Day 23-26 - At Sea
|Wednesday, November 1, 2023: Breakfast in our room was pretty great. When we weren't up for going to the Pinnacle Grill for breakfast, Tom would run upstairs and get pancakes or muesli for Debbie and usually eggs, hash browns, and either bacon or sausage for himself.
|It was now November, which means that it was time to turn the calendars.
|Around 10:30 AM, Josmen and Catur came in to clean our room, so we went out onto the balcony as usual.
|There was a bird sitting by the rail, obviously stunned and with his eyes closed, and there was a single tiny feather floating around the balcony by the big window in front of the desk. This poor guy had obviously flown into the window very recently and was still recovering. He knew we were there but had no choice but to hope we wouldn't harm him. We gave him space and silence to recover.
|Ten minutes later, he opened his eyes and sat up a little straighter. After another ten minutes, he walked a couple of steps on the deck, and then hopped up onto the railing and flew away.
|The special food in the Lido today was Indonesian Rijsttafel. Yummy! We both asked for a little bit of everything and also picked up some rice crackers as well. There was chicken satay, shrimp goreng, gado gado salad, and sambal along with fried rice.
|There were also Indonesian desserts to go with it, including pisang goreng (fried banana), appleflappen, pan de coco, and rice pudding. We both had a rice pudding and took a second one back to the room for later. The pisang goreng (shown here on the right) was also delicious but we didn't see the other two options.
|With most of the passengers booked on long duration tours yesterday, Halloween was also being observed today. There were several of these very spooky cakes on display in the Lido.
|Debbie's brother Doug noticed on Debbie's later Facebook post that this cake was decorating using the video game Zombies vs. Plants design.
|At 12:30 PM, we headed up to the Crow's Nest. This passenger was chatting up a table nearby, talking about how he had assembled his Halloween costume yesterday from various fabric purchases made in Safaga, and how he was hoping to win tonight's Halloween costume contest. Good luck!
|We were here to meet up with Glee, a member of the Facebook group for this cruise who had admired Debbie's LEGO daily calendar creation and asked to see it in person.
|Debbie attracted a little bit of a crowd as she explained what LEGO she had brought with her, and what her process was for creating each day's display. Two of the very interested people were the only children we had seen on board. Debbie talked with the girl (unfortunately we didn't get anyone's names) for quite a while about how they both liked to make their own creations rather than build models.
|The boy was very interested in building with the pieces that Debbie had brought with her. He ended up making a hammerhead shark tower with trailing crabs and seahorses. After a little while, team trivia started and their parents came to get them. Debbie gave her a custom printed tile with the trip's itinerary map printed on it and a clam with a pink pearl (round 1x1 plate). Debbie gave him a small turtle, seahorse, and starfish.
|Special event afternoon tea has been served several times on this trip, but this is the only one we've attended so far. How can you resist Halloween-themed afternoon tea? You can't!
|We were seated at a table for two by the window, and noticed right away that the napkins were folded to be witch's hats. Clever!
|There was a tower with three layers containing, from the bottom, a rotten egg salad bite, a spitroasted harissa chicken sandwich, and a pumpkin king squash, goat cheese, and honey sandwich. Moving to the middle plate, there was one dead fly spiced scone with whipped cream and squashed berry jam, and two plain vanilla scones. On the top plate was ...
|... (clockwise from the left) a long time dead devil's food coffin, a which witch cupcake, Casper the meringue ghost, and a mummy donut. The tea was an orange pekoe tea, and everything was very good. Tom decided that he had to learn how to make the meringue ghosts for the grandkids. Sure. For the grandkids.
|When we were heading out for dinner later that night, we noticed that we had both received certificates of completion for successfully transiting the Suez Canal. Huzzah!
|We had planned for Halloween aboard, and spent the day dressed as the Skipper and Gilligan from the TV show "Gilligan's Island." We stopped by the Neptune Lounge to drop off our visa requests for Tanzania and Mozambique, and the concierge, Alexa, kindly took our picture.
|The online menu for the Lido Market had been decorated for Halloween with witches, pumpkins, spiders, and bats. Very spooky!
|There were alternating orange and black napkins at each table, ...
|... and carved pumpkins all over the place.
|There had been a pumpkin carving contest a couple of days earlier, ...
|... with different members of the crew submitting pumpkins for judging.
|All of them were really good, ...
|... but we both really liked this one with toothpicks for teeth.
|Back in the cabin, our minifigs were also dressed for Halloween with carved pumpkins of their very own.
