All posts by lynnh

Invited to a local wedding in Khasab, Musandam, Sultanate of Oman

She nearly threw the handful of nuts and goodies at me.  Wearing a metallic T-bar styled mask with a strip covering her eyebrows, the bridge of her nose and ending with a large moustache shaped flourish of aluminium that bent around her face and covering all but the bottom of her mouth, this traditional face-gear still could not disguise her mischievous grin.  I contained my surprise, and the impulse to shriek with laughter, and took another bite of the huge goat paella that had been brought out for the women in our small group.  Of course, we were careful only to eat with our right hands or use the spoon proffered for the use of infidels.

We had, quite spontaneously, been invited to this local wedding in Khasab by our tour guide after our Dhow trip through the Khor Sham fjord.  The tour guide insisted it was all right for us, perfect strangers, to join in the proceedings but the ten of us did approach the scene nervously.  I did feel spectacularly out of place.

In the street was a large group of chanting and dancing men in long white robes with traditional Arabic head gear, many brandishing daggers, swords and long walking sticks and assembled in a large circle.  Most with their backs to us, I strained to see what was in the middle of the group and was soon carried along by the joyous sound of the chanting.  The lovely young groom, with a particularly beautiful silver dagger strapped around his waist and a red and white turban or mussar, was being greeted by friends. They exchanged four kisses on alternate cheeks and then ‘kissed’ with their noses!  We were introduced as well, thankfully with just a hand shake, while fruit drinks were quickly brought out to refresh the newly arrived guests.

At the gate of the nearest house, several women in jihab and head scarves (surprisingly not all black!) were shyly watching the proceedings and eyeing up the new visitors.  Next thing I knew myself, and the other four females, were whisked into the courtyard of the house to be wined and dined.  With no common words between us, there seemed to be little problem with communication. Everything was indicated with a flourish of hands and we quickly were instructed to sit down on a tarpaulin next to the relatives of the bride.  Children and babies were everywhere and I couldn’t help but admire the beautiful red and green large hanging shiny sheets covering most of the entrance of the house, with twinkling lights and other decorations, seemingly without design, scattered everywhere around.  It felt like Christmas in the desert!

The sister of the bride was the most animated, seemingly in charge of the proceedings and obviously proud and pleased to ‘show off’ for us.  She could only speak a couple of words of English and, at one point, asked us, mainly with hand gestures, whether we could speak ‘a little Arabic?’  Embarrassingly, I could not but that did not stop her trying to entertain us.  She pointed to one of the younger members of our group who is Italian, made a gesture to indicate she thought she was pretty and then simply said, ‘TV’.   Everyone roared with laughter and it made us all feel a bit like celebrities.

Quite who she was, we were not sure but suddenly a young woman appeared who could speak English and translate.  She explained that the celebrations would go on for seven days and nights, with the bride not taking part in the proceedings until the very end.  Apparently, she was being beautified.  One of us told her that weddings in the UK only lasted one day, to which she replied knowingly, ‘yes, I know, I have seen in a movie!’

Even the mother of the groom, decked out in floral robes, was wheeled out and introduced to us. Surprisingly, even the groom himself entered the courtyard and briefly joined in the festivities, giving his mother a hug and kiss.

Dusk and storm clouds were closing in, and we had to say our ‘goodbyes’.   I was completely astonished to be accepted into this small community’s inner circle and treated like an honoured guest.  I felt supremely humbled by their overwhelming generosity.

DISNEY CRUISE LINE'S 'DREAM' COMES TRUE

On 26 January 2011, Disney Dream will depart Port Canaveral, Florida on her maiden voyage after sailing across the sea from Bremerhaven. Over a period of twenty months, the Meyer Weft Shipyard in Papenburg have built the largest ship in its, and Germany’s, history. Spanning 14 decks, the Dream is 1,115 feet in length, has a draught of 7.92m and is a maximum width of 125 feet.  At 128,000 tonnes, she has 1,250 staterooms and can accommodate 4,000 passengers as well as 1,458 crew members.

