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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Petra 1


Aqaba for Petra (was Uncle Michael our tour guide)

What is the Greek word for rock?  ......      Petra of course.

We woke early this morning so we could call Kirsty for her birthday.  Up on deck we went to watch our sail through the gulf into Aqaba. We could see the Jordanian mountains on one side and on the other we passed the many coastal resorts of Egypt and Israel.

We reached the port 2 hours later than originally scheduled but at least this time we were given those hours back at the end of the day, so no port time was lost.

We all gathered at Magnums and headed down to the gangway together to find our Guide from Douna Tours for our trip to Petra. I would have to say this was one very excited bus as Petra was a major highlight for everyone on the ship.

Our first stop was customs. Aqaba is a duty free city so there must be restrictions on what you can take out.  The bus was stopped and the hull opened for officials to take a look.  After an all clear we were waved off and we were on our way again.

We were expecting a little 20 seater bus but much to our delight we had one of the larger buses so we could spread out a little and we were much more relaxed.  Our bus driver sure scooted along but I think the plan was to get us there before the 36 princess buses arrived.

What an amazing landscape..... just rock, rock and more rock and mountains always mountains.  Then there is the colours of cream, red and black streaked through the rock to signify their content. Every now and then there would be a touch of green of a lone tree or wild grasses which gave the wandering camels, goats and donkeys something to chew on.

Throughout the drive you spotted small Bedouin camps.  Even though the government have built small communities for the Bedouins to live in a lot revert to the camps for the summer months.

Our official first stop was at a look out where our guide described it as a Jordanian Grand canyon, for all you could see for miles and miles were valleys of mountain and rocks.  Next was the obligatory stop at a souvenir shop disguised as a toilet stop.  Here you could relieve yourself and shop for the best quality trinkets in Jordan.  I love these stops lol.... but don’t tell my husband......  I even had an encounter with a very flirtatious Jordanian on his magic carpet.

Then it was on towards our destination..  We weaved our way around the narrow streets of Petra City until we came to the entrance of site....

Once the tickets were bought we started our 2 km walk towards the most the famous attraction at the site........... The Khazneh or Treasury as most know it...

The first 900 metres took us past lots of other points of interest carved into the rocks.  It was here that we reach the entrance to the Siq.  Best described as a kilometre plus long chasm that leads us into the main part of the old Petra.

All along the Siq we would stop at different points of interest and the guide would give us a little bit more information about this phenomenon.  As we had beaten the other 39 buses you could really appreciated the magnitude of where we were...  There were only a few other groups wandering down the Siq with us ...our biggest issue was trying not to get run over by the careering horse and carts that would race the people who did not want to walk to and from the Treasury. (Those in the group will remain nameless)  These drivers were on a mission ...... to see who could make the most money in one day..  Nothing would slow them down , not a narrow pass, uneven ground nor pedestrians in their way....

We walked and walked and at each turn you hoped that you had arrived, but finally our guide made us line up along one side of the Siq and slowly walked us from one side to the other until he took us through the opening.  Not unlike Indiana Jones, as we all stepped out into the courtyard our jaws dropped when we saw one of the most famous ancient mega structures in the world....

We were lucky that the area was still very quiet and we were able to move around easily and take lots of photos..... from there we moved further into the site... once again stopping  at strategic points where we were told about the area we were in.... As we walked along we saw more tombs, dwellings and eventually stopped at the Amphitheatre.  We were then instructed to turn around were we saw perched up the mountain the 4 royal tombs...... another wow moment...  Something funny worth mentioning was the young Bedouin children all vying for your “1 dinar, 1 dollar, 1 dinar, 1 dollar”.....  to sell you anything from postcards to beaded necklaces...... Our guide in their language told them not to waste their time with us but if they hurry up back the other way there were 36 buses of tourists coming LOL

Now we were about halfway into the site and we were left to our own devices and given a time by our guide to meet back up at the entrance ...... We had about an hour and half to get back, all up hill !!  It took a bit of coercing but we managed to get our guide to admit that they had a special shuttle just around the corner for him to get back to the top  LOL.....

There was still so much to see and we only had scratched the surface so we slowly started to meander our way back occasionally stopping  to barter for some purchases.  By the time we arrived back at the Treasury it was the same time as the 36 buses did..... boy are we glad we had been there  and done that....

Once we were out of the Siq our entry ticket entitled us to a horse ride for the last 900 metres  back to the entrance.... Both Garry and I decided to partake but Carole and Randy decided to walk.... I gave them my camera so they could take a few snaps.....   I was a bit worried about leaving them behind as we hopped on our horses and were on our way..... Until I realised that these horses were pretty slow ... well I guess that happens when the men lead them for you ..... and especially when Carol was suddenly walking next to us as we worked our way up the hill......  The horses were free but the drivers leading them weren’t so the paid them $5 in form of a tip.... Garry was challenged for another $5 but you can imagine Garry’s response.