|Thursday, November 2, 2023: There was no one in the line for omelets this morning, so Tom got one with ham, onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese. Debbie got muesli again, this time with grapes. There were no blueberries or strawberries today, and they were out of pineapple when Tom was there, so ... grapes.
|We were sailing southeast down the center of the Red Sea. Sudan should be off that way somewhere.
|At noon, the captain made the usual announcement about course and position, and then talked for some time about the upcoming transit through the Bab al-Mandab Strait near Yemen, and our route through the waters off the coast of Somalia. He said that there had been no pirate hijackings yet this year, but that at some point we would pick up an escort of military ships as we transited, and that we may see both sea-based drones as well as aerial vehicles. How exciting!
|We kept the TV on all day with it set to the ship's position, watching our course as we kept right down the center of the Red Sea. When this photo was taken, we had Saudi Arabia on our port side and were just crossing the boundary between Sudan and Eritrea on our starboard side.
|We went up to the Lido for lunch and immediately got into the line for the Asian street noodles.
|You had a choice of udon or ramen noodles, chicken or seafood broth, and a selection of fillings including boiled eggs, carrots, sliced onions, mushrooms, chicken wontons, shrimp, calamari, fish, leeks, jalapeÃƒÂ±os, and seaweed. Tom also asked for hot pepper flakes to be added to his and had to remove about a tablespoon's worth before this photo was taken.
|Tonight's big activity on the ship was a pub crawl, so our minifigs were getting into the act.
|Because of the pub crawl later, there was a beer theme on the dinner menu in the main dining room.
|We ended up going to the Lido instead, where Tom had salmon and shrimp tikka masala over rice, and Debbie got roast beef and a popover.
|There was a card on the table advertising the Alaskan Seafood Boil night that was coming up. We laughed out loud when we saw that Ivar's clam chowder was going to be served. When we got back to the cabin after dinner, Tom booked reservations for two for the event which was going to be in a few weeks. How can you pass up having Ivar's clam chowder while you are at sea in the Indian Ocean? You can't. It's just that simple.
|We did our usual nightly ritual of hanging out in the cabin until they came to clean our room, and then we went out onto the balcony until they were finished. It was a gorgeous night with the temperature just perfect, and we stayed out on the balcony long after they were done cleaning. We still find it hard to believe that we are going to live in this gorgeous room for the next 50 days.
|Friday, November 3, 2023: Today we would be going through the Bab al-Mandab Strait between Yemen on the Asian side and Djibouti on the African side.
|Yemen! Those small rocky islands are part of the Hanish Islands archipelago.
|It was very windy on our balcony when we went out to check the islands. We moved our table and chairs to the innermost part of the balcony as a precaution, and brought the chair cushions inside.
|There's nothing better than breakfast in our cabin, especially when paired with ice cold Diet Cokes.
|The strait is very narrow, funneling down from 70 miles wide to 25 miles and finally to 13 miles at its narrowest point. There were lots of ships to see, including this MSC cargo ship that appeared to be heading west toward Eritrea.
|As the channel narrowed, we were able to see islands off the coast of the Djibouti/Eritrea border, ...
|... and some of the coastline just north of it. That's Eritrea out there, but the island in front of it belongs to Djibouti.
|Around 11:30 AM, we were in the narrowest part of the strait. An island of Djibouti was easily visible on the starboard side. Tom got out the binoculars to see what else he could spot.
|We were impatient to see land on both sides of the channel, so we headed upstairs to the open deck to get a better look.
|From up here, we could see Yemen clearly on the port side. That's Mayyun Island on the port side, only two miles from mainland Yemen.
|Let's zoom in a little to get a better look.
|Moving from south to north, we could see white sand beaches and the outlines of buildings on top of the island's backbone, ...
|... and then more in the center of the island, there was a bay with taller buildings, ...
|... with houses that ran up a hill toward the northern end of the island.
|We mistook this large block of tan-colored apartment buildings on the northern end to be a sand dune until we zoomed in.
|At the very northern end, there was a lighthouse on a flat section that jutted out into the Red Sea.
|Djibouti was visible on the other side, but we could easily see that from our balcony, ...
|... so we stopped by the Dive-In restaurant, picked up burgers and fries, ...
|... and enjoyed watching the coastline of Djibouti pass by.
|For our last day in the Red Sea, our minifigs decided to go on a shark adventure. Both mini-Tom's head and the shark mini-Debbie is riding are hammerhead sharks which the Red Sea is known for.
