On the morning of the 7th we met our good friends Toni and Charlie at the Tucson airport to fly to the UK.
Our flight path took us through Phoenix and over to London, then a car transfer down to our gorgeous hotel in Southampton. It was a long travel day, but we were all so excited to start an amazing vacation.
With one free day before we have to board the Queen Mary 2, we decided to rent a car, and with June at the wheel, we headed inland to Stonehenge. Toni and Charlie had been here before, but for us it was a new experience and we were excited to see this famous formation. The drive through the English countryside was scenic and it went smoothly, although on the wrong side of the road! We arrived at the visitor centre where you could take a bus service back to the rocks or hike the 2 kms back to the ancient formation. Even though it was not “as large as we thought” it was impressive to see. Here you can walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors, one of the wonders of the world, and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. It consists of a ring of standing stones, each around 13 feet high, seven feet wide, and weighing around 25 tons. With many restrictions on where you are able to walk, we still managed to get some good photos that avoided most of the other people there. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC, was the area we walked through on our way back. We learned that the word “henge” is “a prehistoric monument consisting of a circle of stone or wooden uprights” and Stonehenge is not the only “henge” in the area.
About 10 minutes away we visited another one called Woodhenge which is an atmospheric Neolithic site probably built about 2500 BC, it was originally believed to be the remains of a burial mound, surrounded by a bank and ditch which had been almost completely destroyed by ploughing. Aerial photography detected rings of dark spots in a crop of wheat, and today concrete markers replace the six concentric rings of timber posts which are believed to have been a ceremonial monument. This was just in the corner of a field with a sign and no admission fee! In it’s simplicity it was beautiful and an interesting look into the past.
Next on the itinerary was meeting Balto! Balto,The Pawsome Therapy Husky dog is a dog that June follows on Facebook. When we booked our trip she contacted Balto’s owner to see if we could meet them. After a few interactions it was decided to meet at an old pub close to Stonehenge. It was a fun couple hours visiting with them and we thanked them for driving 2 hours to meet with us.
One last stop on our way back to Southampton was the town of Salisbury, and the Salisbury Cathedral. Unfortunately we arrived just as they were closing so it was a quick visit to look at the Magna Carta that is on display. It is 1 of 4 of the original 1215 charter that remains in existence today. It is a charter of rights agreed to by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215. First drafted by Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton to make peace between the unpopular king and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. Neither side stood behind their commitments, and the charter was annulled by Pope Innocent III, leading to the First Barons’ War.
After walking around the grounds it was time to have dinner at an old British pub for some amazing fish n crisps, and then back to the hotel.
In the morning before we left on our day trip we had received an email from Cunard saying that due to some medical emergencies on the sail from New York to Southampton the QM 2 would be arriving late and our boarding has been pushed back. This was actually good news, because now we didn’t need to be at the check in counter until late in the day so we kept the car overnight and made a quick trip to Bath, England, a World Heritage Site. Another beautiful drive through the countryside! We only had 2 hours so we did it quickly! Bath is known for, and named after its Roman baths that were built between the first and fifth centuries. The baths themselves are about 6m below the present city street level. Around the hot springs, Roman foundations, pillar bases, and baths can still be seen, however all the stonework above the level of the baths is from more recent periods.
The only other attraction we had time for was the Bath Abbey, a parish church of the Church of England and former Benedictine monastery. Founded in the 7th century, it was re-organized in the 10th century and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. Such beautiful architecture and interesting history.
June has only cruised once with her Mom for a week in Alaska, and Larry has never been on a cruise, so this was a new experience! The check in process was by time and number and so we arrived to the docks around 17:00 and then we waited. As we looked around we realized that the demographics of the cruise is very similar to the one we left in Tucson. With that said, of course we were one of the youngest!
The check in went smooth and we walked through the screening and across the gangplank and we were on board the world’s only ocean liner.
