Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Oceania’s Nautica: Our Middle East Magic Carpet Ride

This wasn’t a strange place;
it was a new one.
         --- Paolo Coelho
Coelho’s saying so perfectly describes so many of the places we experienced as we traveled from the Far East through the Middle East aboard Oceania’s Nautica this spring. Our 34-day cruise took us across bodies of water to lands we’d been introduced to through books and movies; many places we never thought we’d see for ourselves in this life time.

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Oceania's Nautica anchored in the Andaman Sea
It was such a rapid-fire array of sensory overloads that we are still wrapping our heads around it all. We sailed through pirated waters, drove through roadless desert sands, skirted war zones, and explored developing countries and areas that occasionally required escorts/armed guards. History, religion, tales of conflicts (old and new), customs, and cuisines mixed and mingled into an intoxicating potpourri of experiences.
“Dear Guests,. . .We are excited to share these interesting and unique ports with you but we would like to make sure that we set your expectations correctly at the outset in order to avoid any disappointment. 
Many of these ports that we will be visiting are ports that are not on the usual traveler’s route. The are for the most part developing nations that are making great strides forward with with varying degrees of success.”
                   --excerpt from welcome letter from the tour desk staff
Our cruise itinerary wasn’t for everybody as evidenced by the number of passengers.  There were less than 500 on this ship that accommodates nearly 700 passengers. But those who were on board were there for the same reason we were: to experience places we’d always wanted to visit.

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Our Magic Carpet Ride
We were all eager to participate in the land tours – even those that came with security warnings and procedures. Like many, we alternated our shore experiences between ship’s tours and those we’d arranged on our own.  Several small group tours (for far less cost than the ship tours) had been arranged by cruisers who’d met and conversed months before the departure using CruiseCritic.com, which provides a forum base.

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Tour buses await ship passengers in Safaga, Egypt
In many ports individuals set off on their own – sometimes for an overnight (or longer) stay. The couple below shared a tuk-tuk, those little open-air taxis, from the ship into Phuket, Thailand with us and in Cochin, India we each rented our own driver/tuk-tuk for the day. Some passengers left the ship in Cochin, India and met back up with us in Mumbai a few days later after they had visited the Taj Mahal.  Oceania was great in accommodating flexible travel plans.

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Tuk-tuk on-your-own touring was our favorite
So this week we are introducing you to that floating Magic Carpet of ours. In subsequent posts we will show you the lands we visited and the people we met. I know a number of you are still wanting updates from our after-cruise stay at The Stone House on the Hill in Greece, so I am going to increase the number of posts for a few weeks from one- to at least two- so that I can answer all your requests for photos and updates. (Subscribers, please bear with me – I promise I won’t overfill you inboxes).

To start the journey, come – hop on our ‘Magic Carpet’. We were calling it ‘home’ after a couple of weeks:
Nautica, built 2000; underwent multi-million dollar renovation 2014
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Lobby stairway
Guest decks: 9; Total decks: 11
 
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Public spaces were small but elegant
Length: 593.7 feet; Beam 83.5 feet. Cruising speed 18 knots
 
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One small pool no games or gimmicks - our kind of cruise ship
Guest capacity 684 persons (double occupancy); Staff 400
 
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On occasion special events were held around the pool
Eating venues: The Grand Dining Room, two specialty restaurants (Polo Grill and Toscana), informal Terrace Café; Waves Grill, Afternoon Tea, Baristas, Room Service
 
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Food was some of the best we've had on a cruise line
Oceania provided soft drinks and water for free (many cruise lines don’t); specialty coffee drinks were also free of charge as was dining in the specialty restaurants (many cruise lines charge extra for the coffees and charge extra for the specialty restaurants). Our cruise package included free unlimited internet for one person (a $22 – $28 per day value) which emphasizes the importance of the cruise package – not just the ticket price.

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'The Scout' Scouting from our deck
We prefer cabins with balconies. In addition to the extra space it seems a shame not to experience the sunny climates when cruising through them. Although I must admit we often couldn’t use our deck because it was simply too hot.We’ve never experienced heat like that of Singapore, India and the Middle East where both temperature and humidity were often in the double-digit high 90’s!

We’ll set sail from Bangkok in our next cruise post. Hope you’ll be aboard with us. Welcome to our new subscribers who joined us in June! And thanks to all of you for your time. Happy travels~

Linking up this week with~

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening

27 comments:

  1. We like rooms with a balconies, too. I love cruising but Mr. Sweet doesn't much like it. The foods are always so fancy and good...
    O,and I posted yesterday the story of my black eye...:)

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    1. BJ, I did find the story of your eye - I do hope it is better. Yes, I can't imagine being tucked into a window-less inside room on a cruise ship when the point of being on it is to see the world! Take care~

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  2. Your description tells it all! Intoxicating potpourri of experiences, it had to have been magical!