|At 1:00 PM, we headed down to the Pinnacle Bar on deck two for a local beer tasting event. We would be sampling two beers from Morocco and two from Cyprus.
|They had a container of peanuts for each person, and after the first beer was poured, they served a small slice of pizza to each person as well.
|The host for the event was Paul, who gave us facts about each beer and after we'd tasted each one, he would ask a trivia question relating to beer with an entire bottle of whatever you wanted going to whoever answered correctly first. He would also lead us in a toast, Tom's favorite of which was, "May we be who our dogs think we are."
|Here are the beers from left to right: Stork and Casablanca from Morocco, and KEO and Leon from Cyprus. After they poured Casablanca into everyone's glasses, Paul announced that those had been the last five bottles on the ship.
|There had been eight participants for the event, and the gentleman at the far end of the bar had won the first three trivia questions, ...
|... and Debbie won the fourth question and selected a bottle of Stork to bring back with us.
|Waiting for us when we got back was a twelve pack of Diet Coke, er, Coca Cola Light. The previous 12-packs that we had gotten had been standard cardboard containers like you'd get in a grocery store back home and they were all Diet Coke. This was a flat 24-pack that had been cut in half, and all of the cans were bottled in Berlin, hence the change to Coca Cola Light.
|At 3:00 PM, we headed down to the dining room on deck three for English afternoon tea.
|On the bottom plate was an egg salad sandwich, a chicken coronation sandwich, and a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich. On the middle plate was an apricot raisin scone, a berry jam scone, and a mini gugelhupf.
|Lastly, on the top plate was a snowball, a Victoria cake, a banoffee tart, and a Battenburg cake slice. A Battenburg! One of Debbie's favorites, and one we'd never gotten freshly baked.
|When we returned to our cabin, a plumber was working on the shower for the cabin next door, and explained that the shutoff access was in our cabin. We have two access panels in our entry way, and here's what the inside of the one aft wall looks like.
|We had dinner in the Lido, with Debbie having roasted chicken and Tom having Asian noodles, then we brought cookies and ice cream back to our room for dessert. These cookies are officially called peanut caramel, but we are pretty sure they're baked with pieces of Snickers bars.
|Sunset was one another spectacularly beautiful show, with the sky lighting the remaining clouds red. For movie night, we watched "Falling for Figaro" before turning in.
|Saturday, November 4, 2023: Day 26 started with breakfast in the Pinnacle Grill. Debbie ordered the passion fruit yogurt with chia seeds, mango, and granola, which she pronounced as "not delicious." Tom had the corned beef hash with pico de gallo, scrambled eggs, and toast with strawberry jam.
|At 10 AM, we went to the World Stage on deck two to see the virtual engine room tour presented by the Chief Engineer.
|It was a fascinatingly technical presentation, ...
|... that gave us an indepth look at the engine room, environmental systems, and propulsion systems, all of which are located on decks that are below the ship's waterline.
|After the presentation, we walked back through the shops on dec 3, pausing to take photos of the art work ...
|... in recessed boxes just behind the elevator wells.
|The lighting of each box changed colors very slowly, cycling through all of their colors over a few minutes.
|Our route took us past the photo stand where we saw pictures from costume party three nights earlier.
|Just before noon, we headed up to the Lido for lunch, ...
|... where today's specialty was Egyptian street food. We both got some of the the grilled halloumi cheese and pita bread, and then got a little bit of all of the entrees so that we could try everything.
|For dessert, there were luqmat al qadi, which were donuts soaked in honey and sesame.
|The seating in the Lido was full, so we headed out to the midships pool area where there were plenty of empty tables.
|Have we shown you the midships pool area yet? No? We'll here it is. The roof is retractable, which we've shown open from above before, but this view really shows how much light the skylights provide.
|At 3:45 PM, we went up to the Sea View Pool to float in the last afternoon sun, and just maybe, to avoid the second block party that was scheduled for 4:00 PM. We came back to the cabin just before 5 PM, where, fortunately, the party had died down at our end of the hallway.
|Debbie was really enjoying the roast chicken in the Lido at dinner, and Tom was really enjoying the variety of Asian food that was always available. After dinner, Debbie got an ice cream cone and Tom took some cookies back to the room, ...
|... where we sat on the balcony with our desserts and enjoyed the sunset.
|We had sailed all day through the Gulf of Aden and the closest we got to pirates were the surprisingly happy looking ones in Debbie's LEGO daily calendar creation for today.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy