited the area.

Egypt is the land of the first great civilization that gave us the pyramids, Pharaonic nations, the ancient Greeks and Arab dynasties….they have all played a part in that history.  Most everyone on the ship headed to the city of Luxor on the Nile as part of a large bus convoy that was protected by armed guards.   Our convoy sped along the roads and through local towns where streets were closed as we passed; we were on a three and one half hour ride to visit the spectacular architecture of the temples and tombs at the ancient sites of Luxor, Karnack and the Valley of the Kings.   

Most are familiar with the famous Pyramids of Egypt, but their architecture is far simpler.   Luxor was the site of Thebes, which was the capital of Egypt for over fourteen centuries.  When compared to the pyramids, the buildings and structures constructed in Thebes are far more exquisite and delicate.  

The Valley of the Kings or the "Valley of the Gates of the Kings" is a valley in Egypt where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the kings and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt).   The valley stands on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Thebes (now Luxor), within the heart of the Theban Necropolis.   We were not permitted to photograph any place in the Valley of the Kings.  

Clockwise from above left: Scenes of the Hypostyle Hall and the Obelisk in Karnack; Rams Headed Sphinxes; and Safaga City

The area consists of two valleys, West Valley (where the majority of the royal tombs are located) and the East Valley (with the temples at Karnack and Luxor).  The fertile green vegetation of the Nile Valley is in sharp contrast to the desert home of the pyramids and much of Egypt.   The Nile has given life to the desert and to the people, who live near the waters of the river, enabling a culture to flourish. 

In the Valley of the Kings, with the 2006 discovery of a new chamber, and the 2008 discovery of two further tomb entrances, the valley is known to contain sixty three tombs and chambers (ranging in size from a simple pit to a complex tomb with over 120 chambers).  It was the principal burial place of the major royal figures of the Egyptian New Kingdom, together with those of a number of privileged nobles. The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period.   All of the tombs seem to have been entered and robbed in antiquity, but they still offer an idea of the opulence and power of the rulers of this time.

The area has been a focus of archaeological and egyptological exploration since the end of the eighteenth century, and its tombs and burials continue to stimulate research and interest.   In modern times the valley has become famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun (with its rumors of the Curse of the Pharaohs), and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.  The tomb of Tutankhamen was discovered in 1922, when we learned that “King Tut” was buried with an extravagant array of clothing, furniture, jewelry and weapons.   Tut died at a relative young age after ruling for less than ten years.   

The temples built in Karnack and Luxor are both quite remarkable because of their colossal size, each being more glorious than the next.  In the central Hypostyle Hall in Karnack there are 134 huge columns which cover 50,000 square feet and is the largest space of any temple, enough to even hold the Notre Dame of Paris.  Queen Hatshepsut had monuments constructed in Karnack to restore those that were destroyed in attacks by foreign rulers.    She had twin obelisks constructed, at the time the tallest in the world, and erected at the entrance to the temple.   One still stands, as the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth; the other has crumbled.  In 1979, Luxor became a World Heritage Site, along with the rest of the Theban Necropolis.   Exploration, excavation and conservation continue in the valley.

Clockwise from above left:

Statues in Karnack;

Hieroglyphics on a Temple Wall in Karnack;

Sailboats on the River Nile;

the Temple Ruins at Luxor; and

Colissi of Memnon Statues

 

Sharm El Sheik,  Egypt

 

Sharm el-Sheikh is a city situated on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, on the coastal strip and divides the Red Sea into two Gulfs…Aqaba and Suez.   The Sinai Peninsula has a population of approximately 1.3 million (2008).   The city of Sharm El-Sheikh together with Naama Bay, Hay el Nour, Hadaba, Rowaysat, Montazah and Shark's Bay form a metropolitan area with a population of 50,000 people.   Sharm el-Sheikh is known as The City of Peace referring to the large number of international peace conferences that have been held there.

It was known as Sharm-üş Şeyh ("Beard of Sheikh" in Arabic) during the Ottoman rule and as Ofira during the Israeli occupation of 1967-1982.   The Bible paints a vivid picture of a parched wilderness where Moses led the Hebrews out of oppression on their forty year journey to the Promised Land.

