All posts by lynnh

Report from Egypt – 26th Nov 2011

It is early Saturday morning, the 26th of November, and I am on the Aegean Odyssey travelling up the Red Sea to the Suez Canal. The obilgatory note has come through my cabin door to say our excursion to see the Pyramids at Giza has been cancelled due to the unrest and demonstrations in Egypt. There will surely be a sigh of relief when the rest of the group read this. Reports on the ground and on the news have confirmed that the demonstrations are increasing in number across all of Egypt and now include Alexandria and also Suez. Two days earlier, when crossing the desert by coach between Safaga and Luxor, our tour guide was talking about the pyramids when several bleated naively ‘We are going to the Pyramids…not to Cairo!’ but, of course, the pyramids ARE in Cairo said the guide.

Yesterday we were in the Valley of the Kings and I notice that the vendors seemed more aggressive than usual, with one finally pleading with a tourist to buy something as he was hungry. As I made my way through the site, I am embarrassed to say that I frequently would not make eye contact with these sellers and would mutter ‘No, thank you’ in Arabic. But to visit Tutankamen’s tomb, with much of the wall engravings and paintings still intact, for the first time, as well as seeing his remains (that, frankly, looked like a big piece of beef jerky) was indescribable. Something I wouldn’t have missed for anything.

The Egyptians called the circumpolar stars The Indestructibles and believed their Kings and Queens ascended to this place, which they also believed to be heaven, after death. Todays Egyptians seem to be indestructible in their desire for democracy. I hope they attain it soon before there is any further destruction and blood shed.

Miles Morgan adds another Titanic Cruise – Azamara Journey

I have copied the press release (below) from Rachel O’Reilly PR.  All the details are there and I know people are keen to book a Titanic cruise.  So here is another opportunity.

New Titanic centenary cruise goes on sale due to worldwide demand

With just over one year to go until the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic on 15 April 2012, organisers of the Titanic Memorial Cruise have confirmed a second historic cruise will depart New York City next year.

Starting today (7 April), guests can book the eight-night charter voyage departing from New York on 10 April 2012 on the deluxe 694-guest Azamara Journey, which will feature a series of Titanic historian lecturers (http://www.titanicmemorialcruise.com).

With a new ITV mini-series about the liner’s final hours penned by Downtown Abbey writer Julian Fellowes due to be broadcast alongside the centenary, organisers of the original Titanic Memorial Cruise have had a surge of interest from people who want to be part of the memorial.

On the April 15 anniversary, guests on Azamara Journey will join the 1,309 aboard another Titanic Memorial Cruise, Balmoral, at the site of the original ship’s sinking for a memorial service. Balmoral, which will sail from Southampton, England, sold out last October, and now has people on a waiting list.

Azamara Journey will call at Halifax, Nova Scotia, which has one of the most moving and intimate connections with the Titanic disaster, becoming the final resting place of many of her unclaimed victims. Guests will have the opportunity to visit Fairview Lawn Cemetery where victims of the sinking are buried.

“Demand for the cruise has been extraordinary. Our original Titanic anniversary cruise departing from Southampton aboard Balmoral sold out last Autumn to over 1,300 people from 24 countries so we have people flying from all over the world to be part of it,” said Miles Morgan, managing director of the Titanic Memorial Cruise. “Many passengers either had relatives on the Titanic, or have a lifelong fascination with the story. We are expecting that Azamara Journey, with only half the Balmoral’s capacity, will sell quickly.”

The exclusive charter aboard Azamara Journey offers guests a European-boutique hotel ambience with fine cuisine, wines from around the world, and health and fitness programmes.

Prices start at $4,725 per person (£2,911), for two people sharing a cabin. Suites start from $6,750 (£4,159) per person, with additional luxuries such as English butler service and a private portrait sitting. The price includes all meals and wine with lunch and dinner.

Visit http://www.titanicmemorialcruise.com for more information. Images are available for download here:http://azamaraimagelibrary.com.

Godmother announced for P&O Adonia

Dame Shirley Bassey named as Godmother to Britain’s latest cruise ship

Fantastic news that Dame Shirley Bassey has been named as Godmother to P&O cruise’s latest ship, Adonia.  She is a top class performer and an amazing singer with a wonderful personality.  She will be the perfect choice for a brand that is so iconically British as P&O Cruises.

The christening will take place in Southampton on 21 May, 2011 to assembled guests and cruise aficianodos. 

It is reported that Dame Shirley is thrilled to have been selected and is honoured to be the godmother of such a wonderful cruise ship.

Adonia facts

Built in 2001, Adonia has all the facilities you would expect of a modern ship, with a classic and refined interior style.

Adonia’s main restaurant will be the Pacific Restaurant and there will be two further Select dining venues, Italian ‘Sorrento’ and a steakhouse and grill. There will also be a buffet restaurant, with some al fresco dining and a barbecue area out on the Lido deck.

For  entertainment, Adonia will have eight bars, including P&O Cruises signature ‘Crow’s Nest’ observation lounge; Andersons, the familiar club-style lounge bar; and Raffles, which will also offer a coffee shop menu throughout the day with pastries, chocolates, hot drinks and afternoon tea. There is also a traditional library with fireplace and views on three sides.

 Adonia will also feature The Curzon Lounge, where passengers can enjoy a drink with a sea view during the day, and by night enjoy a performance by the Headliners theatre company, concerts, dancing, or after dinner speakers.

There will be the signature Oasis Spa, offering a range of treatments and therapies such as hot stone massages and body scrubs, Aromatherapy, and reflexology. There is also a well equipped gym with panoramic sea views.

Adonia’s well appointed cabins will feature Egyptian cotton linen, tea and coffee making facilities so popular with British passengers, and over 75% of the cabins will have a private balcony.

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.