It has been a long 11 year wait since the Disney Wonder, sister ship of Disney Magic, was launched and Tom Forberg, who has been with the cruise line since the beginning and was at the keel laying ceremony in Papenburg, will be Master of Disney Dream. The float out on 30 October 2010 at the Meyer Weft Shipyard was witnessed by 10,000 on-lookers at the quayside, some of whom had camped out in caravans overnight to see the ship emerge from its massive construction shed.  Having undergone testing on its functional features before the float out, work continued on the interior areas until her conveyance 26 miles down the River Em to the port of Eemshaven on the North Sea.  Here she will undergo sea trials, after which, Disney Dream will have a short dry dock in Hamburg before being delivered to Disney Cruise line in Bremerhaven.

The most iconic feature of the ship, the red and black aluminium funnels, weigh in at 200 tons, are 98 ft long, 41 ft wide and 65 ft high.  The aft funnel will stand out even more because of the 765 feet of clear tubing wrapped around it and the entire upper deck. Disney Cruise’s Aqua Duck water coaster will propel inflatable rafts, each holding two people, down the tubes in a high speed jet stream of water.  Though many of the innovative new features have been kept under lock and key, one that has been revealed are Magical Portholes.  These portholes are inside stateroom ‘virtual’ windows which will provide a view of the outside via a real-time feed from high definition cameras placed on the exterior of the ship.  With the exception of animated starfish and other characters floating past, the appearance of these portholes will be realistic.

NORWEGIAN EPIC’S BLUE MAN GROUP

As we took our seats in the Epic Theatre for Blue Man Group, I noticed ‘ticker tape’ style messages appearing simultaneously on two screens either side of the stage.  Imaginary audience member’s birthdays were announced and everyone was instructed silently, via the messages, to sing Happy Birthday or to applaud other more ludicrous announcements.  By the time the show started, the on-stage rock band was already playing and the goofiness was well underway.

Take clowning and grotesque behaviour; throw in drumming on weird bits of apparatus; mix with rock n’ roll music; cook for 75 minutes or so and the end product might be something like the Blue Man Group.  But the sum is much greater than its parts.  The basic concept is three men dressed completely in black, with blue painted heads giving a supercharged high energy performance.   There is no audible speaking but it combines music, lots of paint splashing about and hilarious audience participation.  Beyond the concept is the indescribable fun and sheer joy for everyone there.  And NCL’s new ship, Norwegian Epic, is featuring Blue Man Group for eight shows during a seven night cruise. 

Highlights of this manic show were a laryngoscope (with video camera attached) supposedly being put down an audience member’s throat and the image being projected on screen, Captain Crunch cereal being used as a very messy prop and a skit which had the three men ejecting food from the front of their stomachs via a tube in their suits as if humans would normally have an orifice for this purpose.

Their unusual take on the ‘Rock Concert Experience is infectious.  A large power point projection depicts stick people performing typical ‘rock concert movements’ e.g. putting hands in the air and waving them back and forth.  Each activity is given a specific number.  The audience is then instructed to imitate the movement demonstrated to a raucous rock music accompaniment.   It’s this mass audience participation that makes the Blue Man Group show something completely unique.

Getting Ready for Alaska cruise on Holland America

I am really getting charged up now about my upcoming press trip on MS Zuiderdam to Alaska (see link below for image and info).  My other half is in a dither about whether to wear black tie (I think the Americans say ‘tuxedo’?) or a dark suit.  Suit is easier to pack so that is obvious choice plus, we have been advised, that Alaska, as a destination, is quite casual which influences dress code.  But most excited about seeing the wildlife in Alaska.  On day 2 we will be taking a whale watching and citizen science adventure in Juneau which should be fab.  Day after that is Skagway and helicopter to the glacier, hiking trip and then ride on the White Pass and Yukon railway.  Much more to come but will keep you all fully posted.

http://www.hollandamerica.com/cruise-vacation-onboard/Zuiderdam;jsessionid=y2URTF3XaHplSvgruYTcXQ**.node

Allure of the Seas and Chicago: The Musical

 Allure of the Seas is going to host Chicago: The Musical as its latest Tony Award Winning Broadway show when the ship lauches this December.  If I can find out who the cast members are, I will report it here.  The Amber Theatre will have a proscenium arch and the amount of space on stage to do the show justice.  Allure of the Seas is the sister ship of Oasis of the Seas which has been sailing now for just under one year. 

