Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cruising in Comfort ~ Out of the Comfort Zone

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore,”
Dorothy said to her little dog as she looked around at their emerald green surroundings in the 1939 movie,“The Wizard of Oz”

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As we’ve been preparing for our upcoming spring adventure – a 35-day cruise - by reading travel guides, travel narratives, blogs, and other writings – we are preparing ourselves to make the same observation as Dorothy did to Toto . . . and likely more than once.

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Our  “Far East Odyssey” as this itinerary is called will take us to places in the world that we’ve always wanted to see – places that are located in the Middle East.  By whatever name the cruise line wants to call it,  (it does start in Bangkok) the fact is, we will be traveling through a most unstable area of the world.

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On the flip side, what better way to travel to such exotic places than a comfortable cruise ship?
We will be among some 23 million travelers around the world who will be cruising in 2015, according to Cruise Lines International Association. Of course, it reports that most of those cruisers will be sailing from North American ports and that the Caribbean will remain the top cruising ground.
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Our itinerary provides for stops – some overnight and one of at least two nights – in:

Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma).
Mumbai and Cochin, India.
Salalah, Oman.
Aqaba, Jordan – gateway to Petra and Wadi Rum.
(We’ll transit The Suez Canal)
Safaga, Egypt – gateway to Luxor.
Haifa, Israel – gateway to Jerusalem.

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In between our exotic ports of call we’ll have nearly two weeks – portioned out with a day here and there – of ‘sea days’; those long leisurely days spent  kicking back and watching the world go by from the comfort of the ship as we sail the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Andaman Sea and Arabian Sea before entering the Mediterranean.

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Middle East Realities

“Have you read the headlines lately,” a friend shrieked and visibly recoiled as I listed off our ports of call.

“This makes me very nervous,” said another as I was describing our plan for one port we intend to explore on our own. In three places we’ve booked organized tours.

“Hope your cruise doesn’t stop in any African ports; if so, stay on board,” wrote another friend after news of the terrorist attack in Tunisia was reported around the world.

mani hawaii 603I had gotten to this point in writing this post when it was confirmed that some of the tourists killed and others injured in Tunis, Tunisia yesterday were cruise ship passengers – on organized cruise ship tours.

They were from ships operated by Costa and MSC cruise lines. Both cruise lines have cancelled indefinitely all future cruise stops in Tunis, including a stop by Costa’s Fortuna ship.

It was the Fortuna that took us to Tunis, Tunisia on a cruise a few years ago.



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Costa Fortuna
We’d visited on a quiet morning when few others were around except for us and our taxi driver, who’d appointed himself our personal tour guide.  We’d opted not to take the ship’s organized tours and set off to see a part of the city on our own.

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Our ‘tour guide’ had led us through the labyrinth of a souk, its narrow walkways a maze at best.  We concluded our half-day tour with a visit to the plaza pictured above. While it was definitely ‘no longer Kansas’ we never felt unsafe nor threatened as our little trio walked around.

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Safety First

We won’t be surprised if we get word from our cruise line – Oceania – of changes to the ship’s itinerary as world events continue to develop. Alternate ports of call could be visited or additional days at sea added. Or we could stay on course with no changes to the routing.

It will be interesting where ever we go. I am certain it ‘won’t be Kansas’ – or Kirkland! 

We’ve got a few weeks before setting sail. For now, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those tourists who became victims by simply taking a cruise tour. And for those cruisers and staff on board who are dealing with the tragic loss.

As always, thanks to all of you who spent time with us today. Hope to see you back here soon – until then happy and safe travels!

31 comments:

  1. Enjoy your trip, Jackie and Joel, and stay safe. Sounds like a most exotic cruise tour!

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    1. It will certainly take us to places we probably wouldn't have toured on our own, that's for sure. Thanks for the good wishes, Beth!

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  2. Wow, 35 days! I would LOVE to do that! I've been to a couple of your destinations (Aqaba/Petra; Haifa/Jerusalem),and would love to see the rest. Looking forward to hearing/seeing all about this most wonderful trip! Bon voyage, and travel safe!

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    1. This will be our longest cruise, Amy. And we are 'jumping ship' in Rhodes, missing our last two days so that we can have a couple more days at our Greek house. Thanks for the good wishes. Any recommendations for Aqaba/Petra or Haifa/Jerusalem?

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  3. This sounds exciting. And although I am saddened by the deaths of these cruising tourists, what are the chances. I look forward to seeing these ports of call through your stories.

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    1. Our theory is that if we quit traveling the terrorists have won. My father used to have a saying, "When your number's up, your number's up no matter where you are" so I guess if our number is up - it will be. Thanks for the visit!!

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    1. Thanks much for visiting and leaving a comment. Appreciate the good wishes!

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  5. Have fun! I'm sure you will stay safe. I've been to most of the places you are visiting and loved every one!

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    1. I was going to add in the post how those media headlines have been tempered in our minds by the wonderful tales written by bloggers such as you Corinne who show the 'other side of the story'. I suspect we will be safe and will have fun (knock on wood)!

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  6. Unfortunately, travel and life itself present some risks when lived with the desire to experience different places, cultures, histories and people. To NOT travel to areas that present a risk (and the US is right in the whole dangerous mess, too) would make life much less interesting. Staying well informed and weighing risks are the wise ways to proceed and, that being said, how I wish I was going with you!

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    1. Oh Anita, I can certainly detect who my travel-enthusiast friends are from the comments I've received about this post and the cruise. . .wish you were going to be on the ship! It would be fun having one of my 'blogger buddies' there!!

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    2. Oh Anita, I can certainly detect who my travel-enthusiast friends are from the comments I've received about this post and the cruise. . .wish you were going to be on the ship! It would be fun having one of my 'blogger buddies' there!!

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  7. I think this trip will be a grand adventure. Fear is overrated. I try not to let it interfere with my plans - but I do use common sense

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    1. We are with you, Leigh. A bit of common sense and a sense of adventure can make for some great travels. . .hopefully we will have big doses of both before setting out on this one!

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  8. What a wonderful itinerary and 35 days at sea! Seems like you've got a practical, measured attitude about the dangers in our changing world. If we give into fear we'd all die in our beds without venturing out our front doors.

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    1. It is kinda of like that saying that pops up every so often about skidding into the grave having led a full life instead of just sitting around and waiting to get old. We are eager to see what we will see and will probably then be eager to return for land-based travel in the future! Thanks for the comment, Elaine!

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  9. Stay positive Jackie - I'm sure you'll be fine.
    Most countries in the world welcome the arrival of the passenger liners as it adds to their economy - they won't want to risk losing that.
    This is a wonderful route and you will make beautiful memories for a lifetime!
    Make the most of every minute - wish I could join you!
    Shane x

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    1. Shane it would be fun to have you along. Thanks for the reminder to stay positive -- that is a necessary component for all travel isn't it? Happy week to you. Jackie x

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  10. We received similar reactions and warnings when we drove through the Balkans a few years ago. And yes, there were some scary moments, and yes, tourists were killed the day after we got through Bosnia. But our experience was beautiful, inspiring, soul-enriching, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Wishing you safe and wonderful travels. XO

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    1. Thanks so much for your good wishes! We also had similar warnings on a cruise stop in Casablanca several years ago. We had no problems with our two shore outings - one with the ship and one on our own - however, we later learned there had been explosions in the city. . .same as crime happening in our big cities and never knowing it. Hugs to you~

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  11. If we listened to every overly cautious (and probably inappropriately influenced by sensationalist media) admonition against traveling somewhere, we'd never go anyplace. Chances are overwhelmingly in your favor. Enjoy your fabulous sojourn. The fact that you can spend more precious time at your home in Greece is the cherry on the sundae.

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    1. Actually it does work out well that we can tie in a stop in Greece as well. It will be nice to have some decompression time there after the myriad of sights and sounds we will experience getting there. Thanks for stopping by, Betsy!

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  12. Have heard nothing but great things about Oceania, my in-laws cruise with them every year. They've done part of your planned trip and loved it. Have fun, stay safe!

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    1. We have also heard only great things about Oceania - and this small ship allows for some interesting ports of call. They are also good about the overnight (sometimes two nights) ports of call which allow you to stay on shore and do some serious exploring. Thanks much for the good wishes!

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    1. Well Carole as Egypt sends ships to guard the Gulf of Aden and Yemen blows itself apart, the journey we are taking gets more interesting with every passing moment. Then of course we have the update from Suzanne below which might mean we don't get to see Jerusalem as we had hoped. . .interesting, definitely!! Thanks for the visit~

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  14. Sounds like a fabulous itinerary and sea days are special too. We were in Turkey when the Tunisia bombing happened. Some friends and family freaked out when all they could remember was that we were in a Muslim country that started with a "T". We're now in Israel and there is a shuttered nightclub across from our hotel. Apparently, it was bombed with loss of life during the second infitada. There are visible security measures and some not visible, I'm sure. I feel reasonably safe -- and I hope those aren't famous last words. ;-) We were just in the Old City in Jerusalem. We were not allowed to enter the area of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock Mosque because of increased security concerns. I'm sure Oceania has no interest in losing any cruisers on its watch. I'll dispense with the admonition to "be careful" (duh) and just say, "Safe travels." :)

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    1. Thanks much for the good wishes - and the same back to you while there. We are scheduled to visit Jerusalem but the routing has us in town (Haifa) Friday and Saturday - not the best times to be visiting as many places will start closing on Friday afternoon for Shabbat (sp?). . .so even without increased security I think we may have just a taster of the place which means we will just have to return one day.

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  15. I look forward to hearing about the cruise. Hubby visited the pyramids as a kid as part of a cruise shore excursion, and he says that's the only way he'll visit them again. We took the kids on their first cruise last week, and they loved it. My only issue was that I got horribly seasick the last night as we were nearing Florida. I'm not sure if I could handle those long days at sea if we decide to do a big trip via boat.

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    1. We do hope our Egypt stop isn't cancelled. It was on the itinerary and then removed once and Ephesus put in (as shown on the old map above) but we've booked a ship's tour to Luxor and hope that we actually get to take it. First we've got to get through the Gulf of Aden (Yemen on the right and Somali on the left). . .who said cruising was for sissies? Thanks for the visit!!!

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