Monday, November 2, 2015

Cruising the Middle East: Preparing for Danger

No one skipped the Pirate Drill held on board our small cruise ship as we sailed from India’s waters into the area we’d been advised was an HTA, or ‘high threat area’ for piracy. It was mandatory.

Our ship, the Nautica, had been attacked by pirates a few years back. If it happened again, the crew – and we passengers – would be ready.

And no one on the ship’s tour from Egypt’s Safaga port city to Luxor, fought over the two front ‘view’ seats in the bus. We’d been advised they were for the armed guards that would be traveling with us. 

We also willingly submitted our hand bags for screening by Israeli security officers as we left the ship in Haifa, our entry point to that country. Usually bags are screened when you re-enter the ship – not the place you visit. But that is life in Israel these days.

P1000298
Oceania Nautical anchored at Phuket, Thailand

Prior to booking our passage, we – and our nearly 500 fellow passengers – knew the routing of our Oceania Nautica ship from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey would take us to parts of the world where ‘unrest’ can occur and accelerate on a moment’s notice.

Once on board we all seemed to share the same approach to the trip: what better – and safer – way to get to and through these areas than on a cruise ship that had a security plan in place?

P1000960
One day at sea in the HTA - We had a country fair
The ‘fear’ we talked about was the ‘fear’ of having to miss a port of call if unrest broke out prior to our arrival which could result in the ship skipping that port and the ‘fear’ of having the cruise cut short if the attacks on Yemen should expand further into the Gulf of Aden – a waterway we sailed en route to the Red Sea. The Gulf of Aden is part of the Suez Canal shipping route and used by some 21,000 ships each year. About 11% of seaborne petroleum is transported on this route.

Pirate Protection

Think about it. How often in life will you get to participate in a pirate protection drill?

P1000518
Pirate drill had us sitting on the floor in the hallway
The safety drill was really quite simple: go to an interior hallway, sit on the floor and stay put until further directions are given. (The person standing in this photo was our cabin attendant who was checking cabins of those not sitting on the floor).

Why sit on the floor?
Because in the event of an attack the ship might need to take quick evasive action and quick turns could knock people over. They didn’t want guests falling on the floor and hurting themselves.

Why an interior hallway?
You remember I said our ship had once been attacked by pirates. Apparently the guests – adults-who-know-better-guests – couldn’t resist snapping the ‘selfie’ and other photos from their cabin decks or windows. The temptation to capture the action was too great to stay out of harm’s way.

I am using two photos, taken during our very safe, calm days at sea to illustrate this point:  both were taken during Happy Hour in the ship’s lounge – on the left, the setting sun was a magnet drawing shutter bugs to the windows on a regular basis. The photo to the right was taken as word of a whale sighting filtered through the crowd – it was as if the window had sucked people from their chairs (with camera and phones in hand). Had it been a pirate ship sighting,. . . well, you get the picture (pun intended).

PicMonkey Collage
Shutter bugs aboard the ship
All puns and jokes aside, safety and security of marine vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea are taken very seriously.

P1000930
Pirates to the left and war to the right during this segment of our cruise
For that reason, our cruise ship’s fire hoses were uncoiled and attached to high pressure nozzles mounted to the outside of the ship’s railings on both sides of the ship. Crew members stood watch.  The nozzles were not removed until we entered the Mediterranean Sea several days later.

PicMonkey Collage
Pirate watch and protection
We weren’t the only ship taking safety measures. We couldn’t help note this freighter which had their water system going continuously---perhaps as a warning to would-be pirates?

P1000878
We weren't the only ones taking safety seriously
In certain areas along this stretch, our ship at night reduced its lighting to only essential open deck lights and we were requested to turn off cabin interior and balcony lights or to close our curtains if the lights were on.  None of which was alarming or an imposition, I assure you.

PicMonkey Collage
That is Yemen in the background - this is the closest we came to that war-torn country

We had wondered how close we’d get to Yemen and Somalia when we passed through the 20-mile wide opening that separated the two as we entered the Red Sea. It was actually so wide it was difficult to get photos of the land. The most danger we had was from the high noon sun, which in less than an hour of being on deck burned us both.