This ship is long, lean and classic. Not over the top glitzy, more classy, like the Titanic Our stateroom was on the 5th deck and #5112 was to be home for roughly the next 3 weeks. With Toni and Charlie just down the hall in #5145 we were ready for an adventure. First off is the mandatory survival meeting in case we would hit an iceberg!
Then back to our room for a toast with the complimentary bottle of bubbly that we found waiting for us. Since Toni and Charlie do not drink we actually got 2 bottles!!! We then started to explore the ship, but didn’t make it very far as we found the Chart Room, the formal bar area that we soon adopted as ours. We then joined Toni and Charlie at table #239 for dinner, this will be our regular dinner table for the course of the cruise. Since we are not used to eating this late we walked around a little to get a feel for the ship before calling it a day as we sailed away from Southampton and into the English Channel.
We were on our way.
The first couple days we were at sea. Leaving the English Channel we sailed into the North Atlantic before heading down the coast of Europe to our first port of call, Lisbon, Portugal. Our days always started with a good breakfast at the buffet where we had lots and lots of options. The omelet chef soon got to know June as “lots of spinach lady”.
The ship was equipped with a decent gym which we would use on a fairly regular basis, but the first couple days we were in some good swells and if you have ever lifted weights with your centre of gravity constantly changing, you know it is not very easy. Using the rowing machines in big swells actually made June seasick!! We learned very early that physical activities on the Queen Mary 2 are fairly hard to come by.
The ship was equipped with a golf simulator which was fun but not very physical. We met Graham, Tracy, Karen and Chris and enjoyed daily, friendly golf competitions! Larry scheduled in 2 rounds with Karen and Chris on a couple sea days, which was a great way to pass the time.
Then we discovered the table tennis. This sport is also interesting to play when the ship rocks and rolls, but was a fun way to kill some more time.
We also tried to do 6 laps of the promenade deck each day, which works out to 3.2 km of walking. Not sure if this actually offset the calories we consumed through the day!
Sea days were not only about exercising. Cunnard also offered a good lecture series. They had a main lecture hall that through out the day had guest speakers giving talks. These ranged from talks about the places we were visiting, astronomy, the way canals are built and personal experiences of hiking Mount Everest. The lecture hall even turned into the world’s largest floating planetarium!
The other main event on cruising is eating. Food is definitely not in shortage. The main dining buffet area has food available for basically 18 hours a day. They do rotate between breakfast to lunch to dinner, and with just about every nationality on board they have a lot of variety! If you do not want to be overwhelmed with choice you could go to the Corinthian Lounge and have a smaller more refined selection of food. Charlie’s favourite here was the mac and cheese. Then if you were hunkering for some good British Pub food you headed down to the Golden Lion for some amazing fish and chips. We ate dinner at our table with Toni and Charlie and Victor and Janet pretty much every evening in the Britannia Room.
This was a menu served meal that we had to dress up in evening clothes for. If you wanted to be casual you went back to the buffet. We never had a bad meal!!!!
After dinner every evening we were treated to an assortment of entertainment in the Royal Theatre. Now, not every act was amazing, but there definitely were some highlights. We will not bore you with the not so amazing acts, but these are some of the entertainers that we fondly remember. Izabella Zebrowska and her fiddle, Zoe Tyler and her voice featuring show tunes, John Bressler and his comedy, piano playing and raspy voice, The Three Tones a male trio, Kenny and his clarinet, just to name a few! The best of the bunch however were two young British women who sang opera. They went by the name Belle Voci and if you ever get the chance to hear these ladies perform live, do it!
Also, if this was not enough entertainment you could go to the Queens Room, a grand ballroom, where the big band orchestra played and you could waltz the night away. OR, if the disco was more your speed then G32 with a DJ or the band Purple Haze performed. Purple Haze also played in the pool area and at the “sail-aways” when we would leave the ports of call, they were an awesome rock band and we enjoyed listening!!
Now to the ports of call. Our first being Lisbon, Portugal. We arrived in the very early morning fog and right after breakfast we disembarked for our first excursion. This was a bicycle tour of city.