Sharm el-Sheikh is on a promontory overlooking the Straits of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba.  Its strategic importance led to its transformation from a fishing village into a major port and naval base for the Egyptian Navy.   It was captured by Israel during the Sinai conflict of 1956 and returned to Egypt in 1957.   A United Nations peacekeeping force was subsequently stationed there until the 1967 Six-Day War when it was recaptured by Israel.   Sharm el-Sheikh remained under Israeli control until the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in 1982 after the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty of 1979.

Commercial development of the area began during the Israeli presence.   The Israelis built the town of Ofira overlooking Sharm el-Maya Bay, and the Nesima area, and opened the first tourist-oriented establishments in the area four miles north at Naama Bay. These included a marina hotel on the southern side of the bay, a nature field school on the northern side, diving clubs, a now well-known promenade, and the Naama Bay Hotel.

Clockwise from above left:

Sharm el-Sheikh Harbor; Entering the Bedouin Camp;

Lila and Alan on Camels; At the Bedouin Camp;

Sinai Peninsular Desert; and the Bedouin Camp

 

We visited a Bedouin camp at Sharm el-Sheikh giving us an opportunity to see native dancers perform, try a cup of tea and other foods, as well as ride on a camel.   But today, everything is not as it once was and our Bedouin camp was run by the locals during the day (at night, they could even live in condos on the beach) and the food was catered by Hilton Air Services….

 

 

Aqaba, Jordan

 
Clockwise from above left:

Eilat, Israel across the bay from Aqaba, Jordan;

Bab Al Siq leading into Petra;

Royal Tomb;

The Treasury (temple); and

the Indiana Jones view of The Treasury.

The Pacific Princess docked in Aqaba a Jordanian historic city on the Gulf of Aqaba just across the harbor from Eilat, Israel.   From our ship we could readily see Israel, Egypt and certainly Jordan.  We were but just a short twenty minute car ride from the Saudi Arabian border.  At this point we are at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba and the proximity to these four countries was in close proximity pointing up the importance of the many issues that affect the Middle East.      We planned to visit the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.   Our trip to Petra took us along the Kings Road…an ancient road that had been traveled by Moses, Abraham, Mohammed, Jesus and many other biblical figures.  

Petra meaning rock; is a historic and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that has rock cut architecture and water conduits system.   Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourism attraction.    It lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra was chosen as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 and a World Heritage Site since 1985.

The Nabataeans raised cattle and sold pitch from the Dead Sea to Egypt.  Petra was on the ancient caravan routes between Arabia and Syria and around the Red Sea because they had fresh water from near the Dead Sea.   Caravans traveling between Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as the prosperous trade of silk and spices between China and India would come through Petra.   There they would stop and rest, the traders paid taxes, they purchased supplies from the Nabataeans who as a result became wealthy and Petra entered a whole new age.

The Nabataeans built a strong capital by carving their homes out of the sides of the mountains that surrounded them.   They constructed decorative temples and intricate tombs out of the rock and hence the name Petra that has survived to this day.   A powerful city in its time, it was attacked by one of Alexander the Great’s generals, but he was defeated and he was forced to retreat.   The Roman general Pompey wisely chose not to attack and decided on engaging them as allies.  

The Roman period was a time of growth for Petra….trade improved, their borders were safe and they even minted high quality coinage indicative of their prosperity.  During that period the intricate designs of the tombs were carved …baths, amphitheaters, paved streets and a market square were built.   In the beginning of the first century, however, they were seized and the Nabataean rule was finished and though trade continued for many years after, by the third century trade stopped and their civilization faded, possibly it is believed by an attack from the Persians.   Some traders came later, but the city was abandoned and was subsequently forgotten. 

Not too far from Petra is the Wadi Rum region with its spectacular desert scenery.   Towering stone sentinels and arches that rise from the desert floor and the cliffs of reddish and black rock show the effects of time and the effects of wind and water.  