There was no security need to eliminate any ports of call in Egypt, Jordan or Israel; places so interesting and deserving of more time for exploration than we had allotted for them. We’d love to return for more land-based explorations. We’ll tell you more about them in upcoming posts. 

As always, your time with us is appreciated! If you are enjoying the blog we hope you'll share it with your FB friends.  Happy travels to you and yours until we see you back here ~

Linking up this week:
Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

45 comments:

  1. This is so interesting. Brave you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I am not so sure that sailing a perfectly protected cruise ship is brave, but it is so nice of you to say so, Dina!

      Delete
  2. Preparation and respect for the plan are key components when there are so many individuals present. Reading this, I was very impressed with the security precautions. When we've been in places where conditions could change rapidly, we felt the presence of security to be a comfort, not an imposition or a source of fear as certain media outlets portray it. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Betsy. We felt the same way - comforted - about the security measures. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Delete
  3. A wonderful cruise and in an interesting area...too bad you have to have pirate drills...harkens back to centuries ago although you are a bit more protected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were comforted by the security measures and very glad we didn't need to use our training! Thanks for visiting, Donna.

      Delete
  4. What a gripping post! I've sailed on Nautica but I'm not sure that I would be brave enough to travel on that itinerary~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know we've done 20+ cruises now and this is the only one that I have said I would do over again - exact itinerary - in a nanosecond. Some of the most interesting places in the world and so easily accessible with the ship. Thanks for stopping by, Irene.

      Delete
  5. Laughing over no one fighting for the front bus seats! Always a challenge.
    We had an armed guard escort our car from Luxor to Hurghada. It was a convoy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were to travel in a convoy to Luxor as well but as the buses left the cruise port the distances between us became great and the convoy plan went out the window. Thanks for the comment, Jackie

      Delete
  6. This was very interesting. I think I am too much of a chicken to have got on the cruise in the first place, even though it sounds as if your ship had security precautions well in hand. I glad everything worked off safely for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had - and have - a number of friends and family who thought/think we were/are crazy for having taken this cruise Donna and it was my all-time favorite routing of any trip we've taken. Thanks for visiting!

      Delete
  7. Good heavens Jackie - ditto to what Donna above says. I had a knot in my stomach just reading about what you might expect and the details of the pirate drill.
    Glad all went well and you got to see the places intended.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As Joel often made the observation, somehow sitting and thinking (or reading) about it from a distance makes it seem far more frightening than actually being there. We really didn't think about danger while doing it.

      Delete
  8. Just reading it is so exciting!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. An exciting and interesting account.

    ReplyDelete
  10. What an experience! reminds me of the war drill I had participated in when I was posted at the borders. Better to be prepared. Great [ics, they give a good idea.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh good heavens, now that would have also been an experience, Indiana!

      Delete
  11. My goodness, you've shared some interesting things from your travels. I'm happy to hear it was a great trip for you. Lots of experiences and memories. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Coming to you from Mosaic Monday ... wishing you a beautiful day!
    Brenda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brenda, thanks so much for your visit. Hope you'll be back here often!

      Delete
  12. It would be hard to enjoy a "relaxing" luxury cruise if you felt imminent danger so I'm sure you appreciated learning about the forethought and planning that goes into preventing a hijack attempt. I enjoyed sharing your inside view!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anita, glad you found this one of interest! Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  13. I'm so glad your cruise providers took such good care of you and went above and beyond to ensure your safety no matter what. XO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The old phrase, "Better safe than sorry" comes to mind!

      Delete
  14. We visited Turkey and Israel earlier this year before the current increased violence. Some friends and relatives were quite positive they would never see us again. I am so sad that violence is discouraging people from visiting the Middle East, but I understand it. Of course, cruise passengers are not immune---i.e. the museum attack on Costa cruise passengers in Tunisia. I probably wouldn't be able to do the itinerary we did in northern Israel now which included the Golan Heights and Nazareth, a predominantly Arab city. A week after we were there, the UN pulled its observers from the post we visited because of shelling from Syria. The truth is that there have been thousands of years of brutal violence there---successive construction and destruction. "The more things change, the more they remain the same."