We spent a couple hours mostly going along the river front and the course just took us out and back.
It was a very eerie view of the bridge in the fog, the Belem Tower and the Monument of the Discoveries.
It was a little disappointing as we really did not get into the city, but with it only being late morning, we still had about 5 hours before we had to be back on the ship. So, off we went and explored on foot.
Lisbon is a beautiful old city and after getting a layout of the area from the top of the arch in the main square we walked the old streets and headed to higher ground to get a better view. The sun had burned off the morning fog so the views of the city were great. We did manage to find some Pasteis de Nata, a Portuguese egg tart, that is amazing and of course a bottle of Port before we headed back to the ship.
Then as we sailed away at sunset we had an amazing view of the city and everyone ducked as we sailed under the suspension bridge because it looked like we only had a few centimeters of clearance, it actually turned out to be several meters!
The highlight of the next day at sea was the early morning as we entered the Strait of Gibraltar and watched the sunrise over the corner of Africa. Priceless.
As the sun climbed higher in the sky we sailed past the southern tip of Spain and the Rock of Gibraltar and then entered the Mediterranean Sea. With the next two days at sea heading towards Italy, we filled our time with some of the lectures, workouts and spa visits for June.
Larry did a “behind the scene” tour of the ship. It was very interesting. From the captains bridge, the medical clinic, the kitchen, the food storage, the mechanical room and even the garbage and recycling plant. Ending in the Britannia Room for a wrap up drink and hors d’oeuvres.
Our next port of call was Messina, Italy. It is the main port town of the island of Sicily and since non of the excursions grabbed our attention we decided just to get off the ship and walk around the town.
From our stateroom we saw a monument on top of a hill that we thought would give us a good viewpoint so we headed out to find the way up. After checking out the War Monument we headed back down to the main square where they have the world’s largest astronomical and mechanical clock tower.
At noon it put on a show that lasted about 10 minutes with everything from a lion roaring to a rooster crowing and then telling a story of what ever biblical holiday was closest.
After the show was over we climbed to the top of the clock tower to see the view. It also gave us an up close and personal view of the working mechanisms from the inside.
Now no visit to Italy is good until you have had some gelato. It took us a little bit to find a gelateria but we persevered, and it was worth it! We did go for a walk around the harbour to wear it off. We made it back on the ship in time to play some table tennis, paddle tennis, practice golf and even the old cruising game of rope ring toss.
We then enjoyed a cocktail as we sailed away at sunset to the music of Purple Haze.
With another 2 days of sailing to reach the east end of the Mediterranean Sea we found ourselves once again sitting in on some lectures and also enjoying the sunshine on the outer decks as we walked, golfed or played paddle tennis.
The first night on this stretch we had a masquerade ball after dinner. So, with our dinner dress clothes on we took our masks we had brought along and headed to the Chart Room.
Here we met Lynn and Judi from Australia, amazing ladies!! They were the only other 2 that had masks on at the bar. We soon learned they were our kindred spirits and enjoyed cocktails with them every evening going forward.
We went to the Ball but then actually had more fun at G32 listening to Purple Haze perform in the disco.
Our second day at sea was filled with a lecture on the Suez Canal over the last 100 years and a lecture in the art gallery called Art After Dark, a little more seedy side of some paintings.
We arrived in Haifa, Israel late in the day and this is the port where we were docked the longest. For the next 3 nights we were based in the “Holy Land”, which gave us 2 full days to go exploring. The excursions that we chose were all day excursions so no sleeping in here!
Our first day took us over to Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation. This is considered the home of Mary and Joseph.
Saint Joseph’s Church which is right beside, it contains the ruins of what is to be considered the cave that was Joseph’s workshop.
From Nazareth we drove to Capernaum, the village where it is said that Jesus did his ministry from. This is where many of the “miracles” that are described in the bible were said to be performed, feeding the multitudes loaves of bread and fish, the casting of the demons into the wild pigs and the Sermon on the Mount to name a few.
Our final stop of the day was the tourist location of the Baptism on the River Jordan. This is not considered the actual spot that John the Baptist baptized Jesus but does work better for tourism, so now it represents the location.
Our second day excursion took us into Jerusalem and to the Church of Agony.
This is located on the Mount of Olives and next to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested the night before his crucifixion.
This is along the Eastern Wall of Temple Mount, where on the top is the sacred Dome of the Rock.
Our next stop was the Western Wall or Wailing Wall in Jerusalem which is the western side of Temple Mount and the closest location that the Jewish community can get to the sacred Dome of the Rock.
After time spent at the Western Wall we walked through the old markets of Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The church contains, according to traditions dating back to at least the fourth century, the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus was crucified, at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha, and Jesus’s empty tomb, where he was buried and resurrected.
The tomb is enclosed by a 19th-century shrine called the Aedicula. We walked around the church which is now home to 5 different Christian religions, each having there own area. However since this is such a pilgrimage sight in Christian religion the lines to touch Calvary or to see the tomb were hours long, so we just viewed it from a far.
From Old Jerusalem we then headed over to Bethlehem where we visited the Church of the Nativity at Manger Square. The grotto it contains holds a prominent religious significance to Christians of various denominations as the birthplace of Jesus. The grotto is the oldest site continuously used as a place of worship in Christianity, and the basilica is the oldest major church in the Holy Land. The church was originally commissioned by Constantine the Great a short time after his mother Helena’s visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 325–326, on the site that was traditionally considered to be the birthplace of Jesus. Due to the long lines again, it was not possible to go through the grotto to view the cave.
Our last stop in Bethlehem was a tourist shop, which we were not interested in, but, the location was just inside the Separation Wall of the West Bank, so that was interesting. These places were not on our bucket list of things to do in our life, but it was fascinating, and we are happy to have experienced it.
The following day we were at sea again, travelling to Port Said, which is the northern entry point of the Suez Canal. The main event for today was to take in a couple of lectures about the Canal itself. After a slow sail in swells that were large enough that we could feel them on board we arrived at sunset and dropped anchor off shore.
This is the first and only time where we used the anchors. With a projected 05:00 departure into the Canal tomorrow morning, we set the alarm and went to bed early!
Turned out we didn’t need to set the alarm! We were awakened by the anchor being raised at 03.30 and the roar of the pilot boat in the water just below our balcony at 4:25. This meant that we were just outside the entrance to the canal and it is time for the local pilot to board the ship to help the bridge navigate the Canal. Since we were awake we went up to the lookout at the front of the ship under the Bridge. The only other person there was Charlie!! It was cold, but was fun to watch as we slowly sailed into the Canal. Since it was dark when we entered most of what we could see was the red and green lights of the “highway” in the canal, and the lights from the other ships that were in our convoy.
The canal is an artificial sea-level waterway, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and is 193km long. Constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, it officially opened on 17 November 1869. It is often considered to define the border between Africa and Asia. Other than a few spots, most of the canal is now 2 ways, so traffic flows in both directions. We stood at the front for about an hour and a half until the sky started to brighten and the sun came up.