 

Our meeting place once at the top was the “Cave Bar” that was in the hotel .... Think of it as a mixture of Tomb and Beer Garden and you end up with a very pleasant spot to have a quick Ale. As we were last to arrive our was even quicker.

Finally at 4pm it was time for lunch.  What a more suitable name for a restaurant in uptown beautiful Petra City, “One thousand and one night” . Perched on a hill this family restaurant had a real carnival feel to it... You could eat inside, outside on the balcony overlooking the city, down on the grassed area or under the make ship Bedouin looking tent...  on another section there were mini cars and carnival rides for the kids... There were water features and replica of the Khazneh.  This place would be magical at night as you see lots of rope and festoon lighting where ever you looked.... And the food.... it was fantastic.... lots of traditional salads, rice, lamb and chicken meals....  With our plates overflowing we certainly made use the of the fantastic views from up on the balcony.

With sore feet and full bellies we all waddled our way back onto the bus for the long ride back to Aqaba... We were taken on a short drive around the city and then dropped off for 45 min to get a feel for the place... The boys managed to buy a case of Petra Beer......500ml and 8% alcohol.......let you know how good it tastes lol

The best I did was a bottle full of sand and 3 postcards.... but the guy was more interested in trying to sell me silver jewellery instead of the postcards.... We would have loved to sit and have a coffee as the cafes were all starting to come to life......but it was back to the boat for us for our 10pm sail away.

We met up with Roz and Arnold by the pool to cool down the body and ease some of those aching muscles....  As the guy on the grill was still cooking we sat up there with a bottle of champagne and a large plate of chips enjoying the lights of Jordon on our left and Israel on our right.

Slowly slowly by the end of the night our small table of 4 ended up a table of 10.  As it was late at night it was one of those quiet eerie sail aways as we silently pull out from the wharf spun around and sailed back down the gulf towards the red sea.

During the day the ship was presented with plaques from the port and the authority as this was the Dawn Princess Maiden visit to Aqaba..... Apparently the Dawn Princess is the first ship of it’s size to visit this city...

Garry’s world cruise Bread Roll Count so far - 98

Joanne’s  Lobster count – 7

 

 

Friday, June 24, 2011

oops here are the photos

 

On our way to Aqaba ( pronounced akaba)

The photos above are just representative of life on board.....  There are some just hanging around the boat.... there are some from our lunch, oh and I just had to add the picture of my plate on the night that our  Maurizio, Watchara and Neil served us another massive antipasto platter before we even started dinner...

The port lectures are coming thick and fast and they are already up to Istanbul.... we have not gone to the last few as the freezing conditions in the princess theatre and the constant coughing have us on tender hooks especially as our throats are starting to become raspy.  We have decided that we will watch it on TV instead. I have actually snuck up on deck this morning to have a hot cup of tea to lubricate the throat while Garry is still snoozing... according to my watch he should be having a shower right now....

Yesterday we had another Cruise Critic Lunch in the Venetian Dining Room.  Anne the Meet and Greet Goddess  had us all meet 15 minutes earlier so we could take a group photo on the stars...  It is really funny as soon as people start to see a group forming they all get worried that they are going to miss out on something LOL....

The lunch went well and Anne always seems to get a VIP to call in.. and today we had Angus (head Purser) .   As per usual we had our legend awards....

Today’s award wents to:

Paul – Ladies Toilet Lurker Award:  He has trouble deciphering the toilet gender symbols and ended up using the ladies facilities.... not so bad except we were in a predominately Islamic Country... we also gave him a print out of both symbols with men and women on the bottom so he could refer to it each time he needed to go.

Marion – Auction Bidder Extraordinaire: Whilst madly waving to get her husband’s attention at the Horse racing Auction, Warren mistook this as a bid for $250 ............luckily he had a cheeky smile on his face when he did this.

Colin – Omani tour Guide Interpreter:  for his gallant efforts in translating our tour guides announcements and repeating them over the buses PA 

John and Jen – Boat Builders Extraordinaire: For their wonderful efforts in the boat building contest and snapping up 1st prize... see blog above....  Rumour has it that he is already planning the next project for the contest..... it is all top secret but let me say that the word “submarine” was used....

Have I mentioned I love being on this ship..... The only down side is that we miss our family back home and when we can get viber to work we have been able to catch up with girls, which is great.

The one good thing about cruise critic is that it has given us an extended family on board....  I just love that you can sit in one spot and you know it won’t be long before you see a familiar face... They’ll sit down have a chat, move on and then the next person comes along and you do the same thing again....  I love that our faces light up when we see each other across a room ......  and if you ever need anything there is always someone there to give you a hand....