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    1. It really was an intoxicating potpourri of experiences - one that won't be forgotten for some time, but hopefully some of them will be repeated with longer land tours!

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  3. What an awesome cruise. The port of calls are very exotic, the food looks delicious too. The package sounds like a deal. Thanks for sharing your trip!

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    1. Hi Eileen, good to see you among the comments today. I need to head over to your blog and see what you've been up to - now that I am back, I have a bit more time to indulge in reading blogs! Have a great week~

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  4. I have total travel envy.

    Our son's wedding is in just 2 weeks and with the expenses, it look like our vacation this year will be 2 nights at The Ace in Los Angeles.

    Keep sending me pics so I can travel vicariously with you.

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    1. Well make the most of those two nights at The Ace! I know with your spirit you will make it magic as well!

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  5. WOW!!! Such an incredible adventure you had, with such a beautiful place as your home. :-)

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    1. It really was an amazing experience. I think sometimes my friends think we travel so much that we don't appreciate it, but this was one of those trips that made me count my blessings every day I stepped on to that balcony.

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  6. Hi Jackie...Looking at that staircase tells me that something magical was about to happen. Actually, it looks like something you'd see in a vintage luxury hotel, and not on a ship! Living in Korea, I know what you mean by humidity. When I first came i thought I was going to die! Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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    1. The common areas did have the classic hotel feel - which we prefer over the pling and zing of some of the Carnival type ships. The routing was magic as I hope I describe in the next series of posts. (Yes, hot and humid, though - whew!) #TPThursday

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  7. Oh yeah! Given the opportunity, I would take a cruise with the same itinerary without thinking it twice. I bet you guys have a lot of awesome stories form the trip. And, the food looks so delicious. Probably, my favorite part of cruising.

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    1. Hi Ruth - thanks for stopping by. Please come back because like Scheherazade, my Middle East tales will be coming fast and furiously. And yes, for those who love to travel, this was a perfect itinerary!

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  8. It looks like you chose a perfect fit in terms of itinerary and amenities. Were we to cruise, we'd look very carefully at inclusions such as beverage and dining, as well as shore excursion differences, just as you did.

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    1. Those 'extras' can certainly make or break a cruise budget, Betsy. We chose this because of the great itinerary and its great 'bennies'.

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  9. What a huge variety of destinations you have visited on one cruise - brilliant.

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    1. It was an amazing plate of cultures, religions, history and in an easily reached and accommodating floating 'home'! Thanks for visiting, Sally.

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  10. Hi Jackie and Joel, I'm still on my leave from blogging but I wanted to stop by and say hi. This boat is gorgeous and I ask again...when are going to adopt me and take me with you on these trips??? :) I emailed you a few days back, Jackie :)

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    1. Thanks for the visit Mike - love seeing your name come up in the comments. (I just answered your email). Happy Fourth!

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  11. I bet it was quite a difference getting off that luxurious hotel and going ashore in a developing country. I think it's very wise that the cruise line forewarned you. This seems like a good way to mix up authentic reality during the day with pampering at night. You can bet that the climate is one thing that I do NOT miss about Malaysia. We could only afford to turn on our air conditioning while we slept, so I spent most of the day dripping in sweat. Looking at that tuk-tuk, I cannot believe that my entire family of 5 managed to squeeze into just one of them. I look forward to reading more. Perhaps I'll be able to take a route like this some day.

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    1. Michele, you would have loved this cruise routing! It was good to have a room to come back to and not have to pack and unpack, but it was also great that the cruise line let us stay on land when we chose to do so. Thanks for the visit! Five in a tuk-tuk??? ;-)

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  12. A rapid-fire array of sensory overloads is a great description but it looks like you are having a really good time.

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    1. Paula, thanks much for the visit! You are correct, had a great time - everyone needs some rapid-fire sensory overloads at some time in their life; this was our time!

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  13. What an amazing adventure and you're right - so many of these destinations are places many travelers would shy away from. I'm so looking forward to reading your future posts of all these exotic locations and dreaming of the time when I might visit too!

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  14. Wow! A 34 day cruise to such exotic places! Fantastic!

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  15. Hi Jackie and Joel, just catching up with your posts, as I've been away myself. Looks like the perfect size ship, and I can't wait to read more about your journey!

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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