Since it was going to take 13 hours to transit the whole canal ( we only did 6 knots per hour! ) we headed back to bed for a power nap before breakfast. It was interesting to see the desert come alive in little pockets of farm land and villages. It was astounding to see the HUGE ocean liners hauling the world’s product piled high on their decks, on average only 47 ships traverse the canal per day. Down the sides it is guarded with armed guards, we were not sure if it was to protect us, or stop people from jumping ashore, maybe both! The original canal featured a single-lane waterway with passing locations in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake. It contains no lock system, with seawater flowing freely through it. In general, the canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. South of the lakes, the current changes with the tide at Suez. Each of the ships had tug boats following them, just in case they ran aground. The cost for a ship to go through the canal comes in at $465,000 US dollars for a one way ticket. On a very personal note and one of the main reasons we were on this cruise was that in 1950 June’s parents transited the canal going in the opposite direction. After the war ended the German government sent a ship around to collect all the displaced German citizens. June’s Mom, Eva, having a Jewish father had to flee Germany in 1938, so she lived in Shanghai during, and after the war. June’s Father, Juergen/George was in jail in Australia so they were both being picked up by this ship. The ship picked up the Australian Germans first and then went to Shanghai to pick up the Germans there, before heading back to Germany through the Suez Canal. This is where June’s Mom and Dad met. This is a super interesting and fascinating story, but that is another blog! So for June to travel through the Canal, was a very special day. As we were exiting the Canal at sunset we were standing on the top deck at the front of the ship and then raced to the back deck to cross the line a second time.
Pictures of the Canal from the transit!
We sailed through the night and when we woke in the morning we were tied to the docks in Jordan at the port city of Aqaba. Here the highlight of our one day in Jordan was the Lost City of Petra. We had an early departure as it was a 2 hour drive up into the mountains of Jordan. We were there early enough to get on bus #1 of 27 highway coaches all going to Petra, just from our ship!!!
The drive went by quickly as our guide on our bus entertained us with personal stories as he was born in the caves of Petra and lived there until he was 11. He is now a university professor and the only one of his 18 siblings to go to school.
The rest of his family are Bedouin and live the nomadic life in the desert regions taking care of their sheep and camels. With one stop for coffee and washroom at a gift shop, the location of this stop was more impressive for us then the facility.
The shop was perched on the cliffs (however the valley was filled with clouds) that was near the northern end of the Great Rift Valley. We had been close to the southern end, almost 6,000kms away, in 2016 when we were in Tanzania.
The walk from the visitor centre to the main city area is about 2 km long. Our guide stopped us along the way and gave us information about this amazing place where in its heyday 2,000 years ago there were up to 40,000 people living in this very advanced city. Today most of it has been washed away with erosion, and an earthquake in 363 destroyed many of the buildings. but what is left is SPECTACULAR!!!.
Access to the city is through a 1.2-kilometre-long gorge called the Siq, which leads directly to the Khazneh. Famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system, Petra is also called the ‘Rose City’ because of the colour of the stone from which it is carved. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. This was an impressive way to start the day but with 27+ bus loads of people it was very crowded. At the other end of the main valley that Petra is in was another monument known as the “Monastery”. It is larger then the Treasury but is a hike to get there, not only the distance but you have to climb up 900 steps carved in the rocks. We were up for the challenge and told our guide and off we went on our own. We were given instructions by Toni that she wanted to see pictures so we did not want to disappoint. After walking through the “downtown” and past the “uptown” area we continued through the Roman section and finally found the steps. We continued on and up with great views looking back into the valley. We finally arrived at the base of the Monastery monument. WOW! It was even better then the Treasury and it felt good finally having some good exercise. We then noticed a sign that read, “Best View in the World” so we had to go see it. There were a little over 100 more steps but the view from the top looking back over the Petra valley area, as well as the Great Rift Valley was STUNNING!!! Definitely one of the best views we have had in our travels. We were limited with our time as we did not want to miss the bus ride back, we were told it is a very expensive UBER ride to get back to the ship. We hiked back down and even had time for a less populated view of the Treasury on our way out. We made it back in time to grab something to eat and catch our ride home. What another truly amazing day!
Petra in Pictures!
Wheelchair accessable The start of the walk Outside the City entrance The start of the Siq Charlie and Toni Ancient Aqueduct Aqueduct close up First glimpse of Treasury The Treasury Side profile Bedouin and camels Townhouses Roman Amphitheatre Uptown The start of the 900 steps Old and new steps High elevation shopping mall rising above the city The Monastery Heading to the “Best View in the World” Coffee Shop at the top The Shop
Leaving Aqaba we were going to be at sea for the next 5 days. Our route took us down and through the Red Sea before entering the pirate infested waters of the Gulf of Aden which runs between Yemen to the north and Somalia to the south before sailing through the Gulf of Oman and into the Persian Gulf to Dubai.