Above left: The Theatre that can accommodate 4,000 spectators;

Above right:  Alan in a cliff side home site;

Below left: the ancient building Facades along the street.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was revealed by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt.   It was described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" in a Newdigate Prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon.   UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage."   The site was featured in films such as: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, Passion in the Desert, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

 

Transit Suez Canal

 
The Suez Canal of Egypt extends from Port Said to the city of Suez and connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez to the Red Sea. The canal is somewhat more than 100 miles long.   Proceeding south from Port Said, it runs in an almost undeviating straight line to Lake Timsah.   From there a cutting leads to the Bitter Lakes and a final cutting then reaches the Gulf of Suez. The canal has no locks and can accommodate all but the largest ships.

The desirability of a water connection between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea was long appreciated in antiquity.   A canal was built in the 20th or 19th century BC to Lake Timsah (then the northern end of the Red Sea).   Xerxes I had the canal extended.   It was restored several times (notably by Ptolemy II and Trajan) until the 8th century AD, when it was closed and fell into disrepair.

The modern canal was planned by the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, who also supervised construction (1859-69). Great Britain, which had opposed the construction of the canal, became the largest shareholder in 1875 by purchasing the interest of the Egyptian khedive.   The Convention of Constantinople signed in 1888 by all major European powers of the time declared the canal neutral and guaranteed free passage to all in time of peace and war. Great Britain was the guarantor of the neutrality of the canal; management was placed in the hands of the Suez Canal Company.

Under the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936, which made Egypt virtually independent, Britain reserved rights for the protection of the canal, but after World War II, Egypt pressed for evacuation of British troops from the area.    Egypt in 1951 repudiated the 1936 treaty, and anti-British rioting and clashes on the border of the zone erupted.   In 1954, Britain agreed to withdraw, and in June, 1956, the British completed their evacuation of armed forces from Egypt and the Canal Zone.

After Great Britain and the United States withdrew their pledges of financial support to help Egypt build the Aswan High Dam (see under Aswan ), Egyptian President Gamal Abdal Nasser nationalized (July, 1956) the Suez Canal and set up the Egyptian Canal Authority to replace the existing privately owned company.   In August, British oil and embassy officials were expelled from the country.   Having been denied passage through the canal since 1950 and having suffered repeated border raids from Egypt, Israel, with French and English air support, invaded Egyptian territory on Oct. 29, 1956.  Within a few days France and Great Britain sent armed forces to retake the Suez Canal.  Intervention by the United Nations brought an armistice in early November, and a UN emergency force replaced the British and French troops.   The canal, blocked for more than six months because of damage and sunken ships, was cleared with UN help and reopened in April 1957.   Egypt agreed to pay, in six annual installments, approximately $81 million to shareholders of the nationalized Suez Canal Company; final payment was made on January 1, 1963.

Despite UN efforts to guarantee the free passage of vessels through the canal, Egypt prevented Israeli ships from using the waterway. The canal was closed by Egypt during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, after which it formed part of the boundary between Egypt and the Israeli-occupied Sinai peninsula. Egypt lost considerable revenue as a result of the closing of the canal, but friendly Arab countries agreed to subsidize the Egyptian economy with contributions roughly equaling the former income from the canal.   After the Suez Canal was closed, many ships (especially tankers) were built that were too large for the canal, and alternate sea routes were used increasingly in world trade.

In October 1973, Egyptian troops crossed the canal and attacked Israeli forces on the east bank of the canal; Israeli units crossed the canal to the west and eventually encircled the Egyptian Third Army.   In early 1974, Egypt and Israel signed an agreement that led to Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai.   With both banks of the canal again secured, Egypt, with the assistance of the U.S. navy, cleared it of mines and war wreckage, and it was reopened in 1975.  Traffic declined in the 1980s, largely because of high fees and water too shallow for oil supertankers.   In 1997 officials announced fee reductions and a plan to deepen the channel.

Clockwise from above left:

"Welcome to Egypt" located at the shore of the Suez Canal;

Suspension Bridge Over the Canal;

Looking at the Sinai Desert from the Canal;

Soldiers at the Suez Canal;

WWI War Memorial;

Yom Kippur War memorial (Gun and Bayonet); and

Largest Swing Bridge.

 

Athens, Greece

 

The Acropolis of Athens is the best known acropolis in the world.   There are many acropolises all over Greece. They were always situated on a high spot, and were often used as a place for shelter and defense against various enemies. The one in Athens is the best known of them all, and is therefore often referred to as "The Acropolis".  The Parthenon and other main buildings on the Acropolis were built in the fifth century BC as a monument to the cultural and political achievements of the inhabitants of Athens. The term acropolis means upper city and many of the city states of ancient Greece are built around an acropolis where the inhabitants can go as a place of refuge in times of invasion.   Towering over the capital, it is a very impressive sight, and walking around on its grounds, it gives the visitor a feeling of awe and a true sense of the greatness of the ancient Greeks.

It took 9 years to build and was completed in 438 BC and is probably the most recognizable structure in the world next to the golden arches of McDonalds.   From a temple it became a church, a mosque and finally as a storage facility for Turkish gunpowder. What makes the Parthenon so fascinating is that to look at it you would think that is made up of interchangeable pieces.    For example the columns are stones placed on top of each other and you could replace one piece of a column with any of the others.  Not true.  Each piece of the Parthenon is unique and fits together in a unique manner.  Greeks understood the mechanics of the site like the world's biggest and heaviest jigsaw puzzle. Lines that look straight are actually not.  The Parthenon is the most perfect and the most imitated building in the world. The restoration work has been going on for the last 30 years and may go on for another 30. The more they try to put it back together the more respect and awe they have for the ancient Greeks. 

Clockwise from above left:

Ancient Olympic Stadium;

Greek Parliament;

Odeon Amphitheatre; and

Athens Skyline

Clockwise from below left:

Erechteum Temple; and

the Parthenon Under Restoration

 

Sorrento, Italy

 

Views in Sorrento at the harbor above; from the ship above; and the markets in town, below.

 

 

Rome, Italy

 

Heading home….early morning departure from the ship and transfer to Civitavecchia, Italy the airport for Rome, Italy gives us no time to visit in the city or to take pictures.     Been away for a long time and it is time to go home.   

With overstuffed bags and all our worldly possessions in hand, we said our goodbyes to all we had met and befriended on this journey.   Sadly we hugged and kissed hoping that one day we would meet again on another sailing experience.    The crew and staff of the Pacific Princess ensured that our last moments aboard were filled with kindness and caring, making it even more difficult to take our leave.   But it was time, we waved and disembarked our ship, found our luggage and boarded the bus to the airport.   It rained ….the first rain we had in months and it was a nice sendoff. 

The airport was absolutely mobbed what with seven cruise ships in port and the many other travelers leaving Rome independently.   But we were able to get through the throngs of waiting lines as business class travelers and found our way to the airport lounge.   Our flight was on schedule and we were headed home. 

It was a little strange to arrive home and change our “new” normal routine as it had become on the Pacific Princess.   But our friends were there as we arrived and made a welcome home party for us.  Our grandson Kevin stopped by….he looked great.   This was a most wonderful journey, one that we will not soon forget.   It is so good to be home with family and friends……..  

 

The Pacific Princess

 

We were pleasantly surprised with our experiences on the Pacific Princess as our expectations were negatively affected by the new Princess booking procedure and our problems in getting visas for both India and China.  In fact, we found the accommodations and furnishings to be very pleasant and the meals have been excellent.   Service from the staff could not be better…given always a smile and a genuine interest to assist with any request.    

I was also surprised to see how many passengers have been on this ship before and they are planning future such trips aboard the Pacific Princess.   Excellent speakers are on the schedule each day discussing subjects dealing with history of the ports we visit as well as many other topical subjects of interest.   A show is planned each night in the cabaret for our entertainment.     

We were concerned with our stateroom accommodations inasmuch as we would be confined to this space for our personal time.   But our stateroom is large and spacious except for the closets which had a difficult time absorbing all the clothes, shoes and other items that we carried and/or shipped to Ft Lauderdale for embarkation on the ship. 

Pacific Princess Our Stateroom

The Pacific Princess is not a large ship, certainly not anything like the new ship that I heard can accommodate about 6,000 guests…..a small town or village by any account.   The Pacific Princess has only six hundred and twenty passengers on our cruise with a staff of two hundred and seventy.  It has a displacement of maybe 30,000 tons so it is appropriate for any pier configuration thereby making embarkation and disembarkation both easy and convenient.    Getting this number of people on and off the ship is quite easy.  

The gym is small, but just refitted with all new exercise  equipment and is definitely adequate.   There is a great library on board which has a wide assortment of reading and reference books and is open at all times to the passengers.  Located on the top deck it is a wonderfully quiet place to hide away and just read.   There are two alternative restaurants…a grill room and an Italian restaurant that is available for the passengers who want another culinary experience.  

After only a few days days on board it felt like we had been here forever.    The people who are staying on for the full world cruise become almost like family and many have been on for two or more such cruises.   This small ship makes everything easy and comfortable and yet there is so much to do.    With lectures everyday, games to play and the regular tours when we arrive in port, we have each day planned to the extent we want to be involved.    It has been a wonderful trip so far sailing through gentle seas and visiting interesting places to learn the local customs and culture .  

Dining Room Casino
Library Casino Lounge

Yesterday was Tuesday, but today is Thursday and having crossed the International Date Line, Lila and I celebrated with a few other passengers at a dinner hosted by the Master Chef for the entire Princess fleet.   Our dinner began in the ship’s galley with a selection of appetizers ….caviar, escargot, an Alaskan King crab Margarita cocktail and foie gras with apple chutney and calvados brandy along with French champagne …all prepared and served by the Master Chef. 

Our entourage then adjourned upstairs to the Grill Room, where we all sat around a beautifully decorated table and enjoyed our first course of King Salmon en cruite with moussaline sauce accompanied by Pinot Grigio Santa Magherita wine.   The best salmon I had ever eaten, but that was just the beginning.

We then had a lemon sherbet with mango shaves and Grey Goose vodka…I am getting a little tipsy here.    This was followed by second course consisting of roast veal shank and beef tenderloin with mushroom shaped potatoes, assorted vegetables with a Ferrari Carrano Merlot….just perfect…I think I can still remember.  

Our next course was baked Brie with pine nuts covered with droppings of a port wine sauce and walnut bread…..I am really hurting here.    Desert was raspberry soft center fruit dome cake with mango glaze and sail shaped biscuit served with a Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc desert wine.   We finished with coffee and homemade amaretti.  

Photographs of the event were presented to each of us along with a personalized copy of the Master Chef’s cookbook.   It was a perfect evening to celebrate not only the crossing of the International Date Line, but the Equator as well.

With The Master Chef in the Galley The Chef's Desert

The equatorial crossing was celebrated by a poolside ceremony hosted by none other than King Neptune and his wife along with some of his followers who are required to severely punish those “pollywogs” who have never before crossed this line in the water.    Those brought before the King were admonished and sentenced which was sustained by the cheers of all who lined the railings and oversaw the carrying out of the harsh treatment.

It was extremely arduous to watch as those pollywogs had to be dealt with harshly as ice cream was being spread all over the face and bodies or as they were being covered by terrible substances such as green shortening, spaghetti and eggs.   It was just appalling, but no doubt they truly deserved their judgment.    “Trusty Shellbacks” who have already crossed the equator were free to fully enjoy this terrible treatment of the pollywogs.  
The Equator Crossing Ceremony Our Galley Visit
Pollywog Punishment King Neptune
Bridge visits have become a very difficult event to arrange since the 9-11 attacks have occurred.   We were able to visit the bridge of the Pacific Princess however because we were on the World Cruise.   Our time on the bridge gave us increased insight into the handling and operation of this great ship.   We are never disappointed as we watch the ship arriving at its berth or especially at sail away when we are waving to those who come to watch our departure.
Sunsets are an especially wonderful and exciting part of sitting out on the balcony and watching the magic before our eyes.   Here we see an oil rig being silhouetted by the setting sun as we leave Brunei.   In the second picture the sun was setting behind a bridge in the port of Xingang, China.

Dinner with the Captain, the Staff Captain and passengers celebrating the departure of a good friend Rachel (sitting next to the Captain) as arranged by her friend Lynn (sitting next to her).  Had a great dinner and a great time with friends.

Clockwise from above left: Include friends

Antoni, Magia and Filipia;

Dinner table w/ Frank, Lee, Sue, Estelle, Sy, Lila and Alan;

David and Estelle;

Serge and Nicole; and

Sy, Estelle and Alan