Garry’s world cruise Bread Roll Count so far - 89

Joanne’s  Lobster count – 5

 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sa la la la lah........

Originally I had booked a tour with Mark Tours for Muscat, so luckily the same company has tours in Salalah..... Ashok was great in getting us organised on a new tour 1000 km away.

Princess were also struggling as Salalah may have 2 cruise liners visit every year....  Being a working cargo port we were not allowed to walk on the dock, Princess worked hard in trying to find a total of 9 shuttle buses ( they only held 25 people each ) to get people to and from the port gates .... but then also larger buses for the ships tours ( I believe some buses were actually brought down from Muscat for us ) ....

Our first hurdle for this tour was convincing the staff to let us off without shuttle tickets as our tour bus was going to be dockside.... I had to give them our tour details and they checked to see if our contact Ali had access to the dock......  Well I think we were safe as I noticed that Ali was not just coordinating our tour but the princess tours as well...  Anyway all went well and we were the first off the ship....

There was 20 of us and our tour was called Serene Salalah.  Saed was to be our tour for the day.... Unfortunately we didn’t arrive until 12 noon and of course Salalah  closes down between 1pm and 4pm.

Our first stop was a photo opportunity at the Al Husn Palace, this is the summer residence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.

Next  was the Al Husn Souk, here we bought some frankincense and the boys stocked up with some Omanian hats.

Then on to the Shanfari Mosque the largest Mosque in Salalah... again we missed the times that we could visit inside.

From here we were taken to visit a natural farm ( Ali’s farm in fact...) it is hard to believe as we sailed in Salalah and seeing such sandy and arid looking land .... that here it is so green and lush....  lots of banana trees, Coconut and papaya trees....  We drank coconut water and ate fresh lady finger banana’s which were yum....  we took a walk through the farm and saw his cows and the biggest hit were the baby camels and I believe there was one that took a liking to Arnold.  (LATE MAIL:  I though they were pets until someone mentioned that BBQ Camels are a delicacy.)

Still trying to fill in time before the Museum reopen we took a drive along the beach front , but in the end Saed decided to relent and give us girls another half an hour at the souk and the boys stopped for a  coffee...

Finally we were able to go to the Al Balid archaeology site which is the area where you will find the remains of the palace that the Queen of Sheba used whilst in this region. Right next to the site is the Frankincense land Museum. Here you can see the history of frankincense as well as Oman in general.

Now the rush was on to get back to the boat before Curfew .... we made it in time but it always seems that the princess tours are ones always late!!

Garry’s world cruise Bread Roll Count so far - 78

Joanne’s  Lobster count – 5

 

 

Code Sierra Papa

Here I am sitting on floor while we are having a pirate drill.... we have just been chased by a couple of skiffs .... they have been launching grenades and there has been gunfire..... we have a fire on the back deck...... all fake but it still makes you a little nervous even though you know that it is not real....

Being back in the room worked out well as we had a visit from Roz and Arnold and then Carole turned up..... If we knew we were having visitors we would have tidied up... but our room steward was running a little late....

Just a note to all on Cruise Critic... sorry that I have not been onto the forum but I just get so frustrated that it is so slow.

I hope that you are still following us and not given up...

Please don’t get too stressed about what is happening..... yep it is not the scenario we wanted but we are all taking it in our stride and we don’t dwell on it.... At the moment we are all a happy ship and not alot of grumbling going on ..... We will be late getting to Salalah now 3 hours in fact but hopefully a couple of emails have fixed your tour.... only trouble is that the time when are there it is their siesta time ....

The good news is that the captain is pretty confident that the engine should be up and running by Dover... I assume they would be very selective about what they tell us and they wouldn’t be dangling a carrot in front of us just to take it away...

The Dawn Princess Symphony of coughs is going strong.... made more noticeable when everyone is jammed packed in the Princess Theatre. There is always someone coughing somewhere....

Thank you to everyone who post comments as that is the only contact that I have with all of you out there.  It is a good encouragement to keep the blogs up to day....

Sorry if they are a little long but I just don’t know what to leave out...... and photo’s .... well if I could post them all I would.....

Cam Boy is going strong..... god knows if we have enough memory for all the footage is getting.  He is trying to do a little editing on board, but I know he will have a big job infront of him when we get home...

Formal Night tonight ..... again..... we always start our evening  at the wheelhouse with a few drinks with fellow CC’ers, we move onto dinner then to late show.  Last nights comedian was very good and tonight the Princess World Cruise Dancers are performing another production Show...

Oh and also hello to everyone reading this that have friends on this cruise... a few people have told me that they have friends and family following.... hopefully in one of my pictures along the way you will someone you recognise...

Garry’s world cruise Bread Roll Count so far - 75

Joanne’s  Lobster count – 5

 

 

Sunday, June 19, 2011