    ReplyDelete
  15. We visited Turkey and Israel earlier this year before the current increased violence. Some friends and relatives were quite positive they would never see us again. I am so sad that violence is discouraging people from visiting the Middle East, but I understand it. Of course, cruise passengers are not immune---i.e. the museum attack on Costa cruise passengers in Tunisia. I probably wouldn't be able to do the itinerary we did in northern Israel now which included the Golan Heights and Nazareth, a predominantly Arab city. A week after we were there, the UN pulled its observers from the post we visited because of shelling from Syria. The truth is that there have been thousands of years of brutal violence there---successive construction and destruction. "The more things change, the more they remain the same."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've thought a lot about our cruise stops - this cruise - in Israel and suspect that we may be among the last for a time to visit there on cruise itineraries until the unrest settles again. We read a book this summer, that I think you would find of interest, "Jerusalem, A Biography" by an author whose last name is Montefiori - who in some 600 pages tells a story that confirms the more things change there, the more they stay the same.

      Delete
  16. How interesting. I'm not sure I would like to be reminded that they were actually attacked by modern day pirates...scary!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would have been interesting - that's for sure! Thanks for stopping by Corinne!

      Delete
  17. This is a really interesting post - very different insight to the world we take for granted. With a family member in shipping, I'd be terrified if there were pirates spotted - I'd hid under the bed or in a cupboard or something. The freighters are greater risk as they overpower the crew then kill everyone -less people to deal with than a cruise ship. And they get the whole ship that is easy to on sell. What can you do with a cruise ship? (other than rob the guests)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually Lydia, that is what we all thought. Why waste the time trying to overpower some 900 crew and passengers when you could get a real motherhood from a freighter with a handful of people to overpower. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  18. Very interesting! A always, I enjoy the details you give. I have been to some places where unrest suddenly breaks out without notice (sometimes governments suppress these types of activities, so, travelers are not necessarily aware). I think it is important to know how to act when "bad" things happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoy the posts Ruth. And yes, I agree, I'd rather have some background information and be a bit prepared than going into a situation blindly because of some marketing/pr concerns. Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  19. It's great that they have the pirate drill sorted out. The fire hoses are a great idea. How did it work out for the passengers last time it was robbed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They didn't make it on board as best we could tell - but the ship's staff were concerned enough about the photographs to make sure future cruise passengers weren't out snapping photos should an attack happen.

      Delete
  20. It's great that they have the pirate drill sorted out. The fire hoses are a great idea. How did it work out for the passengers last time it was robbed?

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm impressed with the security plan which seems to be a solid one, but even more so that is taken very seriously by passengers. Great that you felt safe. I think I could feel comfortable enough to be on this cruise, but would certainly keep alert. In your photo, Yemen looks plenty close. You've been seeing some amazing places on your cruises. Keep the stories and pics coming.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by Cathy. It was an amazing cruise and enough to tempt us to return to Egypt this fall or Dubai - haven't quite decided which or where to head from Greece.

      Delete
  22. yeah, it's better to be prepared, we never know what may happen...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was pretty much our thoughts. Welcome to TravelnWrite - hope to see your comments here often!

      Delete
  23. Hi Jackie. It certainly gives you confidence in the cruise line when they take these threats seriously. The most dangerous country I have ever traveled in is Egypt, and went overland to Abu Simbel in an armed convoy. You might remember that tourist had been attacked on this route at one point. Nothing happened to us, obviously, but an armed convoy put us all on high alert! Good to hear that your drill was successful, and that you didn't experience the real thing. Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

    ReplyDelete
  24. I'm glad that there was a plan in place, although I have trouble imagining a ship that large making quick, evasive maneuvers. I remember reading once about the University of Texas Tower shooting in 1966, and that people attempting to take photos were warned that if they could see the gunman, then he could see them, too. The cruiseline was wise to have people stay in the interior hallway in case of an attack. The year before my son went on his 8th grade trip, the students spent the night on a snorkeling platform in the Andaman Sea and ended up being guarded by the Malaysian Coast Guard who were armed with water canons. The government figured that a bunch of international students in the middle of the ocean were ripe pickings for pirates. I'm glad that they came up with a different plan the year my son got to go because I'm not sure if I would have signed that permission slip.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Sounds like the cruise line had a well-thought out plan. I'm glad there was no need to implement it! When we cruised out of NY, we were escorted by NY police boats and a helicopter - even that felt a little disconcerting! I can't imagine to truly be in such a dangerous area.

    ReplyDelete

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!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...