Because of the pirates (even though there have not been recent attacks) we were put under “pirate precautions”. Water canyons had been added along the rails on the promenade deck, crew were posted at watch positions with high powered binoculars and black out screens had been applied to all exterior windows. We were only allowed on outside decks during daylight hours and all visible lights were turned off on the ship, even in our staterooms we had to keep our doors locked and blinds drawn.
Another precaution was we all had to participate in a pirate attack drill, which meant everyone had to return to their cabin, and if it was an exterior cabin ( which we had ) they had to sit outside their room in the hallway until a head count was done. We also had a lecture on the safety precautions the ship was taking from a few officers that joined the ship from the Royal Navy (who was monitoring our whereabouts), the Cunard chief security officer and then 3 hired security guards who were ex-navy seals. There was a question and answer period and a lot of crazy questions were asked and even a few questions about the virus that was popping up in China. We did made it through these waters unscathed and pirate free, but it did make the trip a lot more interesting! The only excitement we really had was just before midnight the one night the captain came across the address system and said due to a medical emergency we had to veer off course and unload a passenger. Thankfully, they did wait until we were in Oman and not Yemen.
To kill some time we sat in on lectures, worked out, played table tennis and golfed. We also played Forbidden Desert with Toni and Charlie.
It is a co-operative game that we play with them but can never win. Apparently we need to play it in the Mid East as we finally won! We also would end up at the Chart Room a little earlier on days like this so we got to know the bartenders quite well.
We tried lots of their signature drinks but the coolest one by far was the Scorching One! We even took a video of him making it. As we sailed through the Gulf of Oman we had a rendezvous British Navy frigate. We sailed side-by-side with them for about 30 minutes. What was REALLY cool was one of the helicopter pilots was having fun as he put on an amazing airshow before landing on the back deck of the frigate.
When we woke up the next morning we were already maneuvering into place at the dock in Dubai.
The sunrise over the city was beautiful and since we had put our luggage out the night before to be collected we had a fairly leisurely last breakfast and time on the ship. We said our goodbyes to our new friends and it was time to leave our home. We had a private transfer from the Queen Mary 2 over to the Queen Elizabeth 2, which had been decommissioned and is now a permanent floating hotel in Dubai.
This will be our home now for the next 2 nights.
We did not completely sever ties yet with the QM2 as we had one last excursion booked and paid for. It was a Safari Dune Ride and Barbeque under the Stars. So, after getting checked in to the QE2 we headed back to the QM2 and found our excursion. It turned out that the 4 of us had our own Land Rover along with a driver and soon we were off and out of the city to the desert.
It was fun riding up and down the dunes for a little bit but we were happy when we arrived at the compound for the barbeque. Here they had other “desert” things to do, so, we had a very short camel ride, we watched a falcon do his exercises and we sand boarded down a sand dune. June treated herself to a henna tattoo and we both tried smoking a hookah pipe. The meal was very good, the entertainment was suspect but the belly dancer to finish the evening was good. The night under the stars was anticlimactic however because of all the lights.
We woke up to our last full day of holidays to explore some of what Dubai has to offer. Dubai is known for the biggest of everything and the hi-tech and we wanted to see some of it.