Here is the latest press release on entertainment onboard Allure of the Seas:

“Allure of the Seas will feature an unbelievable line-up of new entertainment options that will dazzle and delight guests of all ages,” said Lisa Bauer, Senior Vice President, Hotel Operations, Royal Caribbean International. “Chicago: The Musical will become the second Tony Award-winning musical that Royal Caribbean International debuts at sea and tops the list of award-winning entertainment created by our own Royal Caribbean Productions team.”

Fans will find that Allure of the Seas’ version of Chicago includes the same infamous cast of characters and one show-stopping-song after another, weaving together a universal tale of fame, fortune and ‘all that jazz’, with the production condensed slightly to fit an approximate run time of 90 minutes.

 “We’re very excited at the opportunity to partner with Royal Caribbean International, and we look forward to entertaining even more guests each week with the story of Chicago,” said Barry Weissler, Producer of Chicago: The Musical on Broadway. 

While Chicago: The Musical is the first production announced for Allure of the Seas, many more world-class entertainment options will be available for guests to enjoy at the wide variety of venues found shipwide. These include a spectacle of music, dance and aerial acrobatics called Blue Planet that also will run in the Amber Theatre; OceanAria, a signature aquatic production in the ship’s open-air AquaTheatre, fusing high dive thrills with dramatic aerial choreography; an ice show extravaganza planned for the ship’s ice-skating rink, Studio B; spectacular and colourful parades in the Royal Promenade; and everything else in between, from jazz performances to comedy.  

 A new webisode about Chicago: The Musical aboard Allure of the Seas is now playing at www.AllureoftheSeas.com.

BGTW's 50th Birthday

Just back from the British Guild of Travel Writer’s 50th Birthday celebration at The Battery, West Ferry, Canary Wharf.  Lovely evening, fun event but far too hot a venue for a summer’s evening and no outdoor access.  But great to see everyone and be inaugurated into the Guild at my first ever party!  The Elvis Presley act was excellent and the spanish paella and tapas were a fantastic choice.  A wonderful time was had by all.

Tianjin International Cruise Terminal China

The Tianjin International Cruise Terminal in China is the nautical gateway to Beijing.


The opening of the new cruise terminal is a major step forward in the growth of cruising in China.  Expansion includes among other things, adding two large cruise berths and 58 thousand square meters of space to the terminal to accommodate an additional 500 thousand passengers per year. The Port of Tianjin lies at the head of the Hai River about 26 nautical miles inland from the Bohai Gulf which connects to the Yellow Sea on China’s east coast. The port is about 160 kilometers southeast of Beijing.


Costa Cruises, the largest Italian travel group and Europe’s favorite cruise line, has inaugurated the new international cruise terminal in Tianjin with the first port call by the Costa Romantica (53,000 gross tonnage and total guest capacity of about 1700).

Le Boreal

After visiting Companie du Ponant’s Le Boreal, I am convinced that the odd colour is actually a stroke of French fashion genius.  Yes, the colour of the vessel is ‘Greige’ which was all the rage on the catwalks last spring.  Even Scarlet Johannsen has been seen at recent film premieres with the new neutral make-up.  Of course, there are other elegant and fashionable touches to the vessel.  A sea-shore (wind, surf, shells, sand) inspired design to the formal dining space includes greige and cream colours. There is an inviting spa, a gym with cardio machines next to large windows overlooking the sea and black and white retro photos through-out the ship with splashes of red in nearly everyone of them.  The cabins also have a touch of red added to the greige and creamy white decor.  Relaxing, yet inspiring.  Can’t wait to get on board for one of their Antartic adventures this winter.  Ahhhh….

Lynn's first blog

Heading out to Florida tomorrow to get a look at Oasis of the Seas.  Superlatives have been pinging around everywhere about this revolutionary ship.  At 200,000 GT, with 16 decks and holding over 6,000 bodies…she surpasses anything, in terms of size, that has gone before her.  I am looking forward to amazing culinary experiences, trying out the zipline, ice skating (yeah, I’m pretty good at that) and the surfrider.  A bit of sunshine and nice weather will be appreciated as well.  Bring on the sun!