So, off we went. The four of us crawled into a taxi and headed over to the Dubai Frame. This is the world’s largest picture frame. There is no picture inside it other then the view you see when you look through it, but the top structure of the frame stands at 150 meters above the ground. You take an elevator up the one side and then walk across the glass floor viewing area and from up there you get a great view of the Dubai cityscape. It is mind boggling to think that 30 years ago this was all desert. Modern day Dubai has grown from the sand in that short of time and they are still building bigger and taller. After having your fill of the view you then take the elevator down the other side and you enter a room that is a video theatre that includes all sides, the floor and ceiling. It shows the Dubai of the future, very “Jetsonish”
Next stop was the Burj Khalifa. This building sprouts up from the Dubai Mall, which is by area the world’s largest. It is however second in the world to Canada’s West Edmonton Mall when you compare retail space! The mall was not our destination, but you do need to go through it to enter the Burj Khalifa. Toni and Charlie treated us to the VIP package and we were able to walk past most of the line and to the elevator that takes you up to The Lounge. The Lounge is the highest lounge in the world coming in at 575 meters above the ground. The overall height of the building is 830 meters. We were allowed to spend 2 hours up top where there was some very nice but expensive cocktails, coffee, tea and some amazing hors d’oeuvre.
Literally “high” tea!!! We found a little 4 person nook and sat and enjoyed the view. There was an outdoor open air balcony that you could go out on, also the world’s highest. As we were up top enjoying the high life we watched as the Queen Mary 2 sailed away. It was a funny feeling. After our 2 hour stay we were then taken down, through the gift shop of course, to the world’s fastest elevator.
This tower holds at least 15 world records for the tallest and biggest things on the planet!! Pretty incredible. The next location on our agenda for the day was the Gold Souk and the old market district.
To get there we wanted to take the completely computerized metro train that we had read about. We had to ask for directions and the worker just said go to that store turn right and you will see signs. Sounds easy right?! We did find the signs and figured we were almost there. About 2 km later and after many turns we finally found the station, we figured things would be good, right?! Unfortunately there was an issue with the automatic ticket machines and there was only one manned booth open, so after waiting in line for a bit we decided to take a taxi.
Easy right?! This turned into an adventure as well. There were signs to the taxis so we followed them and it turned into another 1/2 kilometer trek to the street, only to find the street under construction and the taxi stand gone! Toni and Charlie were being troopers and not complaining about the walk, but we knew they were not very happy, ( either was June ) We flagged down a taxi but when we told him where we wanted to go he said he did not want to go there, so get a different taxi and took off!! A gentleman was watching this and stopped to see if we needed help. When we told him what happened he was so offended by the taxi driver he said to get in and he would take us. He drove us about 30 minutes out of his way and would not take any money for it. Car Karma was on our side! The gold and spice souks were interesting and fun to see, but since we were not purchasing anything we soon hailed another taxi and finished our day with a final dinner in the Chart Room on the QE2.
We needed to be at the airport early on the morning of February 1st. We had heard talk of a virus in China but were not overly concerned about it yet. War and politics had happened when we were gone and Trump had an Iranian General assassinated which almost blew up into another war. In retaliation Iran shoot down a civilian passenger jet that then crashed in Tehran killing everyone on board. This incident did cause some trouble with our return flights home. We were flying from Dubai to Heathrow to Chicago to Tucson. However, with the Iranian airspace closed now the route to and from Heathrow from Dubai took a lot longer as they had to fly around the closed airspace. This caused us to miss the Heathrow to Chicago connection. British Airways treated us very good and put us up for the night at the airport and gave us dinner and breakfast coupons. We rebooked our passages home, Toni and Charlie were leaving around noon the next day going through LAX and we were headed to Phoenix around mid afternoon. So, one last breakfast together and we headed to the departure lounge. Since we had access to the Concorde Lounge we went there and enjoyed the amenities that they offered, completely over the top! After another long day of flying we were finally being greeted outside the Tucson airport by Peter and Dianne to welcome us home.
One final note after the fact. The virus turned out to be very serious as we all now know. The cruise that we did was the first leg of a world voyage. After we left the ship most of the cruise was cancelled and finally terminated in Australia. We do realize how lucky we were to have one of the last cruises in 2020 that was not effected by Covid-19!
Our Route on the Queen Mary 2
Miscellaneous pictures of the Queen Mary 2
Click on the picture below to watch the making of The Scorching One! These guys entertained us every evening before dinner!
WHAT AN AMAZING TRIP!